photo: showing safety gear on a table with a desert landscape behind it.

Improving Our Safety Culture at WAPA

As a learning organization, we strive to improve our processes, identify areas of improvement and seek feedback from our employees. The past couple of months stand as an example. 

WAPA saw an increase in our incident rates in 2023 compared to the previous year. This included 14 Occupational Safety and Health Administration Recordable Incidents and several other serious safety events that prompted discussions at various levels. 

Feedback from Employees

In response, WAPA leaders had conversations with their staffs to seek valuable feedback about our safety culture, generate suggestions on best practices and opportunities for improvement, and gain an understanding of the possible drivers and conditions behind the upward trend. 

Safety Themes

Our Safety Team summarized all feedback briefing data, and a pattern of themes emerged related to leadership engagement in the field, hazard identification, employee training and safety issue awareness. 

Extended Leadership Team

WAPA is responsible for providing a safe workplace for all employees, according to OSHA, and safety starts with leadership. Our leaders should exhibit the positive behaviors encouraged throughout our organization. They are also responsible for expressing expectations and clearly communicating from the top down that all work should be performed safely at every level of the organization. This shows that safety is central to our core values, and we must all be part of the process for it to be effective. 

Safety Strategy

Our chief operating officer and the Safety Department are leading the development of a Safety Strategy comprised of several Continuous Process Improvement projects aimed at improving safety WAPA-wide. These include the following. 

Job Hazard Analysis

Goal: Improve safety by building confidence in the Job Hazard Analysis process. 

photo: swiss army knife with all the accessories of the knife open.

Job Hazard Analysis is the “Swiss Army Knife of safety,” as it offers a variety of tools to protect employees. The core of this goal involves standardizing our JHA procedure, educating employees on its use and increasing manager and supervisor participation in the process. 

Job Hazard Analysis is a cornerstone of site safety work planning. It is a hands-on process that involves employees taking part in the prevention of safety incidents. They accomplish this by identifying recognizable site-specific hazards and controlling or eliminating them before work starts. 

More complex projects with increased safety hazards require a written JHA using WAPA Form 6500.56#. These projects include but are not limited to tasks involving written work procedures, crew work requiring a Hot Line Order, jobs near energized parts and within arc flash boundaries, tree trimming or felling and projects with multiple or mixed crews. Section 17.2 of the Power System Safety Manual has a more extensive list of work requiring a JHA Form. 

Skill Field Training  

Goal: Improve safety by understanding our current training processes and how we track and accomplish the many field-specific training requirements at WAPA. 

Two WAPA employees are participating in Confined Space Training as they raise a training mannequin out of a utility hole using a rescue pulley system.”
Two WAPA employees are participating in Confined Space Training as they raise a training mannequin out of a utility hole using a rescue pulley system.

We will evaluate our current procedures and recommend a standardized process and tool that meets our mission needs. According to WAPA Order 440.1C, “Each employee shall be trained in and familiar with the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and other safety requirements that pertain to their respective job assignments.” 

Tracking and keeping initial and refresher training up to date for hundreds of employees spread out over a large geographic footprint has been a challenging and sometimes frustrating process. This goal aims to streamline the tracking and record-keeping processes for safety training WAPA-wide. 

Harmonizing Human Performance Improvement and Safety

Goal: Improve safety by coordinating HPI and Safety tools and concepts. 

HPI and Safety are closely aligned – they work together for the same outcome: fewer mistakes and fewer injuries. We will help employees understand this through education about program similarities and shared goals using HPI references and tools in Safety Learning Summaries and Near-Miss Reports. We will also encourage emphasizing HPI concepts related to safety during pre-job briefings, tailgate meetings and other safety presentations. 

Safety Issue Awareness

Goal: Improve safety by increasing awareness of safety issues through various employee and manager activities. 

Front-line leadership engagement is essential to monitor and improve our safety culture effectively. There are a variety of ways that this goal might be accomplished. These include increased Senior Executive Team face-to-face engagement, craft employee Town Halls and Safety Weeks, increased manager engagement with field employees and a proposed annual WAPA-wide “Safety Stand-Up” event. 

Evaluating our Safety Culture

Goal: Improve safety by evaluating our current safety culture, program and practices. 

We can only realize the future of safety by understanding where we are now and establishing a baseline of what we are doing right versus what can be improved. 

WAPA has two evaluations scheduled for 2024 that the Department of Energy will conduct. Both assessments are summarized below. 

DOE EA-32 Safety Program Assessment: A WAPA-wide proactive safety assessment will be conducted by DOE beginning in April. 

The evaluation aims to provide a proactive, comprehensive assessment that will identify successful best practices and areas for improvement. Addressing these issues will, in turn, strengthen our safety culture and help us protect our employees from severe injuries and fatalities in the future. 

The assessment is a two-part process that will evaluate our program and systems. It starts with a review of WAPA Order 440.1C – Safety and Occupational Health Program and other support documents. Field observations will follow this review to evaluate how our program is implemented in all regions. 

Field observations are scheduled for the following dates: 

  • DSW:  April 8-11    
  • SN: April 23-26    
  • RM:  June 3-6    
  • UGP:  June 24-27 

Key stakeholders in this process include Maintenance, Operations, craft employees and Safety. 

DOE Safety Culture Assist Visit: This visit is still being planned. We asked the DOE Safety Culture Team to help evaluate our safety culture. We need all employees to feel comfortable bringing up safety concerns, and assessing our safety culture will help us better understand where to improve. 

This visit aims to provide real-time insight into the strengths, vulnerabilities, opportunities for improvement and recommendations regarding our current safety culture. 

Last year was a challenge; however, WAPA has a plan and safety strategy that will help us all make a change for the better and improve our safety culture.

Any Questions? Contact your local Safety office.

Jamie Withers

Eddie Ortega

Tiffany Cooney

Tim Duffy

Bill Weekley

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Last modified on March 21st, 2024