Article by Eric Wolfe
Photos by John Storey
Hold the Pull, IBEW 1245’s peer safety program for lineworkers, has come of age.
The program began 4 years ago to encourage IBEW 1245 linemen to take more responsibility for keeping each other safe on the job. Today, the signs of success are unmistakable:
- The program has 50 people participating as safety stewards or advisory committee members.
- Its secure safety website is giving participants a way to share information, including the reporting of close calls.
- PG&E has begun requesting safety stewards to assist in accident investigations.
“We are getting those requests,” said IBEW 1245 Business Rep Rich Lane, speaking at a Hold the Pull Summit at Weakley Hall in Vacaville on April 1. “We are trying to expand the steward base so we can respond.”
John Kent, a recently-retired PG&E troubleman, said the program had evolved in unexpected directions in the four years since Business Manager Tom Dalzell launched the initiative. It turns out there are a lot of people who want to hear what Hold the Pull members have to say.
“We never thought we’d be at the Lineman’s College (in Oroville), we never thought we’d be at PG&E’s Livermore training center,” said Kent.
The core message of the program shined through with every speaker: take responsibility.
“You guys have obviously made a commitment to yourself and the other guys to work safe,” said Casey Kelly, an NV Energy lineman who chaired the summit. “The most important thing to remember is that no amount of company policies and procedures can make you safe, they can’t make us work safe—only we can do that.”
Safety policies by themselves can’t keep you safe, but they are the essential starting point.
“If you come up with a rule out there that makes the job less safe we’ll be glad to take a look at it and try to get it changed. So far nobody’s taken us up on that,” said Kent.
Dalzell praised the safety stewards for taking the initiative to build this program from the ground up.
“This is a project we handed to you and you ran with it. You built this. The ideas have come from you,” said Dalzell. “You are really making this local proud.”
Lane reported that there is growing traffic on the secure safety website. During the summit stewards were given instructions for obtaining a safety app for I-phones and androids.
Other unions are taking notice. Business managers from other IBEW locals attended the Hold the Pull summit to find out how the initiative was working. Attending were Lonnie Ellis, IBEW 659 (Medford, OR), Travis Eri, IBEW 1245 (Portland), and Lou Walter, IBEW 77, Washington state.
What exactly is the attitude that Hold the Pull seeks to promote in order to prevent accidents on the job? Every safety steward has his own perspective. PG&E Troubleman Tim McCarthy put it this way:
“I assume everything’s going to go wrong every time I do anything.”
The combined efforts and perspectives of these safety stewards may already be making a difference. No IBEW 1245 member died in a jobsite accident in 2013, the first year without a fatality since 2007.
Kent expressed aloud the hope that keeps Hold the Pull members engaged in the safety mission: “Maybe we can make a difference so we don’t send a young man home in a box.”