This August, I received a call from Rod Henkels, CEO of contracting firm Henkels & McCoy, who suggested I get myself up to Washington, D.C. to track something big brewing in the nation's capitol. I embarked on a one-day turnaround to investigate what just might be the biggest safety-related initiative in 30 years. Several contractors took the initiative and contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) to work to develop a team approach to assure a safer, better-trained field workforce. Way to go OSHA for jumping in wholeheartedly on an initiative that looks to be a real winner for all involved.

OSHA, five electrical contractors, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the National Electrical Contractors Association and Edison Electrical Institute are partnering to create a coalition to reduce worker injuries and fatalities in transmission and distribution. I applaud the participating contractors for putting aside business differences to focus on safety and training. Let's face it, ours is a dangerous profession that requires constant diligence to minimize the potential for life-threatening accidents. We can't let competitive pressures get in the way of doing the right thing for the men and women who build and maintain our lines and substations.

This safety partnership will share lessons learned, while also working to develop best practices as they look for ways to reduce injuries and fatalities. Of course, we all want to go home safe and healthy, but it is also good business to reduce incidents. Injuries and fatalities breed lawsuits, and lawsuits breed higher insurance premiums. We all gain when we reduce the risks associated in line work.

Over lunch, I had the opportunity to talk with many of the individuals who are driving this initiative. Here is what the major players in this partnership had to say:

Here is how I understand the organization will work:

The executive team, made up of the CEOs of each of the partnering entities, will adopt consensus solutions based on recommendations made by the steering team.

The steering team, comprised of safety and health professionals from partnering entities, will conduct incident-trend analyses, collect and review accident data, develop and track training activities, and supervise designated task teams.

These task teams will focus on specific safety and health issues as identified by the steering team. And here is the biggie. OSHA will provide advice and consultation to executive, steering and task teams.

Participating organizations will develop and share information through print and electronic media. T&D World magazine is committed to keeping tabs on this initiative. We will provide periodic updates as this historic safety initiative moves forward.

OSHA Shares Its Perspective

Since this is a high-hazard industry, we entered into discussions on forming a partnership to reduce the hazards associated with power transmission and distribution work. Line workers will benefit through the implementation of created/adopted safety and health best practices, as well as improved training and retraining techniques and practices. They also will benefit through increased visibility of management support for improved safety and health, which, in turn, should make them more comfortable with reporting safety and health concerns.

This partnership will not impact OSHA's inspection policies and processes. However, we are hopeful that the increased dialog between OSHA and industry will improve the working relationships between the groups. OSHA intends to fully participate in all facets of the partnership from beginning to end.

OSHA has had positive results for partnerships in many industries. As an example, Ford Motor Co. has experienced a greater than 70% reduction in both lost time and severity rates for ergonomic injuries in its power train and vehicle operations divisions.