The health and safety of people is our top priority. Nothing is more important. That’s why we’re proud to say that 2020 was the safest year in DTE history, putting us among the very best companies in our industry, based on our Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) injury rate. Not only does that mean fewer employees suffered injuries, but the safer they work, the safer they keep our customers and the communities we serve.  

Safety committees connect the organization 

Achieving such an accomplishment requires a collaborative effort. Helping to guide safety decisions, improve processes, raise concerns and foster communication are multiple levels of safety committees that span the organizational structure of the company. The committees meet monthly and consist of frontline employees, union leaders and company leaders. Office employees participate as well, because even though their injury risk is not as great as those who work in the field and in our plants, office injuries do happen, and we want to do what we can to prevent them.   

All safety committees are responsible for communicating information both up and down the safety committee structure to promote sharing best practices and learning. At a minimum, each safety committee reviews all significant or recordable injuries and near misses. Safety committees also review incident corrective actions to ensure that proper root causes and sustainable corrective actions are identified and implemented to prevent reoccurrence.  

Our union partners are active participants and vital to our safety success. Union representatives co-chair all levels of safety committees and are part of the teams that investigate safety incidents within the company.   

Pre-job briefs focus on safety hazards 

Every job or task that presents a hazard potential requires a discussion among everyone who will do the work before starting to work. We call these discussions pre-job briefs (PJBs). During a PJB, participants identify risks and hazards, along with actions to mitigate them. PJBs make sure everyone is on the same page about who’s doing what, what procedures will be followed, what personal protective equipment is required and what might happen that would cause the team to stop work and reassess the conditions. All employees know they have the power – and the responsibility – to stop work any time they feel safety may be compromised for themselves or anyone around them.  

Company leaders conduct safe worker observations (SWO) at least once per week to verify that employees are following safety procedures, to recognize people for working safely, and to provide coaching if necessary. The observations are structured to create an opportunity for employees to raise safety concerns and offer suggestions as part of a two-way dialogue with their leaders. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, SWOs continued from a safe distance. In many instances field observations were conducted from a vehicle within sight of workers. It was important to verify that our employees were working safely and following pandemic protocols to keep everyone healthy.   

Tracking safety performance 

DTE tracks a system of metrics to gauge health and safety performance and detect gaps. Metrics include OSHA recordable injuries, incidents requiring first aid treatment, and near misses. The latter metric is especially effective at identifying conditions or procedures that may need revising to prevent a future injury. DTE also tracks all vehicle accidents regardless of severity. To further emphasize safety, all business units incorporate safety metrics into their performance goals.   

Throughout the year, front-line leaders conduct focused safety meetings company-wide with all employees, which are typically based on seasonal hazards or incidents that require added attention. Individual business units schedule ad hoc safety meetings and communications as needed.   


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Life critical activities 

DTE has established a list of Life Critical jobs that present the greatest risk of a fatality:  

  • Control of Hazardous Energy  
  • Hot Work  
  • Confined Space Entry 
  • Trenching and Excavation 
  • Lifting and Supporting Loads 
  • Working at Heights
  • Vehicle Safety
  • Exposure Prevention: COVID-19  

Exposure Prevention was added in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. Our Corporate Safety organization and its industrial hygiene team have played a critical role in assisting DTE’s virus response to help keep our coworkers, customers and communities safe from COVID-19.

Exposure Prevention also includes lead, mercury and asbestos. In addition to thorough training about these hazards, certain employees – due to the nature of their jobs – receive periodic precautionary testing to ensure they stay safe. 

Maintaining a safety culture 

People who perform Life Critical activities receive extra training, and their work is evaluated through our Life Critical Assessment program. The program concentrates on field work, ensuring compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Management System as established by the American National Standards Institute as well as DTE safety protocols. Represented and non-represented employees conduct the assessments and interview colleagues performing the work. Strengths are shared with other organizations and gaps are identified. As part of the assessments, each group is rated on the number of Areas for Improvement (AFIs). The AFIs are tracked, and a team conducts a follow-up effectiveness review to ensure gaps are closed and sustained.   


Safety management system 

DTE developed the Safety Maturity Management System (SaMM), which was introduced in 2014 and modeled after the American National Standards Institute Z10 standard. The SaMM process includes: 

  • Leadership Engagement – Ensures leaders are actively involved with occupational health and safety maturity in such areas  as performance metrics, planning, incentive-based evaluations, and multi-level safety committee structure with shared ownership between management and the bargaining units. 
  • Risk Assessment and Planning – Includes a process for proactively identifying occupational health and safety hazards of the work  environment. 
  • Implementation & OperationsDesigned to ensure business units validate how well their work groups follow the control plans,  including design safety, contractor management, procurement, emergency response activities  and document management. 
  • Safety Program Adherence Provides a documented safety audit procedure that includes all Corporate Safety and external  health and safety standards. 
  • Monitoring, Analysis, and Corrective ActionsEstablishes a formal investigation process to report and analyze occupational health and safety  incidents. 
  • Management Review Provides continuous assessment of SaMM effectiveness. 

Vehicle safety  

Our workers and fellow motorists are safer behind the wheel thanks to a company-wide focus on vehicle safety. In 2020, we reduced vehicle accidents by 15% from the previous year.  These improvements are supported by a Vehicle Safety Committee that uses GPS data to find behaviors like speeding, hard braking and rapid acceleration that create the potential for vehicle accidents. 

Coaching, communication, training, and observations helped many colleagues improve their driving ability, and it also enabled leaders to recognize employees who embrace our safe driving commitment. For example, to help less-experienced drivers safely maneuver bucket trucks, DTE developed a special private road course. It features 11 different obstacles that represent situations a driver might encounter on a typical day. 

In 2021, we are targeting another four percent reduction in vehicle accidents while continuing to invest in training technology. This year, a new driving simulator will train employees who drive commercial vehicles. This way, drivers learn safe response and avoidance maneuvers to virtual hazardous scenarios without facing any real danger. 

Supplier safety 

At DTE, we hold our suppliers to our own safety standards. To remain or become business partners with DTE, suppliers must participate in our safety program. They are required to maintain a certain level of safety and report their safety metrics in Avetta, a tracking system used by companies globally to monitor and audit performance. DTE works with suppliers individually and as a group to help them improve their safety culture and processes. In 2020, we began including supplier injuries in our company reports and conducting supplier safety assessments. We also investigate supplier injuries to help them understand root causes and implement countermeasures.  

DTE is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees and those around us.  By continuing to work together with all our partners, we plan to build on our safety progress in 2020 and continue earning trust as a safe and caring company.