Safety & Health Performance
Whether at work or at home, safety and health don’t take a break. Our drive to achieve zero harm – no injuries, illnesses or fatalities resulting from our operations – is personal and our commitment is stronger than ever. We will not relent in our pursuit of zero harm because we know there will never be a finish line when it comes to safety and health. We cannot afford to ever let down our guard. Our investments to protect our employees and contractors from harm are significant, a reflection of our commitment. Our progress is significant; AEP is in the top quartile among our peers and some parts of our business are in the top decile, which is what we are striving for systemwide. This effort has been the catalyst for a major culture shift in AEP that emphasizes zero harm as the goal every day.
This commitment to safety and health is that much stronger because much of our work carries the risk of physical harm. That is why we are deeply grateful no employee lost his or her life while on the job in 2013, the second consecutive year without a fatality. And there were fewer reportable safety events during 2013 than the prior year, one of our best years yet. But that performance is tempered by the severity of these injuries, which was higher than the prior year, keeping employees off the job for longer periods of time. Vehicle accidents that we consider preventable also increased by 53 percent in 2013 in the Utilities organization and 27 percent across all of AEP.
In 2014, we are putting new efforts in place to help us tackle the uptick in injury severity and the increase in preventable vehicle accidents. We will be launching a new initiative called “See Something, Say Something, Do Something” to encourage employees to report potentially unsafe work practices without fear of retaliation and without regard for whether a more senior employee is involved. It is peer coaching with a safety focus.
The manner in which management handles unintended events also figures strongly in the effectiveness of our safety and health efforts. “Just Culture,” a structured approach to how employees are treated when unintended events occur, is used to pinpoint where management systems failed. It helps leaders ensure fairness, consistency and shared accountability in analyzing events, with a focus on what happened and why, rather than on who is to blame. Fostering an environment that supports this approach is part of our effort to create a more collaborative, supportive culture at AEP. Employee focus groups conducted in 2013 and a culture survey completed in 2012 told us we have a lot more work to do before we achieve this type of culture.
Both past performance and forward-looking actions are considered in measuring our safety and health performance. Our employee recordable incident rate (as defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration) for 2013 was 0.83, which was better than our target of 0.94. This performance matched our 2012 mark and is the best in company history. Our employee severity rate – the severity of injuries that occur – in 2013 was 23.04 versus the target of 18.64 and our 2012 performance of 19.24. That employees are incurring more serious injuries is not acceptable. Severity days (lost work days and restricted activity days due to injury) rose from 3,495 in 2012 to 4,094 in 2013, a 17 percent increase. The year before, severity days had declined by the same percentage.
Slips, trips and falls accounted for the most severity days in 2013 (49 percent of the total), followed by overexertion events (17 percent).
Internal audits of our environmental, safety and health management system and compliance processes are a major part of our quest for zero harm. Safety and health programs were audited at 18 locations in 2013. The top five areas where risks were identified in 2013 were in the hoisting/lifting, welding/cutting, confined space, walking and working surfaces and respiratory protection programs. All of the audit comments are shared with business unit leaders and safety and health professionals so that they may leverage the lessons learned from the audit activities.
Our Generation business unit uses the Managing Environment, Safety and Health (MESH) system to track performance and ensure compliance with requirements. Many of our power plants have electronic MESH manuals that link to corporate resources while also addressing plant-specific processes.