Although some officials with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) tout the fact that the utility has dropped the overall injury rate for its workers by about half over the past decade, any self-lauding rhetoric must be tempered by a hard look at statistics.
And relevant numbers reveal this: The most recent data available indicate that the DWP injury rate stood at 4.5 injuries per 100 workers in 2014. Conversely, the average for all utilities nationally was 2.1 injuries for 100 workers over a recently comparable period.
The math obviously serves to rather quickly deflate any chest thumping or congratulatory celebrations within the department, for, while the 4.5 figure marks a quantum leap downward from the 8.5 rate applicable for the DWP in 2004, it is still more than double the national average.
What's the problem?
Some commentators might sharpen their inquiry a bit beyond that general query by asking what is especially driving the safety lapses that are resulting in notably high injury occurrences featuring electrical shocks and burns?
Persons positing a troubling trend marked by a sharp spike in such work-related injuries merely need to point to last year, given that shocks and burns suffered by DWP's electrical workers in 2013 were at a 10-year high. And that 10-year average has already been reached this year -- and it's only May.
Many commentators are weighing in with opinions on the factors that are the major catalysts promoting safety lapses and resulting in injuries. Inadequate supervision and insufficient training have been identified as problems. A hiring freeze that has resulted in some employees working increased overtime hours has also been pointed to, given that long work hours can engender employee fatigue.
One safety expert says that it might take some time for DWP officials to materially improve safety outcomes. He says that when a utility finally acknowledges a problem and seeks to craft a viable response, "it's like turning a supertanker."