Gain insight from across the utility industry through expert opinions, key conversations, and market research surrounding topics that impact today’s utility companies including public safety, regulatory compliance, success measures, and strategic communications.

Get More of Your Third-Party Contractors to Engage in Accident Prevention

Are people at your company looking for ways to increase contractor participation and awareness in your public safety outreach programs?

The best way to get more contractors to take action is through careful segmentation within the larger contractor audience. In doing outreach to 1.1 million at-risk contractors for utilities each year, we’ve seen that contractor-specific segmentation techniques make it possible to produce response rates that are more than ten times the industry average.

Our research indicates that contractors are inundated with communications and can be immune to messaging that isn’t specific to them. Unless the safety message immediately resonates with the individual contractor—speaking to their challenges—it is often ignored.

Utilities that segment their at-risk communications increase customer awareness and engagement—the data confirm this. If you are responsible for communicating public safety it’s beneficial to conduct “Pre-Outreach Research” to

1. narrow and differentiate the contractor audience segments;
2. frame the public safety messaging in a context that matters to each group, and
3. tailor the outreach channels and response-tracking mechanisms to each group.

Audience segmentation and messaging techniques result in increased, measurable participation by contractors. Tangible metrics demonstrate to auditors and management the effectiveness of your public safety outreach program. Ultimately, this leads to more lives saved and more accidents prevented.


Safe Business is Smart Business

Complying with public safety regulations, including RP 1162, is necessary—but not sufficient. A more strategic, comprehensive approach to public safety can better reduce the frequency and severity of incidents.

It’s very easy to fall into a compliance mode, ‘checking the boxes’ for outreach and prevention, and then mobilizing whatever resources are required to respond to, and recover from, periodic incidents, as a cost of doing business. We almost tend to shrug and console ourselves that we couldn’t do anything else— that we did all that was required, all that we could. We can tell ourselves that, but it’s not true.

Committing to a broader approach is the right thing to do because it will translate into fewer injuries and fatalities. It’s also the smart thing to do, because in very short order, fewer injuries and fatalities translate into reduced costs. The costs associated with significant incidents are substantial and this burden is carried, in some combination, by investors and customers alike.

No approach can eliminate all injuries and fatalities. But utilities that are taking steps like these have greatly reduced incidents—and you can too, by:

  • Tailoring a strategy that aligns with your utility’s unique organization and its   constituents and service area.
  • Implementing an approach that reduces the frequency of accidents and enables the tracking and measurement of those reductions.
  • Deploying metrics that provide meaningful feedback that enables you to make your program demonstrably more effective and more efficient over time, and to communicate these successes to stakeholders.

In a comprehensive approach, reducing incidents is completely consistent with reducing costs. Isn’t that just common sense? We work with clients to embed this understanding into normal interactions with the public. Safe business is smart business.


Measure to Prove Your Success

The increased scrutiny by regulators, insurance companies, litigators and others, that many companies are reporting, make the accurate measurement of your public safety effort more important today than ever before. The right kinds of measurements will outline the strategy of your program for internal stakeholders as well as regulators and insurance companies.  These metrics also create sustainable public safety programs.

Understanding what to measure and why are the first steps in determining your public safety outreach tactics. That’s because when you begin with this goal in mind, your program will be more focused and cost-effective; it will be more successful in achieving goals like preventing accidents and mitigating risk; and you’ll be better able to communicate to others how your program results are continuously improving.

What to measure:
Here are several examples of the metrics our customers tell us management and regulators will be requiring:

– List Data

  • Who did you reach?
  • How accurate is your list?
  • How can you verify that the safety information reached the intended recipient?

– Frequency

  • How often did you reach your intended audience?
  • Why did you reach them that number of times?

– Messaging

  • Did the messaging cover RP1162 requirements?
  • How many recipients read the safety messages?

– Effectiveness/Incidents

  • Why did you send a safety poster?
  • Do contractors prefer receiving safety messaging from billboards or direct mail?
  • Have you seen a reduction in incidents?

How to measure:
You can employ a variety of tools to answer questions and measure the effectiveness of your program. These options include telephone surveys, email, or direct mail surveys, pre-and post-tests, and focus groups. The choice of appropriate measurement tool(s) is driven by the standards being required.

It is also important to consider whether anecdotal information will suffice or if quantitative data is required. For example, focus groups are very useful in understanding at-risk audience preferences; their results are qualitative. This type of anecdotal information is helpful in shaping your program—but what our customers are asked for time and again by regulators, stakeholders, and insurance companies are quantitative results that are projectable across the entire service area.

Measurement examples:
Here are two examples of survey results from a nationwide study that we are doing to evaluate our programs. These are the types of projectable results that our clients are supplying for management and regulators. They are reported at a confidence level of 95% with a margin of error of +/- 6.3%. It is hard to argue with these kinds of results.

Management and auditors respond positively when your program is framed with these kinds of results, summarized in a dashboard. We recommend to our customers that public safety outreach programs be designed with structured audit-ready documentation that demonstrates continuous improvement effectively and efficiently.

Strategic Framework for Utility Public Safety Decision Making

Recently, I gave a presentation at the Utility Public Safety Alliance’s Annual Meeting. The presentation included a discussion of the Pyramid of Prevention introduced in my last post. The Pyramid of Prevention concept and how you use it to develop a public safety outreach program sparked a lot of interest.

Based on this response, I thought it made sense to elaborate on our prevention-based approach by introducing the Strategic Framework for Decision Making, which is a critical tool that helps utilities move their public safety outreach programs “up the pyramid.” The goal of the decision-making framework is for as many activities or components of your public safety plan as possible to land in the effective and efficient area of the quadrant, in the upper left hand corner.

This Framework helps Public Safety Managers deal effectively with various audiences who have different issues, i.e. excavators vs. first responders vs. schools. It is important to use touches productively and appropriately for each audience we want to reach. During the planning process, we help managers identify program elements that produce quality touches in the effective and efficient quadrant.

To help illustrate how to use the Strategic Framework for Decision Making, I have plotted four different types of outreach for one audience, first responders, in the graphic below:

1.    In-Person Presentations
2.    Bill Inserts
3.    Websites
4.    Segmented programs with audience-specific messaging

First responders actively seek out safety training and respond favorably to “train the trainer” programs. For most utilities, first responders represent a relatively small population when compared to other customer groups. Consequently, fewer touches are needed to reach them and have an impact. On the other hand, excavators are a more diverse population and require more frequent touches, as well as more segmented messaging, to have a similar effect.

When designing a public safety program, consider the size, diversity, and interests of your population to determine which type of outreach will deliver high impact, relevant messaging. This is the first step in moving up the framework’s vertical axis as well as the Pyramid of Prevention.

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.