Greg, a lineman from Chicago, wanted something different for his family, so he moved from the Windy City to a small rural town in northwest Missouri. Instead of a show up location with more than 200 linemen, his new show up had 15 linemen, a storekeeper and a supervisor.
One of the first things he did was bring in his son, Ben, to work. Ben was able to see his father's tools, meet his dad's coworkers and boss, and even go for a ride in the bucket truck. This fun afternoon made Greg certain that he did the right thing by moving his family to small town America.
Driving home that afternoon, Ben looked at his dad and told him, “Dad, I don't like you being a lineman.”
“Why?” Greg asked.
“Well, Dad, it looks dangerous,” he replied.
“Well,” Greg responded, “it is, but as long as I don't take any shortcuts, nothing bad can hurt me.”
Greg told me that this must have been enough for Ben, because he didn't say another word. Months passed. Then one day, the utility notified Greg that he and his crewmates would respond to Hurricane Dennis. After leaving, he found a surprise note in his lunch box, and when he returned, he was kind enough to share it with me. It read, “To Daddy, I love you. I will really, really miss you a lot. Don't take shortcuts. Love, Ben.”
This story reminds us of the importance of bringing home lives into our work lives. We can increase our energy, focus and safety results by trying the following seven strategies.
- Personalize the work space
Position a bulletin board near the locker room or in an area close to where your linemen begin their day. Invite all workers to bring in pictures from home. Remember to update the board frequently.
- Create a strong bond between linemen's families
I love the old saying, “The family that eats together stays together.” I strongly believe the work group that eats together is safer together. Set up two to four family events for your work group. Think about some basics like a summer family picnic, a football-themed chili cook-off, a holiday party and a Memorial Day barbecue. Whatever the schedule, the important thing is that families get together and become closer, and ultimately, it will bleed over into work life and reduce shortcuts.
- Make a token reminder
I have worked with some utilities that offer a special coin for safety. By giving this tangible item to their linemen, they remind their work crews to focus on safety every day. For maximum effectiveness, think about taking that extra step to customize each coin with the name of each family member.
- Send letters
The letter that Ben sent his father had a great impact on him. What if your employees received a letter from a loved one urging him or her to work safely? I am sure it would have a similar impact. To that end, organize a letter-writing campaign for your employees' children and loved ones. Use the emergency contact numbers as a starting point. I have helped a few work groups facilitate this activity, and it has been very successful.
- Sponsor a safety fair
In our line of work, it's really hard to bring our children to work; there are simply too many hazards to do so. But, we can pick one Saturday each year to hold a Safety Day. We can set up poles for climbing, meters for installing and bucket trucks for riding. This is a great opportunity to let our families know what we do at work each day, and for them to give us feedback about working safely.
- Organize a safety contest for the kids
Many organizations are now offering an annual safety poster contest for the children and grandchildren of employees. This gives your children and grandchildren an opportunity to tell you why you need to work safe.
- Move safety home
As we know, if one of our linemen gets hurt at home, it still affects us at work. At-home injuries may not be OSHA recordable, but they still have an impact on the work environment. If one of our coworkers gets hurt at home, he or she may not be able to make it into work. To prevent this from happening, utilities can offer a safety recognition program. Linemen can earn points or credits for certain at-home activities such as changing their smoke detector batteries. After they earn a predetermined amount of points, then they are eligible for a prize or a family centered gift card.
One of my favorite sayings reads, “No one told us we had to take the fun out of work, we did that all on our own.” In the same vein, we don't need to take family out of work. If we can find a way to keep them with us at work, we will see it in our safety results.
Matt Forck (firstname.lastname@example.org), a certified safety professional, worked as a meter reader and journeyman lineman, and was a member of his utility's safety staff. Today, as the president of K-Crof Industries, he speaks and consults on utility safety. Learn more at www.thesafetysoul.org.