ComEd, a utility and energy delivery company with more than a century of experience, has empowered and encouraged employees to focus on their safety.
As part of a formal "Time Out for Safety" process that was initiated in 2013-2014, employees were given authority to stop a job if they felt it was unsafe.
"Instead of having to accept assignments after unsuccessfully challenging them, they could say, 'No, I won't do that unsafe act,'" says Senior Safety Specialist Ryan Penne. "It gave them the authority to challenge it if they felt like they were being asked to do something unsafe and formalized the process, thus empowering the employees with their own personal safety."
The time out process includes a hotline that employees can call with details of the situation. The information is captured in a database that all employees can access. Work cannot be resumed until the initiator of the time out – the employee or employees – agreed to the resolution.
"No one can shop the job around to someone else to avoid addressing the safety issue," says Penne. "The issue is raised to an officer of the company if a resolution satisfactory to the initiator is not reached. Only when the initiator is satisfied with the resolution is the issue considered closed."
An example of a time out "win" was the result of an issue with the company's Network Highrise group. The basis of the concern was replacing a switchgear cable in which a cable was to be pulled from one switchgear to another during replacement. However, the bottom of the switchgear disconnect was energized at 12 KV. Due to the hazard of the energized equipment and associated contact or flash potential, the time out process was used to take another look at the situation.
"Through the discussion and analysis that took place, a resolution was reached that included a safer way to feed into the energized switchgear, additional crew members were allocated to the job to have extra eyes during replacement and the additional insulation points were used to prevent flash injury," remembers Penne. "The time out process safely mitigated the hazards of the job task and allowed all employees to go home injury-free at the end of the day."
ComEd (Commonwealth Edison)
6,500 employees/15 EHS professionals Utility