Then-Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visits with representatives from the IBEW, other trade unions and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during a site visit in Chicago in August 2022. Flickr/Creative Commons photo by U.S. Department of Labor.

With summer approaching and sweltering weather the norm in much of the country, IBEW members are reminded to follow all safety regulations on the job, especially considering some disturbing trends nationally.

Phoenix Local 640 member Xan Folmer shows proper safety procedures on the job by using the correct harness.
Safety on the job is important for IBEW members in all branches, including those in railroad employed by Amtrak.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported an increase in cited violations in 2023. Fall prevention was the most cited, followed by hazard communication and ladder usage, all important areas for IBEW members.

The top three root causes for reported injuries from June 2023 to January 2024 are situational awareness/attention to detail; unknown/other; and failure to adhere to proper safety protocols.

Safety Director Mark MacNichol noted these three root causes are easy to slip into when working in heat.

"I spent most of my career in Florida, so I understand that it gets hot at this time of year," MacNichol said. "But nothing is more important than our members returning home safely to their loved ones after every shift."

Staying hydrated is crucial.

"Heatstroke can be deadly on a jobsite," MacNichol said. "The best way to prevent that is drinking plenty of water, which is required by OSHA to be provided by the employer."

Most IBEW members do an excellent job in observing safety protocols. But the rising numbers of dangerous incidents nationally serves as a reminder not to cut corners. Any members who have safety concerns should speak to their steward or other leaders in their local unions.

The Safety Department reminds all local unions that Article XV, Section 15 of the IBEW's constitution requires them to report accidents on the job. They can do so using Form 173/Accident Reporting, which is found at

MacNichol said about 10% more locals reported injuries using the form in 2023 than in the previous year, but more than half of all locals still fail to do so. In addition to fulfilling a constitutional requirement, the data allows the IBEW to better advocate for safety needs when dealing with government officials and helping other local unions with information.

Those battles are ongoing at the both the national and state levels.

Texas and Florida, both led by extreme anti-union governors and legislatures, have enacted laws since last summer that prohibit municipalities from establishing their own rules regarding worksite heat safety.

The Texas law, which is being challenged in court, also derailed existing heat ordinances in cities that include Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin. Those laws in Austin and Dallas, for instance, required contractors to give workers 10-minute water breaks every four hours, at a minimum.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature flew into action after Miami-Dade County officials considered legislation to require heat safety breaks and regular access to drinking water.

IBEW members have more protection in the fight than most workers because rest and safety protocols are part of collective bargaining agreements.

Still, the rollback in safety protocols in some states has been troubling.

"The fact that there was a bill like that [in Florida] wasn't at all surprising," said Will Salters, a Fifth District international representative. "It kind of tells you who [DeSantis] cares about, and it's definitely not the worker."

There is relief in sight as the Biden administration gets closer to finalizing a federal OSHA standard for indoor and outdoor heat safety at work. The agency presented the draft rule in April to its Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health.

Statewide heat standards are in place in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada and Minnesota, and other states have taken up legislation, even as industry groups complain about the "burden" of providing cooling breaks.

In Arizona, Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs rolled out the state's first Extreme Heat Preparedness Plan this spring, resisting the GOP-majority Legislature. Like their counterparts in Texas and Florida, lawmakers there are hoping to kill local heat ordinances, notably one passed unanimously in March by the Phoenix City Council.

Dean Wine, a Seventh District international representative and former Phoenix Local 640 business manager, saluted the city for the move but said he hopes Arizona eventually adopts a statewide standard covering all construction workers.

"You get used to working in the heat," Wine said. "As long as you want some water, you should be able to get water."