For most, safety is a guiding principle. For contractors of the Electrical Alliance, a cooperative effort between the Washington, DC Chapter of NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26, safety extends well beyond the immediate scope. It’s the guiding principle in a personal, work and post-work environment.
Accidents involving improper electrical maintenance, mechanical failures, falling and aerial lift mishaps can unfortunately happen all too easily. Research from The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) found that from 2003-2009, worker contact with electrical currents was responsible for 1,573 fatal workplace accidents, 772 in the construction industry alone.* Contact with overhead power lines; contact with wiring, transformers, or other electrical components; and contact with electric current from machines, tools, appliance or light fixtures, are the top three categories responsible for on-the-job electrical death.
Because of this, Andrew Porter, executive director of the Washington D.C. Chapter of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) operates under the “tell them, tell them again, and then tell them what we told them” principle concerning safety. Porter said, “These findings emphasize the extreme value of proper safety practices that start personally with correct safety knowledge, and are continuously encouraged by supervisors.”
While there are no nationwide requirements for safety training participation or certification renewal, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) leads the safety effort in the construction industry by offering two main voluntary classes for electrical contractors nationally, OSHA 10 and OSHA 30.
OSHA’s 10- and 30-hour programs are the core curriculum for the electrical workers program and the electrical apprentice program. Electrical Alliance contractors use OSHA 30 as their standard for safety training. This standard begins with new apprentices at the start of their career in the Electrical Alliance-sponsored Washington, D.C. Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) program.
Safety is so important that it’s not enough just to cover in the apprenticeship program alone. Experienced journeyman electricians are regularly going through safety training to stay current. In fact, most Electrical Alliance contractors require OSHA completion cards be no older than five years.
The JATC offers the OSHA 30 course to all journeymen at night and also boasts confined space, respiratory and asbestos awareness training. Most receive all safety training for free or at material cost.
Vince Miller, safety director of NECA, has been teaching safety classes that include lift training, fork lift training, trenching, all protection, site inspections, scaffolding, and electrical safety work practices to NECA contractors’ experienced journeyman electricians since 1999.
“Electrical safety primarily is a personal responsibility and commitment, whereby one should always apply the basic electrical safety standards to protect him or herself from work site hazards,” said Miller.
Miller reminds the journeyman electricians to be aware of surroundings, over-communicate with management on the job, and wear proper personal equipment including safety glasses, gloves and hardhats. He also recommends a leather shoe with a steel toe as a simple way to improve safety.
Miller said, “It’s important that even if a company has its own safety people, that workers receive this training. Reviewing new information, refreshing your mind on basic safety procedures, and re-taking an OSHA class every couple years will absolutely reduce the risk of injury and allow contractors to maintain a positive push in the safety environment. With the cost being minimal and the value of life being way greater, this should be a no-brainer to keep the statistics down.”
“The Electrical Alliance goes above and beyond to ensure maximum safety practices for all contractors. We are proud that our obligation to safety has brought upon a local standard that our contractors uphold and necessitate,” added Porter.