LWCC Safest 70 Star: SLEMCO
LWCC’s Safest 70 Awards celebrate policyholders who share our commitment to workplace safety. Our Safest 70 Stars go above and beyond in their safety efforts and lead the way in employee health and wellness. For information about the Safest 70 Award program, click here.
For over 83 years, SLEMCO, an electric utility provider based in Lafayette, LA, has been serving the Acadiana region, but never have they been relied upon more than last year. Following the historic challenges of 2020, which included a global pandemic and an active hurricane season, SLEMCO provided utility bill assistance for those impacted by the economic downfall, ensured local hospitals and clinics were able to continue fighting the pandemic, and responded to the needs of not only their customers, but also neighbors and competitors, following back-to-back natural disasters. This was all in addition to their regular daily responsibilities. SLEMCO proved their power.
Their dedication to safety, and more importantly, the health and well-being of their employees and local communities is one of the many reasons SLEMCO has been named one of LWCC’s Safest 70. The Safest 70 Awards celebrate Louisiana businesses that practice the highest standard of safety precautions while supporting Louisiana through their products and services. As an LWCC policyholder since 1998, SLEMCO has shown a dedication to safety, being recognized as a model for others across the state. “Prioritizing workplace safety has made our organization more like a family. Crew members watch out for each other, protect each other, and work to make sure everyone can go home safely to those they love,” says Nathan Melancon, Safety & Training Supervisor.
By its very nature, electric line work is extremely dangerous. While electrocution remains the most dangerous risk, other serious hazards include burns, falls, power line contact, heat-related hazards, overhead dangers, and heavy machinery accidents. To minimize those risks, SLEMCO prioritizes on-going training, adherence to safety protocols, and making sure every employee has proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Because of the dangerous nature of the work, safety must be an integral part of any task we perform,” says Melancon. “When we intricately weave that concept, both mentally and physically, into everything we do, we are able to focus more intensely on the job at hand – providing power to our customers.” He adds that their safety initiatives are reinforced through additional on-site training and situational instruction, monthly safety meetings, and safety-related email blasts.
Recently, SLEMCO experienced a significant experience gap with the retirement of many 30+ year linemen. To help level the playing field while younger workers built up experience of their own, the company brought back a well-respected and trusted 40+ year veteran foreman as a member of the safety team to continue providing the same mentoring he had provided as a line foreman. Because he had truly been “one of them” for so many years, this practice proved beneficial as newer employees were aided in fostering positive work attitudes, enhanced problem-solving skills, and developing a routine of sound, safe practices while on the job. Melancon says this concept has proved to be invaluable to the company.
Seeking experienced help is normal for SLEMCO as they continually work with LWCC’s Safety Services Department, hosting monthly discussions with their Safety Services Representative regarding trending topics, encountered issues, and best practices in preventing and eliminating risks. “The effort SLEMCO has put into developing a culture of safety is evident in their reduced number of accidents and claims, proving that what they’re doing is working,” says Damian Simoneaux, LWCC Lead Safety Services Consultant.
SLEMCO recently received a one-time grant from LWCC, which provided funding to allow the organization to purchase personal voltage detectors for all field employees.
“The personal voltage detectors are one example of SLEMCO’s dedication to employee safety,” says Simoneaux. “These detectors are worn by the worker and provide an alert when electric fields or energized equipment is nearby. In their line of work, this is a necessity.”
Melancon credits the personal voltage detectors for their success in responding to the recent hurricanes and ice storm, sharing, “Power restoration after natural disasters is chaotic; the hours are long. The voltage detectors provided an additional layer of safety and peace of mind while our employees worked under increasingly dangerous circumstances.”
Aside from powering homes and businesses, SLEMCO stands firmly behind powering the communities they serve. Through the years, the organization has invested millions of dollars to help improve the lives of their customers through economic development and educational and philanthropic endeavors.
“Our mission is to provide power, but we’re also dedicated to our communities,” says Mary Laurent, Communications Coordinator. “Each year we provide $40,000 in academic scholarships, while also donating to many area nonprofits. We also award monthly grants to those in need as a way to help them navigate some of life’s challenges.”
SLEMCO has been a driving force in Acadiana for more than 80 years, providing power to over 109,000 customers. Their drive and commitment to safety – and Louisiana – make it easy to recognize them as an LWCC Safest 70 Star.
Lessons learned from this LWCC Safest 70 Star:
- Establish a culture of safety through continued employee training and education.
- Utilize employee expertise and experience to aid in the improvement of others.
- Make safety a part of the daily routine, providing proper PPE and working equipment.
- Give back to the communities you serve.
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