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Founding members of the Strategic Safety Partnership are, top row from left, William Koertner, MYR Group; Rod Henkels, Henkels & McCoy; Mark Ayers, IBEW; Chuck Kelly, Edison Electric Institute; and John Grau, NECA. Bottom row from left are George Salem, Akin Gump; Eric Pike, Pike Electric; John Colson, Quanta Services; John Henshaw, OSHA; Ron Skarphol, Utility Services; and Dennis Morikawa, Morgan Lewis.

IBEW Joins Industry Groups, OSHA For Safety Partnership

October 2004 IBEW Journal

Safety on the job has been a priority for IBEW members since the brotherhood was formed more than 100 years ago. Back in 1891, one of two line workers died on the job.

Things have greatly improved since then, but the business of building and maintaining distribution lines, transmission lines and substations is still risky. Thats why the IBEW, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have formed the Strategic Safety Partnership to reduce injuries and fatalities of workers in the electrical transmission and distribution contracting industry. A ceremony kicking off the partnership was held at the U.S. Department of Labor on Friday, August 20. IBEW Construction and Maintenance Department Director Mark Ayers and Safety and Health Department Director Jim Tomaseski represented the IBEW at the event.

"Our members learn early that a safe work environment and a strong emphasis on safety procedures are one of the hallmarks of the IBEW," said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. "This partnership is one more step we can take to make a dangerous line of work significantly safer."

Hazards abound at distribution and transmission construction sites, with members working with extremely high voltage overhead and buried power lines. Fatal electrocution is the main risk, but burns and falls from elevation are also hazards. Tools of the trade like trucks, ladders or scaffold can also increase the risks when they come into contact with power lines.

Working with the IBEW, OSHA, NECA and individual contractors, the coalition aims to anticipate, identify, evaluate and control such safety hazards. They will share information on lessons learned and best practices and publicize their findings through training criteria and materials. To maximize the success of the effort, participants have vowed to put aside competing differences for the goal of providing a safe and healthy workplace for workers in the industry. It is anticipated other contractors will join, which will increase the partnerships influence. Five of the countrys largest contractors belong to the partnership, including Pike Electric, Quanta Services, Utility Services, Inc., Henkels & McCoy and the MYR Group.

Standardizing safe work practices is even more important in todays highly mobile society. "This partnership will help unify standards and promote a better understanding of training needs and requirements that are most important to this industry," said Dan Pigott of Henkels & McCoy, which employs several thousand IBEW members across the country.