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Committing to a culture of cooperative safety

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

We all depend on electricity to power our lives, but accidents can happen when electricity is improperly used. Your rural electric cooperative recognizes the powerful force electricity is; therefore, we are committed to a culture of safety that keeps electric cooperative employees and members aware and protected from potential dangers around electricity. 

The month of May has been designated National Electrical Safety Month. While it is fitting to have a month set apart to reinforce this important message, maintaining a culture of safety is a priority for each of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives every day of the year. 

Working with electricity is an inherently dangerous job, especially for lineworkers. To recognize this powerful force and to bring awareness, it’s not uncommon for electric cooperatives to form local safety teams whose focus is keeping employees and the community safe around electricity. 

Co-ops establish and follow safety protocols based on leading national safety practices for the utility industry. They require lineworkers to wear specialized equipment when working next to or with power lines. Line crews undergo continuing training requirements and are frequently reminded of specific protocols to follow when dealing with electricity. Safety professionals track any near-miss accidents in order to understand them, share lessons learned and improve in the future. 

To foster accountability, electric co-ops encourage crew members to speak up and hold each other accountable for everyone’s safety. By cultivating a culture of openness and transparency, co-ops promote problem solving and an environment in which team members are constantly looking after each other. 

Co-ops believe in community awareness and education about electrical safety. As a consumer-owner of your co-op, you too have a role. If you see any potential dangerous situations or practices, you should report them as soon as possible to your rural electric cooperative. 

Caring for the communities they serve is imperative to electric cooperatives. As an invested partner in your community, your co-op genuinely cares about your family, neighbors and loved ones. To learn about safety practices around electricity, we encourage you to visit www. SafeElectricity.org, where you’ll find life-saving information presented in videos, interactive games for children, online teacher resources and much more. 

We are known for having one of the safest and most reliable electric grids in the world, but we are not going to rest on these laurels. Electric cooperatives value your safety and well-being and we’ll continue to educate co-op consumer-owners on important safety considerations. Our members are worth every effort. OKL Article End

 

How is cooperative leadership organized?

Gary Roulet
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

Within the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC), board members come from three different groups. The first group is formed of directors from the local co-op boards of 27 distribution electric cooperatives; the second group is formed of managers from each of the distribution cooperatives; and the third group comprises the managers from the three generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives. As part of the electric cooperative business model, each group represents a different perspective in the rural electrification program. 

Of the three G&Ts serving Oklahoma, Golden Spread (headquartered in Amarillo, Texas) serves a single distribution cooperative in the Oklahoma panhandle. KAMO Power (headquartered in Vinita, Oklahoma) serves distribution cooperatives in northeastern and central Oklahoma, plus Missouri. Finally, Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) serves distribution cooperatives in southeast, southwest, central, northwest Oklahoma, and southeastern New Mexico. Each of the three G&Ts is governed by board members selected from each of their distribution cooperative member-systems. 

One difference between the cooperative business model and that of investor-owned utilities (IOUs) is that it takes two organizations in the cooperative industry to deliver electricity (a G&T co-op and a distribution co-op) to the end consumer instead of a single company that generates, delivers and sells retail electricity as is the case with IOUs. 

Each distribution cooperative has a member-elected board of trustees which makes decisions for the cooperative. Each distribution cooperative selects one of their elected trustees to serve as a board member for the G&T they own. In this way, both the G&T and distribution cooperative governing trustees come from the distribution cooperative membership. 

A second difference, and the most important, is both the distribution cooperative and the G&T are based on “cost of service.” This means their retail rates to their consumer-members and wholesale power costs to the distribution cooperatives are based on the cost to provide electricity with only enough margin to satisfy lenders of money to either the G&T or distribution cooperative. IOUs have stockholders, and in addition to the cost of service, a return to stockholders is included in retail rates. 

As a 47-year employee of a G&T, with the last 18 as chief executive officer of WFEC, it is an honor to serve as the president of OAEC board of trustees for the upcoming year. I look forward to sharing knowledge I have learned from these years of service with Oklahoma Living’s readership in the months ahead. OKL Article End