Four males in front of a background. Middle two are holding a certificate
Photo caption: SWPA employees Ryan Hoog and Karim Williams (middle) accepted the APPA Safety Award of Excellence from APPA in May 2023.
crews training for fall protection. some lifted up in a bucket truck, some on the pole, some watching from the ground.
Maintenance crews from Gore, Jonesboro, and Springfield participated in fall protection and hurt man rescue training June 5-7, 2023, at SWPA’s Springfield Maintenance Facility.
fall protection training
The annual fall protection and hurt man rescue training is led by SWPA crew members and includes inspection, use and proficiency in fall protection equipment and safe rescue and retrieval practices for at height workers.

Southwestern Power Administration (Southwestern) was recently recognized for its safe operating practices with the Safety Award of Excellence from the American Public Power Association (APPA), an honor for which nearly 300 utilities were in the running. Southwestern was awarded a commemorative plaque during the APPA Engineering & Operations Conference April 30 – May 3, 2023.

The APPA Safety Award of Excellence is an honor given to a company based on incident-free records and the overall state of the safety programs and culture - measurements that Southwestern works towards every day.

“Safety is a part of every job, every task, every day, from the office to the field and everywhere in between,” Karim Williams, Director and Program Manager of Southwestern’s Division of Environmental, Health, Safety and Security (EHSS), says.

Williams explains there are layers to safety, and it is an all-encompassing effort from all Southwestern employees.

“Being safe is a continuous cycle of planning for safety with training, handbooks, bulletins and meetings, performing safely with tailboards and work procedures, checking that safety is good enough with post work discussions, field observations, facility inspections, and acting on areas for safety improvement,” Williams says.

John Woodard, EHSS Safety & Occupational Health Manager, says that physical and psychological safety are both of importance at Southwestern.

“Field crews have far more exposure to physical hazards and receive specialized training for their craft and associated hazards,” Woodard says. “Field crews meet every morning prior to work to talk about the anticipated work, responsibilities, associated hazards, and safety watch. They are required to inspect their protective equipment, tools and other conditions to ensure the job can be done safely.”

Woodard explains that physical safety is a large effort of Southwestern’s, but there is another important aspect – psychological safety.

“Psychological safety is where team members feel they can express their thoughts and concerns without fear of retribution or ridicule,” Woodard says. “Southwestern takes on psychological safety with efforts such as the Safety Committee and Fall Protection Committee that are instrumental in ensuring any issues raised are addressed and that all employees are fall protection trained.”

According to Woodard, these committees also work on major projects such as the Power System Safety Handbook, which is the primary source of safety information for field conditions, and an Independent Safety Assessment from the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Enterprise Assessments, where a DOE team reviewed over 150 safety related documents and procedures and spent two weeks in the field observing Southwestern’s work.

Woodard says the Safety Office does not create a safe work environment, everyone else does.

“The Safety Office provides guidance, resources and recommendations, but it is ultimately everyone’s responsibility to take that information and apply it to their work environment,” Woodard says. “Also, achieving a high level of safety relies on support, encouragement, and championing of management and leaders. They lay the groundwork for the culture and how safety is included in it.”

Both Williams and Woodard say that safety is more than not becoming injured.

“Operating in a safe environment improves productivity, fosters teamwork, reduces distractions, and makes Southwestern a great place to work.”