Commitment to Zero Contacts

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

There are two pressing goals in the electric cooperative industry: 1) to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to every consumer-member and 2) to ensure that every man and woman in our charge returns home safely to their families each night. 

The month of May has been designated Electrical Safety Month. In following with one of the core cooperative principles, “Education, Training and Information,” co-ops in Oklahoma and around the nation are active in providing electrical safety education to their membership, not only in May, but throughout the year. 

This important mission also entails the development of a strong safety culture within the cooperative network. We believe a commitment to safety must be woven in the cooperative culture; this commitment is strengthened by the “buy in” of every employee: from the CEO, to support personnel such as engineers, accountants, member service reps, communicators—to name a few of many co-op roles—and to every lineworker. Our line crews are indeed on the front lines, but every single person in the cooperative has a role to play in carrying out an effective safety culture. It’s crucial that each employee has ownership of our safety culture because ownership breeds accountability, and accountability yields positive outcomes. 

In an effort to strengthen safety awareness within the electric cooperative network, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) launched a campaign called “Commitment to Zero Contacts.”  This initiative is aimed at preventing serious injuries and fatalities (SIF) among co-op lineworkers. The program is designed to provide co-ops with the support and resources they need to help eliminate SIFs due to electrical contact. In Oklahoma, we are proud to share that 21 electric cooperatives have signed a “Commitment to Zero Contacts” pledge. As a member of your electric cooperative, we hope you take pride in the fact that your co-op family makes every effort for lineworker—and every co-op employee—to return home safely each day while keeping your lights on. OKL Article End

 

Changing Times, Same Mission

Tim Smith
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

I have been asked a few times what makes electric cooperatives unique. After 24 years in the industry, I’m confident our strength lies in the servant nature of the men and women who work day in and day out to keep your lights on. 

I grew up on electric cooperative lines in Arkansas but did not realize at that time the impact electric cooperatives had on the communities they serve. As a young college graduate, I began my first full-time career with the defense industry working as a human resources director. My work environment then was fast paced, high stress and competitive. I put in long days and hours, giving my best to help my neighbors. Circumstances led the organization I was working for to dissolve, and—after a year of sabbatical—an opportunity came knocking at my door to apply for a position with Ouachita Electric Cooperative in Camden, Arkansas, as their manager of member services. It did not take me long to realize how special the electric cooperative industry is. I quickly learned cooperatives are service organizations; they bring a vital service to their members and by doing so they empower communities to be better places to work, live and raise families. A few years later, when an opportunity arose for me to go back to the corporate world, I was far too entrenched in the cooperative way of doing business and made a decision to stay for the long haul. 

In 2004, I had the opportunity to accept the general manager position at East Central Electric Cooperative based in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. My family and I are proud to call Oklahoma our home and have made lasting friendships in this great state. 

As I start my tenure as board president of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, I look back on the opportunities that have been afforded to me with gratitude. I’m honored to serve in this role and represent each co-op member-system in Oklahoma as well as consumer-members throughout the state. As I look ahead, I’m encouraged that electric cooperatives in Oklahoma and across the nation are uniquely positioned to meet needs of the communities they serve by adapting to a changing landscape in today’s political, economic and societal realm. Times change, but the mission of electric cooperatives to empower the needs of our members remain the same. I’m honored to be a part of this noble mission. OKL Article End