The regional partnership that powers the Northland and beyond is a company filled with health conscious workers.
At Minnesota Power they go the extra mile to promote health and safety among the more than 1,200 employees in a myriad of ways. Dozens of people from Minnesota Power run Grandma’s races and volunteer at the related events. Yet there are dozens more who live and model a healthy lifestyle based on the company’s commitment to the health and safety of its employees.
Rodney Skorich, a 37-year employee and Lead Meter Technician out of the Little Falls Service Center, has been a safety advocate in the workplace for more than a decade. As a member of one of Minnesota Power’s 25 Safety Improvement Teams, Skorich pressed for a fitness center at the company’s Little Falls Service Center. Safety Improvement Teams include International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union members and managers who meet monthly to review safety and performance and share valuable insights for continued excellence.
Through personal resourcefulness Skorich garnered the support needed to outfit a workout room that gets daily use by at least one fourth of the workforce in Little Falls. “We’ve had this in place for three or four years and usage has actually gone up. Normally when you get something new everybody wants to use it but then they lose interest. That hasn’t happened. When I put out a survey seeking input on what equipment we might want, I got a 100 percent response,” said Skorich.
Minnesota Power’s Safety Manager Greg Rindal says co-workers like Skorich set the bar for an even safer workplace, noting employees involved in wellness are the ones least likely to be hurt.
“The goal is to send everybody home in just as good a shape if not better than when they came to work,” said Skorich. “ And investing in exercise equipment is akin to buying good tools that in the long run will save from potential pain and injury and all the related costs,” he said. “There’s no question a fit worker is a safer worker. We stretch and warm up our muscles in the morning. It all helps focus on the task at hand.”
For Skorich, a Lyme’s disease sufferer, it helps keep the focus off associated joint pain. A regular workout regime at work has taken away most of that. “None of us are getting any younger,” he said “from my own personal experience I knew I had to find a way to stay more active and curb the pain.” What he also found was a way to help co-workers do the same and help improve the quality of the company. “I figure if I can do one thing to help a fellow employee then its well worth it,” he said.
Over a half dozen Minnesota Power facilities have dedicated wellness areas with exercise equipment and space for employees to warm-up and stretch to help prepare their bodies for the workday and minimize the risk for injury.
Because of the company’s health promotion and safety programs, employees feel they’re a part of an organization that cares about their well-being, both on and off the job. Employees who feel well have a much greater chance to do their jobs well and in a safe manner.
But the one thing he won’t be doing any time soon is running a marathon. Said Skorich, “I have flat feet, I’ll just stick to the elliptical machine and tread mill.”