More than one hundred IBEW 1245 safety stewards from 15 different properties across California and Nevada, along with members of the 1245 Executive Board and staff, gathered for the annual “Hold the Pull” Safety Summit in Vacaville, California to renew their commitment to the peer-to-peer safety program that has become a national model.
IBEW 1245 Business Rep Fred Aboud, the coordinator of the peer-to-peer program, declared, “These peer programs exist so that everyone can go home to their families at the end of the day. And for the first time, members from Outside Line are joining us – a big deal!”
Launched in 2009, Hold the Pull was established in response to a rash of safety incidents, near-misses and fatalities among linemen. Drawing from effective safety programs pioneered by pilots, IBEW 1245 established the lineman-to-lineman safety program to build a safety initiative from the ground up. The Hold the Pull Safety Committee grew, as members recruited safety stewards from across our territory.
Following on the success of Hold the Pull, IBEW 1245 established two more peer-to-peer safety Control the Pressure (gas) and Keep the Clearance (line clearance tree trimming). In 2022, a fourth peer-to-peer committee. Regulate the Voltage, for workers in substation, generation, control operations, was established, and an Outside Line Roundtable recently launched as well. Today, more than 280 safety stewards participate in IBEW 1245’s peer-to-peer safety program.
IBEW 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean addressed the group, sharing, “Since I came on staff, two men have died every year I’ve worked here. That’s 34 men who have died… 34 families that were changed forever. The preponderance of those men have been tree trimmers and linemen, and more recently, gas.“
“The vast majority of workplace tragedies happen when someone gets complacent,” Dean went on. “We need an army of folks willing to tell the truth… We need to have hard-ass conversations when we know people are crossing the line, putting themselves and others at risk.”
Carlos Mendez, a former Navy Seal with 22 years of service, headlined the day with a powerful presentation on leadership, team building, and building ownership for safety at every level.
Drawing parallels between the highly skilled work of the Navy Seals in combat situations with the highly skilled work of power linemen in everyday situations, Mendez shared stories illustrating the importance of “proactively building relationships with people before something goes wrong.” He emphasized the value of “decentralized command,” and the importance of communicating the “what” and “why” of certain decisions or procedures and inviting the team to come up with the “how.” Debriefing every job is a crucial way of drawing lessons and best practices.
Mendez invited the group to see themselves as leaders, underscoring the importance of humility and of checking one’s ego at the door.
“Discipline, standard operating procedures save lives… Complacency in your work kills,” he emphasized.
He closed his presentation, thanking the membership for their work and was greeted by a standing ovation.
In breakout sessions and open discussion, stewards culled the lessons learned and brainstormed ways to apply the take-aways in the field with their co-workers and crews. They recognized the challenges, including inadequate staffing across the industry and the failure of management to hold new apprentices to higher standards. They acknowledged they must find ways to communicate with the new generation of linemen, to mentor and build the brotherhood.
Bottom line: the safety stewards agreed that we all must take ownership, exercise leadership and safeguard the craft as we move forward to guarantee safety for all.
–Eileen Purcell, IBEW 1245 Senior Advisor
If you are interested in becoming a safety steward, contact Business Representative Fred Aboud at MFA1@ibew1245.com or 775-857-9750