The North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives’ Job Training & Safety (JT&S) team was one of 20 organizations nationally selected to present at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) 2018 Safety Summit held recently in Atlanta. JT&S used the opportunity to bring national attention to its “I WILL” safety initiative, which aims to make safety personal, create an emotional impact and emphasize personal accountability every day.
“The team was not only proud to represent North Carolina but to share an idea that we know will make a difference across the nation,” said Manager of JT&S Field Services Farris Leonard. “There was great interest in the program as we shared our story. Many cooperatives from across the nation asked how they could create such a program. The answer was very simple: Take our concept and personalize it to their cooperative. Involve employees, and most of all, make it about them.”
The program was developed to address the rise in contacts and serious injuries in the state, which was following the national rising trend. The program was to address the question “What are we going to do about it?” The JT&S team’s strategy became a purpose to make safety personal.
Eight safety promises were created to build the foundation of the program. Each safety promise begins with the simple but powerful words “I WILL,” which equate to a personal commitment of positive action. Each promise contains an action word such as accountable, focus, family and engage. These words together provide guidance to make the right decision daily.
“Our purpose then became a challenge,” Leonard said. “The challenge was to engage every employee at all 26 cooperatives. This message was shared at every safety meeting along with other media such as flyers and even videos for each promise. This all came together last June during the Safety Stand-Down — a time when we visited every cooperative to deliver the ‘I WILL’ message to all employees. It was a time to focus, engage and commit to the personal accountability in safety. After each meeting, the employees were challenged to make safety personal by sealing their commitment with a signature on the co-op’s ‘I WILL’ poster. By saying ‘I WILL,’ you are making a promise to yourself, your coworker and your family.”
“One of the most valuable results from this program is the JT&S Team created a different connection with the employees we interact with every day,” Leonard continued. “We were able to create a personal relationship with the individual and the most important aspect of safety: We care.”