It was the summer of 2013 when two NIPCO crew members were removing 12-foot aluminum forms from a poured concrete pad in NIPCO’s main source substation Eagle, northeast of Hawarden in Sioux County. As one member of the crew loaded a form into the bed of their pickup truck, the end of the form made contact with the energized bus work.
One end of the form was in contact with the pickup’s bumper and the majority of the 17,000-amp charge went through the truck, blowing out the right front tire. That saved the crewman from worse injuries.
He was treated for burns on his hands and one foot.
That was over five years ago but the incident is hard to forget.
NIPCO has worked diligently to continue its commitment to the safety of its employees through education and training. This dedication is evident in NIPCO earning high marks in safety audits and “No Lost Time Accident” Awards. This is why NIPCO’s Safety Committee members jumped on the opportunity to roll out the co-branded NRECA and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange safety initiative, “Commitment to Zero Contacts” to its employees in January of 2019.
Introduced at NRECA’s 2018 Safety Leadership Summit, “Commitment to Zero Contacts” is a voluntary initiative that provides resources to help eliminate injuries by electrical contacts. In a May 1, 2018, article that appeared on Electric.coop, it was reported, “Today, the number of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) among co-op lineworkers remains stubbornly high even though the overall injury rate has fallen. A nationwide survey of 51,000 co-op employees conducted annually between 2006 and 2015 found an average of more than 23 SIFs each year.” The article goes on to state, “Contact with energized lines and equipment caused more than 40 percent of the incidents.”
At its December Board Meeting, NIPCO’s Board of Directors took the pledge to “Commit to Zero Contacts” by supporting safety efforts at NIPCO by approving a resolution that recognizes the following:
WHEREAS, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative places a high value on the health and welfare of its employees and members, and
WHEREAS, the Board believes that taking proactive steps may help prevent injury due to future electrical contacts,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative hereby joins the Commitment to Zero Contacts nationwide initiative.
NIPCO’s January Employee Safety meeting brought Iowa Association of Electric Cooperative’s Job Training and Safety Instructor Scott Meinecke to its headquarters to introduce the program and to educate the staff about the importance of being mindful of proper safety procedures no matter what job employees are performing for the cooperative.
Each NIPCO employee pledged their Commitment to Zero Contacts, and to each other, by signing a large banner that will be hung at NIPCO’s headquarters. It features personal photos provided by NIPCO’s 47 employees as the “47 Reasons Why Safety is Job #1”.
Employees were also given travel mugs and stickers to serve as reminders of their pledge.