A dose of apprentice reality
Talking about the trade, the union, and the quest for a safer workplace
Every once and awhile we all get a big wake up call. Those of us who have been in our jobs for a long time forget what it was like when we knew little or nothing about our chosen profession; when our antenna was up receiving any and all information, good and bad, to be stored and used when needed. Once a month, for a dose of apprentice reality, members of the Hold the Pull peer-to-peer committee go to the PG&E Livermore Training Center, where we talk about the line trade, the union and the quest for a safer workplace.
Discussions can get quite lively. What starts out to be a low-level issue can get very pointed and challenging in a hurry, and that’s where the learning begins for both sides.
PG&E Troubleman John Kent knows the stark reality of a job gone tragically bad. John was one of the first responders to the Max Martinez electrocution in Benicia. “Watching them put a toe tag on someone changes you,” Kent tells the apprentices. “You lose something that you never get back. I hope you never have to go there.” PG&E Line Crew Foreman Dane Moore puts it another way: “I used to think that guys who worked safe were punks, they slowed the job. Looking back on it, I was the punk. I look at it different now. When someone working for me takes safety precautions I tell them ‘thanks’ for doing a good job.” TID lineman Mike Van Egmond and PG&E Troubleman Tyler Davidson appeal to the young age of the apprentices and the challenges they face. “You may think that you can’t speak up when you see something unsafe but you can,” Van Egmond says. “It gets easier the more you do it.” Davidson takes the same tack when he cautions the apprentices that “you see yourself as apprentices now but some day you will be journeymen and someone will be looking to you, so get ready—teach them to be safe.” “We don’t gloss anything over for the apprentices,” Hold the Pull Business Rep. Rich Lane says. “We enjoy the support of the PG&E training center and their instructors, so we want apprentices to go into the crew world realistic about what they may encounter. We owe that much to them.” The apprentice meetings have been enormously successful with open participation by apprentices who ask if their safety questions will be well received on crews or whether they will they experience retribution or criticism. HTP members who conduct the discussions take the approach that every crew member from apprentice to crew leader is responsible for each other’s safety and no one knows who will be the person to recognize a life-threatening condition—so the apprentice is obligated to speak up. Discussions can get quite lively. What starts out to be a low-level issue can get very pointed and challenging in a hurry, and that’s where the learning begins for both sides. The HTP committee will conduct presentations at the Livermore Training Center throughout 2013 and visit unit meetings monthly. If business representatives, safety stewards or Local 1245 members wish to have a presentation at their unit they can contact Rich Lane at 209-202-9492 or firstname.lastname@example.org.