Case study: What does it take to achieve an electrical safety culture?

While electrical hazards increased, electrical safety also increased. Learn from one person’s story

By H. Landis “Lanny” Floyd June 27, 2024
Courtesy: Electrical Safety Foundation

In the mid-1980s, I was part of a small group of electricians, engineers and safety professionals concerned that our employer’s electrical safety performance was not on par with its overall safety performance. It was an example of an organization being blinded by the low-frequency nature of electrical injuries. We brought this to the attention of top management and in 1989 the company made a highly visible commitment to reducing the risk of injuries from electrical hazards to employees and contractors.

Goals for sustainable improvement were established, financial support provided and dedicated people empowered to reduce the likelihood of electrical incidents. We began crafting a focused application of the company’s safety management expertise in highly hazardous processes to create a culture of continual improvement in understanding, identifying and reducing the hidden danger from the unique hazards of electrical energy.

The culture and continuous improvement strategy nurtured for more than 25 years resulted in significant progress in reducing the severity and frequency of electrical injuries in the company, which had a workforce of approximately 100,000 employees and contractors.

Most dramatic was the impact on the frequency of fatalities from electrical energy. Over the first 25 years of my career, before 1993, the company experienced 12 electrocution fatalities. The fatality frequency was industry average for the period. For the last 20 years of my career, there were zero fatalities from exposure to electrical energy in company facilities, demonstrating that significant and sustainable improvement is achievable.

Electrical hazards were not reduced during this period, but rather increased due to increasing application of electrical technologies in energy, control and communication systems. What did change was the emphasis on management engagement, employee participation, near miss incident learning, hazard identification, prevention through design and enhancements to existing administrative controls and personal protective equipment to better address the “hidden danger” in our electrical safety program.

Author Bio: H. Landis “Lanny” Floyd, PE, CSP, CESCP, CUSP, CMRP, CRL, Life Fellow IEEE, is a member of Plant Engineering's editorial advisory board. He is an adjunct professor in the Advanced Safety Engineering and Management graduate engineering program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He retired from DuPont in 2014 after a 45-year career devoted to prevention of electrical injuries and fatalities.