In the first in-person meeting at the IBEW 1245 union hall since the onset of the pandemic 15 months ago, IBEW 1245’s peer-to-peer safety committees met with senior union leadership to renew the union’s commitment to build a stronger safety culture across our work sites.
On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Business Representative Fred Aboud welcomed the three committees before introducing IBEW 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean, who thanked committee members for their dedication and commitment. Dean then proceeded to sound the alarm about the number of serious incidents and fatalities occurring in 1245’s jurisdiction over the last several years, and underscored the urgency of strengthening and expanding our safety work. In just the first half of this year alone, 1245 has suffered two on-the-job fatalities, several serious injuries, and even more near-misses.
“The cavalry is not coming. We are our Brothers’ and Sisters’ keepers. We have to change the ‘walk by’ culture; we have to speak up and speak out whenever we witness unsafe practices,” Dean said. “We must have the courage to hold those uncomfortable conversations, so that we all can return home at the end of the day.”
Nearly a decade ago, IBEW 1245 launched the peer-to-peer safety program in response to a series of deaths among journeymen linemen. IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager and Safety Officer Ralph Armstrong played a seminal role in developing the Hold the Pull committee of linemen from a cross-section of 1245 employers and Outside Line. Later, two more committees were established, including Control the Pressure for our members working in gas and Keep the Clearance for line clearance tree trimmers. Each committee member works with IBEW 1245 Business Representatives to recruit Safety Stewards – members willing to promote safety at their work sites and to make safety presentations in yards, at new member orientations, and other special events.
But the work is far from over.
In the wake of the two separate incidents in May and June 2021 that took the lives of 24-year-old traveling Groundman Johnny Cabrera and 49-year-old traveling Journeyman Lineman John Ostroski, along with several serious injuries and near-misses, there remains much to be done.
At the Hold the Pull Committee meeting, veteran Troubleman Dan Mayo shared, “Safety is a habit,” emphasizing the importance of developing that habit across the membership.
Journeyman Lineman Clay Backlund added, “I want to be part of the solution, part of changing the mentality.”
Gas Service Worker and Control the Pressure Committee member Mike Jacobs affirmed that one of the most effective ways of engaging members is, “at the back of my truck in the field, at the job site.”
Javier Astorga, a line clearance tree trimmer on the Keep the Clearance Committee, shared, “We are doing this work because we want to get home at the end of the day, not because someone is telling you to work a certain way.”
The challenges — combatting the fear of reprisal for speaking up, fighting the ‘cowboy’ mentality, and reminding ourselves that we are paying it forward – modeling for the next generation in the trade.
Dean and Local 1245’s senior leadership have committed to investing resources to strengthen and expand the union’s peer safety program, and have asked Business Representatives to identify and recruit more safety stewards. IBEW 1245’s organizing team has been assigned to work closely with the safety program to brainstorm additional ways to dynamize and expand our reach to the 28,000 1245 members.
The goal: To get our members home every night by building a safety culture and the Brotherhood and Sisterhood across our territory.
Or, as Armstrong said, “We need everyone talking safety — and living it.”
“You are the tip of the spear. We need all of your ideas. 100 ideas, not just 2 or 3. It will take all of us,” added Dean.
For more information on how to become a Safety Steward, contact Business Representative Fred Aboud, 775-857-9750 or email@example.com.
–Eileen Purcell, IBEW 1245 Staff Organizer
Hold the Pull Committee: Pete Sandoval (chair), Dan Mayo, Rob Azevedo, Garrett Gross, Greg Bargas, Armand Rains, Mike Van Egmond, Jesse Murrill, Nick Rains, Clay Backlund
Control the Pressure Committee: Ernie Pena (chair), Roy Cabral, Dean Brown, Marty Marshall, Steve Lange, Leo Lopez, Russ Hires, Mike Jacobs. Cortney Tuggle
Keep the Clearance Committee: Pedro Paredes (chair), Ken Cook, Ramon Luquin, Steve Speak, Stephen Merchant, Javier Astorga, Russell Gordon