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Training and Safety: Transparency of Employee Readiness

Sept. 1, 2016
Now, we need new thinking and new answers to get lineworkers off of the "Ten Most Dangerous Jobs" list. 

As utilities, we know data.

We have great data about the system.  Or near real-time anyway. We have hourly, daily, monthly and annual operating, maintenance and construction data trends.  We can determine the condition of a wood pole that is decades old and track nearly every penny out of billion dollar budgets. But data does not relate to intent. And we have almost no insight about employee competence and readiness on a day to day basis.

If we somehow have certainty about technical competence, because of years of proven performance, we often don’t know about an employee’s mindset, their willingness to continue to learn as the system changes, their alignment with the supervisor and peers, or their engagement with corporate values.  

As we all know, an incompetent or distracted, disengaged or recalcitrant employee will unlikely be a safe employee.

As the system becomes more complex, it becomes critical that we clearly know the individual and collective capacity of the workforce.  We need to make employee readiness less opaque and more transparent.  Think of it as moving in the direction of nuclear control room operators, surgeons or NASA astronauts.  In each case, unforgiving environments have dictated nearly complete transparency about employee readiness.  Until recently, this has not been required in the T&D environment, but that is changing. The stakes are higher and continued injuries, fatalities and operating error are unacceptable. This transparency of employee readiness is example of a challenge that we want to tackle at the Training and Safety Center of Excellence. 

I believe this newsletter is uniquely positioned to help tackle this particular challenge and others like it related to training and safety.  How so?   Because our thousands of readers can discover, share and benchmark ideas and approaches that work.  It is industrywide crowdsourcing at its finest.  Benchmarking is often revealing, but fleeting and visible to only a few fortunate employees who make the trip.  Findings are often lost and discarded because they don’t live in a visible, permanent location; visible for all to see, ponder and test.

The potency of this industrywide crowdsourcing approach has been proven by countless political movements around the globe.  We will need to reach the critical “tipping point” of participation for this to work and we hope that each of you will help us get started quickly.  We need a jump start!

Before we start building the Center of Excellence, we would like to hear about other related training and safety challenges you face each and every day.   Cost pressures?  Keeping training materials current?  Conducting useful assessments?  Building business cases or rate cases for training? 

Now, we need new thinking and new answers to get lineworkers off of the "Ten Most Dangerous Jobs" list.  Recent advances in cognitive psychology, neuroscience and educational technology provide new insights that we can use to solve our seemingly intractable problems.

Please respond to me at [email protected].  We will honor your request if you would prefer to remain anonymous. We’ll collect, sort and document your concerns.  We’ll then publish them in an easy to understand format and begin the process of searching for solutions.

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