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Wednesday, February 07, 2018
Utility Teamwork: AEP Employee Pushes Columbia Gas Worker out of Harm's Way
AEP Transmission employee Matt Hooper, left, with a safety award presented by Columbia Gas of Ohio. Hooper’s quick actions in a workzone helped Columbia Gas of Ohio employee Adam Lake, right, avoid an oncoming car.

Adam Lake felt the wind from the car as he was pushed forward to safety. The vehicle that narrowly missed him never slowed or stopped as it sped through the work zone.

Lake, a Columbia Gas of Ohio field technician, was part of the crew working an abandonment in Columbus, Ohio. The work was being completed near a high voltage electric line so Matt Hooper, American Electric Power (AEP) transmission underground line crew supervisor, was also onsite.

The crew had a section of a highly trafficked road closed to safely perform the work. The work zone was set up with road closed signs, sidewalk closed signs and cones, and the vehicles were also staggered to add additional barriers.

Right after Lake told the crew he would jump back in the hole to finish and they could start cleaning up, Hooper yelled and shoved him on the shoulder. Lake was pushed out of the way of a car that had intruded into the work zone, going up on the sidewalk and around the cones between the hole and one of the trucks.

“If Matt wouldn’t have been there, I may not be here today,” Lake said. “You can never assume just because the road is shut down that something can’t happen because people are outside their normal routine.”

“When we are on a job site, we are all working together to promote safety,” Hooper said. “We are vigilant and watch out for each other. No matter where you are, you need to keep an eye on your surroundings, as well as the job at hand. When I pulled Adam away from the path of the car, I did not have time to think about what I was doing. I just acted automatically.”

Thanks to Hooper’s actions, no one was injured. While the incident was over quickly, it is a day that Lake won't soon forget.

“It takes all eyes on a job site to ensure Zero Harm and that everyone goes home in the same or better condition than when they came to work,” said Scott Smith, senior vice president, AEP Transmission Field Services. 

“We are truly grateful Matt didn’t hesitate to help protect others,” said Steve Sylvester, Columbia Gas of Ohio vice president and general manager. “The outcome could have been much different, and we are thankful Adam walked away unharmed. This isn’t just a reminder that conditions can change in an instant, it is a real example of why protecting yourself and others is the most important thing you can do.”

Columbia Gas of Ohio Operations Center Manager Joe Marinello, left, presents a safety award to AEP Transmission employee Matt Hooper.
Columbia Gas of Ohio Operations Center Manager Joe Marinello, left, presents a safety award to AEP Transmission employee Matt Hooper.

Work zones can be very dangerous even with the appropriate signage and equipment in place. That’s why it’s one of the 12 Life Saving Rules we have in place for employees. Distracted driving plays a large role in injuries and fatalities in work zones, so NiSource employees are required to take time to set up the work zone with appropriate traffic control.

But what can make an even bigger impact is people looking out for people – regardless of what company they work for.