January 2022 | One Moment

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"Forgiveness means relinquishment. It means to give something up. To relinquish something means to give up whatever power it holds over us. You may remember the wrong, but by choosing to forgive, you have disarmed it. We begin to forgive by choosing to forgive... by deciding, not by feeling."

By Sean J. Vanslyke | sean@gosemo.com

"We had a contact." Those are the words I heard through my phone at 7:39 a.m. on November 15. For people in the electricity world, those are four words you never want to hear. The words took my breath away as I was getting ready to enter a meeting in Springfield, Mo. I simply left and headed toward the burn center in St. Louis. Fortunately, as I came to I-44 and I-270, I received a call that allowed me to head south to the hospital in Cape Girardeau. When I arrived, I was able to see the family and our co-worker. He made contact with 7,200 volts of electricity during an outage call and walked away with minor burns on both hands. He was blessed. We were blessed. We didn't need to host a funeral. With God's grace, he has more to do on Earth. He has unfinished business.

So, what did we do? We prayed. We focused on helping our co-worker and his family. We focused on supporting the co-worker who made the mayday call from the site and got his co-worker help per his training. We sent two linemen to the scene to finish the early morning outage restoration. We had a safety stand-down with all employees. We examined what occurred at the site. We committed to each other to never let this happen again. Since our co-worker was hospitalized overnight for observation, I notified OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) per protocol.

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a representative from OSHA arrived unannounced at 9:30 a.m. He showed his credentials at the front counter in Sikeston and started asking questions. Marty and I had just left Bloomfield, so Britney and Jared got him started by providing our annual OSHA logs for the past five years. Once Marty and I arrived, he asked more questions, interviewed several co-workers, inspected the truck and tools, and took photos and videos until 12:45 p.m. Then Brandon K, Jared, Marty, and I traveled to Wyatt for the OSHA representative to see the location, take photographs, and ask more questions. We departed at 1:45 p.m. from Wyatt. Afterward, we forwarded requested information including operating policies, documentation from safety meetings and training, our safety manual, the collective bargaining agreement, and other information. The last email was sent at 5:30 p.m. What happens now? OSHA has six months to complete its report. We hope to have results sooner. We will use the opportunity to get better.

Our cooperative makes safety a priority. We are transparent about safety. We keep our policies and safety manuals up-to-date. Our team works hard to live and work safely each day - each moment. However, this one moment will change us, it will challenge us. A bad moment is not compatible with thousands of volts of electricity. I want to thank the community who prayed, called, and delivered cookies for our linemen, This accident won't be forgotten by us or you. Never again. Never again.

Book of the Month: "Forgiveness means relinquishment. It means to give something up. To relinquish something means to give up whatever power it holds over us. You may remember the wrong, but by choosing to forgive, you have disarmed it. We begin to forgive by choosing to forgive... by deciding, not by feeling." The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

Be smart. Act safe. Keep pushing forward!

Sean is the CEO/GM of SEMO Electric Cooperative and GoSEMO Fiber.

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