When the Electrical Transmission & Distribution (ET&D) Partnership was first launched on Aug. 20, 2004—among OSHA, NECA, the IBEW, the Edison Electric Institute, and six of the nation’s largest line contractors—the original charter was set to last only until 2006. Instead, the agreement has been extended repeatedly, most recently for another five years.
In addition, the number of stakeholders working together through the ET&D Partnership to improve safety for workers in the line construction industry has grown. The scope of the work the partners have undertaken has expanded, too. An article in this month’s “NECA Notes” on page 106 explains why: It works!
The most significant measurement of progress is the noticeable reduction in injury, illness and fatality rates among the partners’ workers since this formal collaboration was established. Fatalities among these workers have declined from 11 in 2004 to one in 2013.
Thanks goes to the stakeholders systematically identifying and evaluating health and safety hazards among T&D workers and using their findings to develop best practices and new training programs nationwide. The allied contractors employ about 80 percent of all T&D workers in the United States, and every employee working for a partner company is now required to follow these recommendations. This requirement helps alleviate some of the issues related to the T&D industry’s transient workforce. The Best Practices—and a wealth of other information—is available on the partnership’s website at www.powerlinesafety.org.
Other accomplishments include the development and delivery of a specialized OSHA 10-hour course for workers, which addresses safe procedures for high-voltage work, and a special OSHA 20-hour program for supervisors and foremen emphasizing their responsibility to provide for employee safety. The partnership has trained more than 33,000 workers and supervisors thus far.
A few years ago, our association honored OSHA with the NECA Industry Partner Award for providing the framework and support that makes the ET&D Partnership a success. As the citation that accompanied the award states, “NECA is proud to work with the safety agency in this special project that has real potential to prevent injuries and save lives.”
But, the ET&D Partnership wasn’t the first special project that united NECA and OSHA. What led up to it was NECA signing onto a two-year National Alliance agreement with OSHA focused on providing training and guidance to reduce exposure to electrical construction hazards. In particular, the 2003 OSHA/NECA Alliance helped increase contractors’ understanding of OSHA’s cooperative programs and what compliance assistance is available through the agency.
As a result, many NECA chapters and member-companies have been inspired to form their own alliances with OSHA regional and area offices. Most of these partnerships include the chapters’ corresponding IBEW local unions, the local NECA-IBEW electrical training organizations, and, in some cases, local educational and research institutes—hundreds of people working together to improve job site safety, reduce lost workdays, and address and eliminate specific problems.
Training contractors and their personnel to perform self-inspections to identify and abate construction site hazards on their own is one of the most important accomplishments of the OSHA Alliance program. Many of these partnerships have saved money for their participants because they have led to verifiable reductions in workers’ compensation claims and electrical contractor insurance costs. More important, they have helped save lives.
I encourage you to visit www.osha.gov and look into it. But, please don’t stop at that. There are vast resources available to help you protect workers, customers and the general public. It is every conscientious contractor’s duty to seek them out and use them.
In fact, the commitment to electrical safety is a constant, compelling force in our lives. NECA helps contractors meet this commitment by helping formulate effective codes and standards, co-sponsoring workforce training that stresses safety procedures and effective installation techniques, extending safety training to company owners and managers, assisting in cutting-edge safety research, and producing and disseminating incisive safety information.
One more thing NECA does to enhance safety is to serve as a vocal and active participant in OSHA’s regulatory process. For example, NECA’s outreach efforts last year enabled us to gain an exemption in the crane and derrick standard for digger derricks used in the electric utility industry. Our organization is now in coalition with other associations to help make OSHA’s proposed silica regulations workable.
NECA doesn’t shy away from providing constructive criticism when needed to gain more practical safety rules.
NECA works with and educates OSHA, and OSHA returns the favor. It’s what effective partners do.
About The Author
Dennis Quebe is a former president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and contributed the President's Desk column monthly. He took office in January 2012 and served a three-year term.