PWC renews focus on safety after increase in accidents

PWC renews focus on safety after increase in accidents

Written by Paul Woolverton | City View Chief Correspondent

Employee accidents involving vehicles and equipment at the Fayetteville Public Works Commission are at double the average this fiscal year, and the authority is taking steps to revitalize its workplace safety culture.

PwC’s board of directors learned of the situation during a presentation at its meeting on Wednesday.

In other business Wednesday, PWC’s Board of Directors unanimously approved new electricity rates for broad energy customers.

Tim Bryant, CEO of PwC, said in an interview after the meeting that the accident rate among its 665 workers was low, as was the cost of repairing and replacing damaged equipment. But he said he wants to improve those numbers.

The new electricity rates and fees for plant-level energy consumers are intended to make PwC and Fayetteville more attractive to companies looking for sites to build large industrial facilities, Bryant said.

Worker safety program is being implemented

PWC General Counsel Georgette Miller is head of the facilities risk and safety team. The safety initiative was presented to the commissioners.

As of March 1, there have been 68 vehicle and equipment accidents in the fiscal year that began July 1, Miller said. Of these incidents, 45 could have been prevented.

At this rate, PWC is on track to have 107 such incidents this year, Miller said. “This is double our historical average,” she said.

Despite this increase, PwC still has a good level of security, Miller said.

The total recordable injury rate, a standard measure, is 0.46 per 100 full-time equivalent workers, she said. The sooner, the better, Bryant said. For comparison, the rate in the private sector was 2.7 as of 2022. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Our overall reported infection rate is really low,” Bryant said. “So we’re not hurting people, but I’m still spending $70,000 to $80,000 repairing my trucks and cars.”

Some employee incidents can be prevented by increasing situational awareness, Bryant said. For example, when PWC employees park company-owned vehicles at their work sites, other drivers sometimes hit the PWC vehicles and drive off, he said. PWC gets stuck on repair bill.

Such accidents can sometimes be avoided if PWC employees park vehicles in less vulnerable locations on their work sites, Bryant said.

The recent increase in accidents belies PWC’s safety history, according to Miller.

“The safety program was seen as a model in North Carolina,” she said. “I understand that previous facilities would come to us, take our policies and procedures, and then implement them into their own organizations. We were basically viewed as the gold standard.”

From 2011 to 2015, PwC had no reported incidents that were serious enough to cause workers to stop working, Miller said.

She added that the culture has changed.

“There is strong support and desire among the public to work safely,” Miller said. “However, many current and future lay-employee supervisors appear to see safety procedures as a barrier to completing their tasks, rather than as a tool.”

She said PWC had inconsistencies in safety procedures and reporting requirements.

To address this situation, PwC is restoring and updating the safety manual it had been using, which it called the Green Book, Miller said.

“Everyone will know what the Green Book procedures are, and everyone will be held accountable,” Miller said.

PWC is also setting up a risk management program to track all safety and risk data, she said.

New electricity prices to attract industry

Other than providing power to Goodyear Tire & Rubber’s plant outside Fayetteville, PWC’s electricity rate structure has not been attuned enough to adapt to the needs of large electricity consumers, Bryant told CityView.

PWC’s board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to replace its outdated pricing structure with new options to better serve industrial-scale customers considering building plants in and around Fayetteville.

Under the old rate structure, PWC was not well prepared to serve a potential customer needing 10 megawatts of power, he said. “Not without a lot of effort.”

PWC’s attitude was, “Oh, this is too big,” Bryant said. “Anything over 10 megawatts, we can’t service it. Or you have to go to Duke. Duke Energy Progress is the main private provider of electricity in this area.”

If customers of more than 10 megawatts don’t go to PWC or Duke, they may choose to build their plant elsewhere, he said. So he sought to ensure that PWC would be able to provide what they needed.

“We are here to attract large manufacturing industries to build this community, this county, the way it should be,” Bryant said. “Having low-cost, posted rates — water, wastewater, electricity — is the way to do it. Having low-cost facilities is what brought these companies here.

Chief Reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

This story was made possible by contributions to the CityView News Fund, a 501c3 charitable organization committed to enlightened democracy.

(Tags for translation)Water and Sewerage Company

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