1920 Electricsafetyphoto

The Show Must Go On for Safety’s Sake

June 21, 2021
SRP is committed to working safely during the pandemic and beyond.
SRP prides itself on working safely for our families, for our health and for each other.From the top down, the message is clear: safety trumps production.I take pride in knowing my leaders and executives have my back when it comes to safe work practices and job performance.

As a Tree Line USA utility for 25 years, SRP Vegetation Management & Maintenance (VM&M) also prides itself on working safely and on providing annual worker training for our utility foresters, contact utility foresters and tree crews.  In addition to quarterly all-hands coordination meetings and field benchmarking sessions, VM&M & SRP Safety Services has hosted more than three decades of annual Electrical Safety Workshops at SRP’s PERA Conference and Training Center in Tempe, Arizona.   

Organizing the Event

The Electrical Safety Workshop began as a collaborative effort between Arizona utilities. The educational forum was intended to provide safety awareness and to keep tree workers and landscapers safe around overhead and underground utility lines.  In the late 1990s, SRP took the workshop solo and continued the forum and focus on safety. 

Over the years, VM&M partnered with SRP Safety Services, the Event Marketing Group, other internal business units and vegetation contractors to continually improve the workshop’s quality and content. Fast forward to today, and the workshop target audience has expanded to include painters, scaffolding contractors, asphalt and paving contractors, and many other trades who routinely work in and around overhead and underground power lines. 

The Traditional Venue    

If not for the cancellation of public venues to mitigate the continued spread of COVID-19, SRP would have hosted its 33rd annual in-person workshop on Feb. 27, 2021. In the past, the training workshop combined a conference room setting with outdoor demonstrations to keep the safety topics relevant, interesting and applicable for the audience. 

The indoor conference sessions covered a variety of topics including Job Briefing Assessments; Chainsaw Safety and Equipment Checks; Electrical Step/Touch Potential; Underground Electrical Hazard Awareness and Arizona 811 Locate. The outdoor demonstrations featured Hurt Man Bucket Rescue; Step and Touch Potential from a downed pole line on a vehicle; Hazard Recognition using SRP’s Burn Risk Assessment Training trailer; and Trench and Underground Safety. 

Historical guest attendance for the workshop has varied between 200 and 400 guests.  Based upon current recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and guidance/directives from local government to temporarily suspend large in-person gatherings, the workshop committee found itself with a whole new set of workshop objectives.   

Going Virtual

Looking straight into the path of uncertainty, the workshop committee considered canceling the 2021 workshop in favor of planning for an in-person venue in 2022.  We thought surely the pandemic dragon would be slain by then and vaccinations proven to prevent infections would be available and administered. 

Instead, to preserve our safety culture, we decided “the show must go on” and strategized on media that would appeal to the masses.  We discussed possibilities like a drive-in theater presentation and staging presentations along a drive route so our guests could “drive by” and experience live demonstrations.

To maintain social distancing and to ensure the safety and well-being of the presenters, the committee opted to stage and record the field demonstrations that would otherwise have been delivered live. Narrators describe the activities and work staged while the employees and contractors performed as actors in the video demonstrations. 

In December 2020, Arizona was at the height of COVID exposures along with the rest of the United States and many countries worldwide. SRP executives deemed January a “COVID Cooldown” month with even more stringent requirements for masking and social distancing.  Video staging and production was postponed until February and the virtual workshop date moved to the end of March. 

The Silver Lining

Various municipalities and private entities have requested that SRP conduct the safety workshop or elements of the workshop (select topics and demonstrations) for their workplace or business. With video presentations of the safety demonstrations recorded, taking the safety message “on the road” will be easier and even more economical than before.

Additionally, the committee looks for opportunities to put this training materials in the hands of the sole proprietors who might not otherwise know about the annual workshop.  It will now be possible to put the videos online or on a thumb drive for individual guest viewing. 

SRP continues to receive positive feedback from our Electrical Safety Workshop guests, and several guests are repeat attendees.  We welcome engaged safety enthusiasts at SRP to join the workshop planning committee and to assist with innovation and workshop improvement.  To quote a workshop guest last February, “This event just gets better every year.”

Lori Jones ([email protected]) is the manager of maintenance services for Salt River Project in Phoenix, Arizona.

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