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Pahrump-based Valley Electric highlights safety accomplishment

Workers at Valley Electric Association Inc. have been making the grade on safety.

The Pahrump-based co-op had no reported injuries in over a year as of early July, a bridge that hasn’t been crossed in a decade, according to information in a news release from Valley Electric.

Mike Hengel, executive vice president of communications and regulatory affairs for Valley, said in an Aug. 30 email that he wasn’t aware of any injuries occurring through that time period, either. The one-year mark without injuries occurred during the Fourth of July week, according to the co-op’s release.

“VEA’s safety record has been exemplary for years,” said Joe Fieldsted, manager of safety, health, environmental and efficiency, in Valley’s news release. “VEA has had long periods without injuries before now, but it has been a decade since VEA workers went longer than a year.”

“About half of our workers are high-risk occupations – linemen, installers, groundskeepers, warehouse workers,” Fieldsted said in the co-op’s release. “So safety is something that must be top of mind all the time. We want our workers going home to their families each day in the same condition that they arrived.”

Interim CEO Dick Peck also gave accolades to Valley’s team.

“There is so much potential for injury in our industry, we are really proud of our safety record,” Peck said in the release. “It takes training, it takes preparation and it takes focus to accomplish a feat like this. It also helps to have a little luck.”

According to Valley’s release, across the co-op’s organization, more than 300,000 hours of work have been clocked without an injury through the Fourth of July.

“Many of those hours were logged in the field in intense heat, numbing cold or piercing wind,” the release stated. “More than 800,000 miles were driven in company vehicles, most of them on unpaved areas of the desert.”

Valley’s release also pointed toward other things workers had done in that year period: replacing dozens of power poles, hanging miles of power lines and high-speed fiber on poles, and working dozens of outages. Valley also noted thousands of consumer broadband connections being done by Valley workers and hundreds of pallets and supplies being loaded and unloaded.

Valley’s release stated, “Daily job briefings help with focus and awareness. Before each shift, line crews and broadband installers review each job, the risks workers might encounter and how to mitigate them.”

Tony Cipollini, lineman at Valley Electric for three decades, said “it revolves around the culture,” in Valley’s release.

“I’ve been here 30 years, and watching out for others has always been a huge part of our safety culture,” Cipollini said in the release. “Over time, you learn to be aware of everything and everyone.”

Broadband installation has added new safety challenges for the co-op.

“Every morning, we review the jobs for the day and what we might face,” says Matt King, manager of broadband installation and repair. “We discuss safety issues that are variable – like wind, rain, heat and how to handle them all. We also review the work completed the day before with an emphasis on any unusual incidents and safety concerns. It’s important to keep the dialogue going all the time.”

“Weather is a key,” Alan Murillo, broadband installer, said in the co-op’s release. “Roof tiles can be slick, and typically, we are up on a roof four to six times per day. Wind is another key factor. A strong wind can easily move an 80-pound ladder. And, in the summer, you can only stay in a hot attic for 15 minutes before taking time to recover.”

Nearly 2,000 customers had broadband installed since June 2018, according to Valley’s Aug. 12 release.

Valley Electric serves some 40,000 consumers (18,000 member-consumers) across its 6,800-square-mile footprint.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com on Twitter @MeehanLv

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