The Blue Sky Effect: Why Employees Get Injured All the Time

By: Maaheem "Mak" Akhtar

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Whil met up with the Director of Safety, Electric Transmission and Distribution at PG&E recently. Rudy Wolf is responsible for helping the leadership of 10,000 employees and contractors with safety. In other words, he ensures that their bosses take responsibility for their teams’ safety. Sounds pretty hectic.

It turns out that despite all the precautionary signage and perfunctory training, people still get hurt. And often. Even with the industry’s investments in better processes training, improved personal protection and safer equipment. Why are things still going wrong then?

How can these workers be helped? Well first, we need to understand the issue at hand. You’d think that utilities employees would be at higher risk of injury during a storm. Think again. It turns out that hardly anyone gets hurt during an emergency situation. They handle 20,000 kV lines nonchalantly. In dangerous weather. That’s a pretty stressful day job.

On the flip side, on a blue sky day employees get injured all the time. They accidentally drive f550s (vehicles just shy of a truck) into poles or parked cars. Roofers fall off roofs. When Rudy asks them why, there’s stunned silence.

The answer? Because on a stormless day, it’s no big deal. Not much is at stake. Thus, employees are not on their guard; they’re not fully present with what they’re doing. The term for this is absentmindedness.

So how do you curb such a strange and serious issue in employee safety? There’s only one way to find out. Join our next webcast on November 17 featuring Rudy. Hint: it’s attention training.

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