Choose Safety

by Roger Goodson
Illinois American Water

Safety is a core value—with no room for shortcuts.

At Illinois American Water, employees work around the clock to provide an essential service critical for daily life, public health and fire protection. Working in confined spaces, among motorists and in extreme weather—along with handling chemicals, conducting excavations, operating equipment and heavy lifting—are just some of the hazards our team can face daily. Our skilled workforce is equipped with proper personal and work zone protection equipment, chemical handling requirements and training, work zone safety training and more.

All OSHA and EPA safety requirements are followed closely, but that’s not enough. At Illinois American Water, safety is a core value. Our approach to safety focuses on continuously evaluating and acting to remove hazards to prevent injuries. It is a daily focus and subject of continuous conversation, both in the office and out in the field. Simply put, it is our priority that employees go home in the same condition they arrived at work, if not better.

There is no room for shortcuts—we owe that to our employees and their families. Safety will not be compromised for speed, customer convenience or profit. We will always choose safety.

This continued emphasis on safety drives Illinois American Water’s formal safety program for all employees. The program, SafeStart, focuses on taking personal responsibility, and starting each and every task with safety in mind. Physical states like rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency are explored, and employees are coached in techniques they can use to help avoid critical errors that can result in injury. Since January 2014, Illinois American Water has experienced a 55-percent reduction in its OSHA recordable incident rate.

Many people take operating in these four states—rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency—for granted. We ask our employees to start every task by rating their state and identifying potential hazards so injury is prevented from the start—from the safe start.

In addition to SafeStart, each Illinois American Water service area participates in a volunteer safety committee. The committees meet regularly to identify opportunities to promote safety and health in the workplace, discuss health and safety issues submitted in safety suggestions, collaborate on solutions and celebrate successes. In June, every employee participated in National Safety Month through local activities like CPR/AED training, vendor fairs, truck inspections and more.

Throughout the year, our team also reviews security measures and emergency preparedness. We work with state and local emergency agencies to participate in and conduct scenario training.

American Water has also implemented a near-miss reporting program, in which every single employee is encouraged to report safety “near misses” without fear of reprisal. These reports are investigated, corrective actions are applied and critical information is shared across the company so other employees can benefit from the knowledge gained.

As we further develop safety practices and requirements, we also extend them to our contractors. If we have identified a risk to our employees, it only makes sense that we also require our contractors to perform in a similar, safe manner so that injuries are prevented. Additionally, contractors who wish to work for the company must go through a safety prequalification process before they are approved.

We believe safety is not just something we have to do—we believe it is something we choose to do… every single day. That is how we work: for our employees, their families and the customers we serve. We choose safety. iBi

Roger Goodson is senior manager of production and field operations with Illinois American Water’s Northern Division.

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