The nation’s largest line contractors took a stand against unsafe work practices back in 2004. With the number of linemen injuries and fatalities skyrocketing, the companies forged a strategic partnership with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Nine years later, they have slashed the rate of injuries and fatalities by more than 50%.

“When you look at the numbers and how we have improved as an industry in terms of serious injuries, burns and workplace fatalities, it is phenomenal,” says Eric Pike, chairman of the partnership, and chairman and CEO of Pike Electric Inc. “Many of the Electrical Transmission & Distribution (ET&D) partners now have as good or better safety records than the utilities because they have taken such a strong stance on safety.”

Ten line contractors currently belong to the ET&D Partnership, including Henkels & McCoy Inc., Pike Electric, Quanta Services Inc., MYR Group Inc., MDU Construction Services Group Inc., Asplundh Tree Expert Co., MasTec Energy Services, Michels Corp., Davis H. Elliott and PLH Group. OSHA, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) are also members that work closely with the line contractors to improve safety programs nationwide.

Since some linemen travel from one region to the next to pursue work opportunities, they face a higher risk of sustaining an injury during the first one to three months on the job. To safeguard new employees against harm, the ET&D Partnership focused on standardizing the training and best practices. That way, regardless for which member company a lineman works, he or she will be familiar with the rules and regulations.

This level of collaboration and consistency was one of the key reasons why MDU Construction Services Group signed on as a member of the partnership back in 2004. Like the majority of other line contractors, the company was experiencing too many injuries and looking for ways to protect its field workforce.

“As a union contractor, we were sharing linemen with other contractors, which was a significant factor in joining forces with other companies,” says Frank Richard, chairman of the steering committee for the ET&D Partnership. “We figured we could only change our culture so much with our core group of workers and stood a much better chance of getting through to all the hands of the hall if they were familiar with the partnership training, best practices and commitment to zero injuries.”

This commitment to not only minimizing but eliminating workplace injuries fueled the birth of the partnership back in 2003 and the formalization of it in 2004. Nine years later, the partnership has reduced the number of accidents and fatalities, especially in those areas targeted by the best practices and training programs. For example, the original data gathered by OSHA indicated that the majority of fatalities and injuries stemmed from electrical contact and falls. Today, as a result of the work the partnership has accomplished, these statistics have shown a significant improvement.

“The inspiration behind the partnership and the driver behind it was the ever-present injury and death statistics in this line of work,” says Mike Johnston, executive director of standards and safety for NECA and a member of the steering committee and Task Team 4 (communications). “When it hits home, it kind of forces stakeholders to take responsibility.”

Johnston says the partnership has provided many benefits to NECA’s District 10, which includes a nationwide network of line contractors. Like other members, NECA has been able to establish a more direct and personal relationship with OSHA.

“Obviously, the work of this partnership is important to NECA because it aligns with our standing policy on safety,” he says. “Being in the partnership where we have a direct line of communication with OSHA at the table is of great value to NECA and the others members of this partnership.”

Total OSHA rate recordable comparison.