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Cleco instrumental in helping Webb-Rite Safety Inc. develop new life-saving technology for electric utility line mechanics

Jul 20, 2011

New fall protection harness with innovative automatic distress signal now available on the market

PINEVILLE, La. - Cleco Power LLC, a subsidiary of Cleco Corp. (NYSE:CNL), today announced that it is upgrading the fall protection safety harnesses worn by its electric utility line mechanics to a harness with new life-saving technology that it helped develop.

The new life-saving technology is a wireless transmitter that will automatically send a distress signal in the event a line mechanic falls from a bucket truck and is suspended in a safety harness. A relay switch sets off the transmitter located on the harness, which in turn activates a receiver in the bucket truck. The receiver notifies the emergency call channel on the radio inside the bucket truck. Cleco Power's Distribution Operations Center can trace the truck's location through its Global Positioning System or GPS. For added protection, when the emergency channel is activated, the lights on the bucket truck flash and the horn blasts.

Cleco Power shared its idea to add a transmitter to its harnesses with Webb-Rite Safety, a full service fall protection manufacturer, trainer and installer located in Port Allen near Baton Rouge.

"We are proud of our employees for brainstorming new ideas to improve safety in the workplace, for empowering themselves and for sharing their concept with the private sector, which has the infrastructure to make this new life-saving technology available to others in our industry," said George Bausewine, president and chief operating officer of Cleco Power.

The brainstorming began in October 2009. Safety department employees were looking for a way to improve the company's fall protection plan and avoid suspension trauma.

Suspension trauma, also called harness hang syndrome, can occur when the human body is held upright without any movement for a certain period of time, cutting off blood circulation to the legs. If not rescued in a timely manner, suspension trauma can be deadly.

"Our idea of putting a transmitter on the harness required help from our telecommunications department," said Daniel Fruge, lead safety specialist. "It was with their expertise that we developed a prototype for the transmitter and shared it with Webb-Rite Safety."

"We were familiar with this manufacturer, and we knew the company already had developed a fall protection harness with a nylon ladder that automatically deploys if a worker falls. If conscious, the worker can grab the ladder and reposition in the harness to avoid suspension trauma," said Matt Sonnier, administrator of energy delivery training. "However, we wanted a fall protection harness with a ladder and a transmitter in the event a worker falls, becomes unconscious and cannot grab the built-in ladder."

The new harness manufactured by Webb-Rite Safety is equipped with both rescue devices. It is ideal for situations where a line mechanic is working alone in a bucket truck, falls and is unable to self rescue.

"My brother is a line mechanic," said Mike Manuel, lead telecommunications specialist. "Being able to assist in the development of a device that could potentially save his life and the lives of others has been especially rewarding for me."

"We are used to our customers coming to us to help them solve a problem. Working on a project like this ensures that we continue to provide the safest equipment possible," said Don Miller Jr., president of Webb-Rite Safety. "By working with Cleco Power, we now have a harness that can protect both conscious and unconscious workers whose jobs require them to work hundreds of feet above ground."