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TEC Loss Control Conference Puts Safety First

April 12, 2018

You know a safety conference is zealous about its mission when, before it even kicks off, the presider tells attendees where they will exit the building in the event of an evacuation, where the nearest fire extinguishers are, and that their company trucks provide the quickest access to first-aid kits and automated external defibrillators.

It's as if a line crew tailgate meeting took place before the business at hand—just another day at work for lineworkers, safety supervisors and general managers attending the 72nd annual TEC Loss Control Conference & Exhibit Show in March in San Marcos. The conference featured three days of educational sessions and awards recognizing organizations and individuals for safety achievements. A reception gave attendees an opportunity to meet with 46 vendors about industry products and services.

Wendy Regan, who recently retired as the supervisor of risk management after 20 years at Farmers EC, won the Ray Pantel Award, the highest honor in the TEC Loss Control program. "Make safety yours," said an emotional Regan, the first woman to win the award.

The Unsung Hero Award went to David McDowell, a veteran lineworker who has been at Farmers EC since 1985. He's a frequent instructor at TEC Loss Control schools and is "always challenging linemen to work outside of their comfort zone," said Danny Williams, TEC Loss Control manager.

For the third year in a row, San Patricio EC won the GE Safety Award, which is based on organizations' injury incident reports submitted to TEC. Two cooperatives accepted Million Man Hour Awards for working more than 1 million hours without a lost-time accident: South Texas EC (1,255,178 hours) and United Cooperative Services (2,091,976 hours).

Poignant videos told the stories of co-op employees who won Lifesaving Awards: Robert Pippin at Big Country EC; Jon Minter at Bowie-Cass EC; Isabel Cavazos at Nueces EC; and Mitchell Culpepper, Logan Fritchen, Bill Liedtke and Michael Whitt at Tri-County EC.

Special events at the conference—a golf tournament, raffle and auction of donated items—served as fundraisers and helped the TEC Loss Control Scholarship program collect $45,785.

Jeff LeDuff, former police chief in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, led one of the conference's more engaging sessions, Workplace Violence and Personal Safety. Vigilance and awareness of one's surroundings are important, proactive measures everybody can practice, he said. He recommends minimizing the distractions of cellphones in public and using reflections available on vehicles and glass buildings to avoid having to turn around while walking.

LeDuff pointed out that the number of people being robbed while on the job in the electric utility industry is growing. He offered tips on how to defuse situations.

"Pain is the best distraction," he said, adding that a kick to the ankle with your knee locked is a great way to distract and temporarily disable a threatening person, giving you time to run away.

Phillip Ragain of the RAD Group spoke about the tendency of people to fail to intervene—during an emergency or in the face of safety violations. "We believe we would, believe we should, but when opportunity arises, we don't," Ragain said, explaining that hardwired inhibitions keep humans silent.

In November 2017, 17 lineworkers from six Texas co-ops went to Bolivia and built 5 miles of line to serve three villages in the northern part of the country through NRECA International. Several linemen from that group spoke at the conference, encouraging others to participate in such projects if the opportunity arises and explaining how moving it was to be among the Bolivians when the first lightbulb in their village came on.