Workplace safety has always been our union’s core value, ever since the founding of the IBEW in the late 1800s, and each and every day, IBEW 1245 members are continually looking for ways to enhance safety for both workers and customers.
For a prime example of our union members’ commitment to safety, look no further than PG&E Gas Control Communications Specialists Rene Picazo, Jesse Garcia, Jenni Branson, Melanie Price and Jaime Price. This workgroup came up with a simple but powerful innovation to improve the gas service emergency response process — an innovation that could end up saving lives.
The communications specialist workgroup is relatively new to the IBEW – they voted unanimously to join Local 1245 just three years ago. This small but mighty team deals with many types of gas emergencies, including dig-ins, fires and vehicle impacts. They serve as point persons between internal and external parties, including dispatch, gas service personnel and management until the emergency is controlled. Whenever a gas service rep (GSR) is dispatched to an emergency, the communications specialists need to convey accurate information about the event as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Previously, the standard practice was for them to be on the phone with the GSR, describing assets and critical structures in the field as the GSR traveled to the event. Upon arriving on site, the GSR would need to log in to their laptop to further assess the situation – all while trying to interact with the customers, as well as police and fire personnel.
The communications specialists had a better idea to improve this critical process. If they could email a plat map to the GSR’s phone, the GSR could identify the location of all assets in the field, and better understand the situation and potential hazards before even arriving at the event. There would be no need to log in to their laptop, and it would also enable the GSR to discuss a situation over the phone with their supervisor and ensure they were looking at the same overview at the same time.
The new program started as a trial to see if it would streamline how communications specialists delivered crucial safety information to GSRs – and it was an overwhelming success. Now, almost immediately after any event is reported, the responding personnel receive a plat map in an email, and they are able to access it on their phones to see any hazards, plan isolation strategies and move the response along more quickly. The system has proven to be so effective that other gas companies are now trying to mirror the program.
On June 18, the communications specialists were honored for their innovation with PG&E’s Shermer L. Sibley Safety and Health award, which is the company’s highest safety accolade. IBEW 1245 would like to thank the communications specialists for their forward-thinking approach to keeping their brothers and sisters safe in the field, and offer a warm congratulations on this well deserved award!