Ascending the Pyramid of Prevention

Last week I got a call from a Public Safety Manager at a large dual-commodity utility in the Midwest; they just had an incident where a landscape contractor had dug into one of their underground distribution lines. As we all know this is not uncommon, the unseasonably warm weather nationwide has contractors of all types working outside earlier than usual. The utility wanted to know how they could quickly send utility safety education to all landscape contractors in their service area.

This was one of several similar calls that I have gotten this early spring that reminded me of a trend that we’ve noticed over the years.  When it comes to utility public safety, dig-ins can seem inevitable, but the fact is—incidents are avoidable. When they involve significant damages or injuries utilities often create public safety programs designed specifically around the event. Without a more strategic view utilities sometimes focus their resources on this particular type of loss. Under these circumstances it might be better for a company to look at the overall picture.

Some utilities have taken a more proactive approach, designing programs that reduce potential incidents by increasing the number of effective touches thereby increasing awareness. In doing so, they are on a path to creating a culture of prevention.

This path is best demonstrated by the Pyramid of Prevention which will help to establish a Culture of Prevention in your organization. The key to this model is to raise awareness to the level of retention. There is a science to this based on a combination of quality and quantity of outreach or touches. Focusing on the base of the pyramid—the number of touches—helps to create awareness, establish the practice of safety and ultimately change behavior. Changed behavior is prevention.

This is more than an idea – it’s actually being done and being measured. In shifting to a Culture of Prevention, companies also benefit because their customers feel safer and consequently the company’s image is enhanced and injuries are reduced.


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