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Driving becomes a major safety concern at Austin Energy

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

With workers who climb poles, work with electricity and drive vehicles under all conditions, safety is a paramount concern for Austin Energy. To put it lightly, Elaina Ball, chief operating officer and deputy general manager at Austin Energy, told the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee on Feb. 28, “We want to make sure all our team members go home the way they came.” For the last several years, the energy utility has slowly been lowering the number of accidents on the job. Recently, however, there has been an increase in injuries on the job. Council Member Greg Casar noted that the rate has almost doubled over the last fiscal year. Ball explained one of the surprising causes. “Last year we saw an uptick in the number of vehicle accidents we had,” she said. However, this is not the only reason for the rise. “I think there are two drivers,” said Ball. “First and foremost, our number one injuries … are sprains and strains.” The reason for these strains is unsurprising. “I don’t know how to say this politely, but we’re not getting younger,” she said. To help combat this growing issue, the utility has implemented stretching classes to help employees remain limber and in peak physical condition. In an effort to reduce the number of car accidents, Austin Energy is sending its employees who drive city vehicles through “advanced defensive driving.” Since the utility tracks safety incidents throughout the year, we will shortly see the effects of their renewed attention to the matter.

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