Working more safely at Xcel Energy
Xcel Energy began a pivotal evolution of its safety program two years ago, focusing on eliminating serious injuries and fatalities. Its Safety Always approach aims to develop a culture of enhanced trust and transparency with employees and contractors, so the company can identify the most serious risks inherent in its employees’ work and make sure that all the possible controls are in place to mitigate those risks before starting work.
Culture change has been a key focus in the first two years of implementing this approach, said Jennifer Bailey, director of Safety. This includes preparing employees to make critical changes to how work is done every day – and establishing the trust and transparency necessary for people to have open and honest conversations.
Central to this change is Critical Risk Management, a continuous improvement process that seeks to eliminate or reduce the potential for a life-changing event by emphasizing the need for robust barriers, also known as controls. Crews take time to consider the hazards involved in their work that could lead to serious injuries and fatalities, and they delay starting tasks until all critical hazards are identified and all critical controls are in place.
“Everyone wants the same thing – to return home safely to their loved ones every night,” Bailey said. “The most important strategy we can employ to prevent life-changing events from happening is to use controls – because they save lives. Our Safety Always approach is critical to ensuring that we have controls in place to prevent life-changing and life-ending injuries.”
Another important facet of continually improving safety is conducting Event Learnings, which are candid conversations designed to provide a deep understanding of how an incident occurred so the company can then address what needs to be changed, she said. Collaborating to understand how work is truly performed in the field has allowed Xcel Energy to implement a new risk-based, continuous-improvement process to identify energy-based hazards and the critical controls needed to prevent life-ending and life-altering injuries from occurring.
Safety Always moves away from traditional safety programs focused on preventing serious injuries by avoiding minor ones. Instead, Xcel Energy is focused on prioritizing and mitigating the risks that can cause serious and life-altering injuries through sharing, caring and learning.