Electric utility employees receive training on correct movements to reduce injuries.
 - Photo courtesy of MREA

Electric utility employees receive training on correct movements to reduce injuries.

Photo courtesy of MREA

The Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) has reduced the number of worker injuries by 69% after implementing a new safety program.  

According to Lidia Jacobson, director of safety and loss control for MREA, linemen who operate bucket trucks, climb poles, and work on their knees putting in poles, needed an exercise or stretching program. Instead, she found a program that teaches proper body mechanics.

“Linemen wear out their bodies. It’s very hard work in inclement weather. It’s -26 degrees today, and it feels like -55 degrees with wind,” Jacobson said. “Most expect to have some sort of surgery with this job.”

Common injuries include strains and strains on the back, and on the shoulders and knees, she added.

Worklete, a technology platform that reduces musculoskeletal injuries, sent out staff members to Minnesota and learned the movements linemen make: getting in and out of trucks, working on poles, and in buckets. They filmed the crew and created a specific program for workers.

Every two weeks, workers receive a new video, about five minutes long and often featuring their coworkers, which they can access on their tablet or phone. Then, they’re encouraged to practice the movements from the video with their coworkers to reinforce what they learned.

“One of the linemen recently retired and said if he had this program, he wouldn’t have needed his shoulder surgery," Jacosbson said.

Not only is it open to linemen — mechanics and meter readers are also participating. For example, mechanics are watching the same videos and learning how to enter and exit vehicles correctly.

The MREA found that after analyzing workers' comp loss runs for two co-ops that had been using Worklete since 2017, the injury reduction rate was 69%. The association works with 50 co-ops in Minnesota. Jacobson said right now, 10 organizations within the association are participating, and she hopes this number will expand.

This article was updated 3/15/19. A new audit of insurance logs showed that the two co-ops reduced injuries by 69%, not 75%.

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