Safety training benefits employees, community


Bluebonnet’s Nick Barta recently put his emergency skills to use when he found an unresponsive man slumped in a scooter at a local discount department store. (Sarah Beal photo)

By Will Holford 
Accidents and emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye. Remaining calm, knowing what to do and having the right equipment can make the difference between a close call and a serious, maybe even fatal, situation. 
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative has more than 280 employees, about half with jobs requiring them to work in the fi eld, often around energized power lines with potentially dangerous equipment. Bluebonnet is serious about safety. So serious, in fact, that the co-op made safety one of the six Foundation Values that shape Bluebonnet’s culture. 
Safety is the bedrock on which the other five Foundation Values — courage, respect, reliability, community and love — rest. 
That is why every Bluebonnet employee receives continual training in first aid, CPR and other important safety procedures. Each Bluebonnet employee knows how to use an automatic external defibrillator, or AED. All Bluebonnet buildings have at least one AED on site, and every vehicle that is in the fi eld daily has an AED on board. 
“This is a great benefit we provide to our employees,” said Matt Bentke, Bluebonnet’s deputy general manager. “But we also stress safety training as a benefit to the community.” 
Nick Barta knows that as well as anyone. Barta, coordinator of Bluebonnet’s safety services, recently used an AED on a customer at a discount department store in Bastrop. He found the unresponsive man slumped over in a scooter. Barta calmly relied on his training. He checked for breathing and a pulse, determined the man was in cardiac arrest and instructed a store employee to call 911 while Barta retrieved the AED from his truck. After connecting the AED, it indicated no shock was advised, so he resumed performing CPR until EMS arrived. 
Though the man died later at the hospital, Barta’s efforts and the AED gave the man a chance he would not have had otherwise. 
“It’s all about training,” Barta said. “Knowing what to do cuts through the stress of the situation. At Bluebonnet, we have the equipment and training, and we aren’t afraid to use it.” 
Robert Thompson, Bluebonnet’s manager of safety services, said Bluebonnet is unique among electric utilities. 
“The difference between Bluebonnet and other utilities is night and day,” said Thompson, who has 43 years of experience in the electric utility industry and has taught at Texas A&M University’s engineering extension service. “Most utilities still don’t have AEDs in their vehicles. Bluebonnet provided AEDs for each crew a few years ago. Now we have them in each vehicle that goes out on a daily basis, primarily for the community.” 
In addition to CPR and AED training, every Bluebonnet employee is educated in first aid procedures, including what to do for snake bites and deep cuts, how to control bleeding, what to look for during cardiac emergencies and strokes, seizures, allergic reactions, broken bones and more. 
Dean Meinke, an assistant construction superintendent, put his first aid training to use in June 2013. He was working in the Red Rock area when he found a man and a woman in trouble by the side of a road. The couple had been working on a section of fence when they were overcome with heat exhaustion. Meinke immediately called 911, started their car’s air conditioner, placed the man inside the car, provided shade for the woman, who had fallen and wasn’t able to get up, and stayed with her until the ambulance arrived. 
Training is just as important to Bluebonnet nonfield employees who work in the co-op’s five member service centers and other offices. 
“Emergencies don’t just happen in the field,” Thompson said. “You never know when and where you will need to provide aid to someone. Any number of accidents or medical emergencies could happen in our member service centers or offices, either to a fellow employee or one of our members.” 
“Safety is an expectation, but it’s also an obligation we have to the community,” said Deputy General Manager Bentke. 
“Our members are the reason we are here. Without them, we wouldn’t have the resources to provide this training and equipment.”


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