PowerSouth News Center

CEO Column: Cooperative Values: Where the priorities are safety and concern for the members

Over the past couple of years I have written a number of articles on global warming and regulations the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed or is attempting to impose on the electric utility industry. I receive emails and letters about those articles. Most of the comments are positive and supportive of the positions and issues I discuss. Some even encourage me to be more aggressive and public with my positions.
However, a minority of comments are negative, critical, and at times attack me personally. The personal comments often accuse me of only following the “almighty dollar” and ruining the earth for our children.  
I take offense to those personal attacks. Electric cooperatives run their businesses with the best interests of the customer-members and the communities they serve as the first priority. The corporate values of PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, in order of importance, are:
- Safety
- Member Relations
- Reliability
- Cost of Service
- Community Development
- Employee Development
This month I will discuss the first priority —  safety for our employees, our customers and the public. Electricity is around us all the time. It makes modern life possible. We take it for granted, but it can be dangerous, even fatal.
Making, transmitting and distributing electricity is extremely dangerous. You don’t have to work for an electric utility to know that putting something other than an electric plug into an electrical outlet is very dangerous.
Electric generation is a heavy industrial process that involves high temperatures, very high pressures, heavy moving parts and dangerous chemicals. Electric transmission is high voltage with the danger of contact injuries. Electric distribution involves deadly infrastructure within the reach of ladders, antennas and poles. It is all dangerous.
We have had a number of serious accidents at PowerSouth through the years. I will never forget sitting in the funeral of a fellow employee who was killed in a workplace accident at one of our generation plants. It was one of the saddest days of my career. We don’t want that to happen to anyone else.
A foundation of safety
Electric cooperatives have made safety the foundation for their operations. They promote a culture of safety — planning the jobs safely, executing the work safely, and watching after their co-workers and the public. We have devoted resources of money and people to build an effective safety program and a work environment of safety. We have implemented safety practices around all jobs to direct work in a manner that protects people and property. We encourage workers to talk about safety and point out potential unsafe conditions. We have tailgate safety meetings before any job is started to ensure the scope of the job is understood and dangerous circumstances are discussed. We hold celebrations and provide incentives for meeting safety goals. But, we stress that a safety record is not good enough. The next accident is the one we are concerned about and the one we want to prevent. 
We recognize most accidents happen because someone was in a hurry and rushed the work to save time. We stress that the job must be understood and managed in both a productive and safe manner. We ask our employees to go home at the end of every day the same way they came to work. 
If our employees don’t comply with our culture of safety, we implement sanctions to ensure the safety of our employees and property are not compromised. We have made an investment in safety, and we insist our employees make an investment as well.
PowerSouth Energy Cooperative’s safety record is not perfect. We have had a couple of years without a lost-time accident. Last year we only had one lost-time accident and six recordable incidents. That record is good but not good enough. We expect zero accidents from our people.
PowerSouth and its member systems are committed to providing reliable and affordable service to the people and communities in our service areas. We are devoted to providing that service in a safe way for our employees, customers and the public. If you know us, you know that is what we are truly about.
I hope you have a good month.

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2027 East Three Notch Street | Andalusia, AL 36421 | PO Box 550 | Andalusia, AL 36420 | (334) 427-3000 | info@powersouth.com