Warren County REMC’s safety culture sees big improvements

At Warren County REMC, the commitment to a culture of safety boils down to one big reminder: Safety affects everyone.

That’s the message from CEO Charlie Dunn, who says everyone at Warren County REMC knows safety is a critical organizational value. In fact, the mission statement talks about providing safe and reliable electricity, which means safe for members and staff.

“Credit for our positive safety culture goes to our board for their vision, our director of operations, Cory Reynolds, for spearheading our safety goals, and all of our employees for dedicating themselves to improving our safety culture,” Dunn said.

“Safety is a value that starts at the top,” said Jon Elkins, who helps lead training in his role as vice president of safety training and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Charlie is very effective at setting expectations in ways that empower employees to own their responsibilities in ensuring safety at all levels.”

Dunn knows firsthand the importance of practicing safety. With over 30 years of industry experience, including as a lineman, he has seen situations where safety is not the priority. According to Dunn, sometimes the focus in other places he worked was on quickness and taking shortcuts to get the job done.

Dunn said the culture at Warren County REMC is very different, beginning at the top. In January 2023, the board held a strategic planning session to set goals, including a primary goal to build and improve a culture of safety.

As a part of that focus, Warren County REMC talked through the Rural Electric Safety Achievement Program (RESAP). It’s a national safety program that uses a framework for continuous improvement to improve safety culture and performance.

In addition, Dunn said the staff is embracing phase two of the Commitment to Zero Contacts and working through it to make improvements and develop a safety manual. This initiative is focused on ideas and resources to reduce the chance of severe injuries and fatalities due to electrical contact.

The first phase was a one-time recommitment to the life-saving rules used by cooperatives in their day-to-day operations. Phase two is focused on assessing the cooperative’s operational and safety practices.

As part of this second phase, staff members at Warren County REMC met to openly discuss how they perform procedures and share any shortcuts that may not be the safest way to do things.

“I am really impressed with how serious and open our people are when it comes to talking about safety,” Dunn said. “Many of them shared openly about close calls they’ve had, which helps us to grow stronger together.”

Elkins said the safety culture at Warren County REMC has greatly improved in the past few years.

“The people at Warren County REMC have made big strides in their safety culture thanks to their openness and willingness to learn and try new ways of doing things,” said Elkins.


Chris Adam is a freelance writer from West Lafayette.