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Incident Prevention Magazine

Tony Boyd, CUSP

The Value of Apprenticeships

I’m not much of a “Star Wars” fan, but I’ve never forgotten one of Yoda’s statements: “Always two there are; no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”

The U.S. Department of Labor defines an apprenticeship as a combination of on-the-job training and classroom instruction under the supervision of a qualified trainer or journey-level professional, during which the apprentice learns the theory and practical aspects of a specific type of work. In the electric utility industry, apprentices learn the theory and practical aspects of line work.

Apprenticeship Pros
As with anything, apprenticeships have their pros and cons. I’m always curious about the value of something versus its downsides. Some people call this return on investment, or ROI.

So, what are some of the pros of apprenticeships for apprentices? Exposure, experience, practice and increased productivity are among the benefits that these workers can discover.

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Tony Boyd, CUSP

Training and Certifying Apprentices

Training today’s apprentice lineworkers has become a priority that no company, large or small, can afford to ignore. Most of the old-timers who trained us are all gone now, and we are now the old-timers who are left to get out the message. The message should not be about getting apprentices to follow safety rules. Rather, the message for apprentices should be about understanding what the hazards really are, knowing how to recognize them and having apprentices learn to think for themselves to avoid the traps that can injure them.

Some apprentices believe they are 10 feet tall and bulletproof. It often is said among young apprentices, “That’s not going to happen to me!” These apprentices are overconfident in their abilities and understanding and take for granted the training they receive. If you have apprentices who are open to learning, serious about their training and ready to take part in the safety of the crew, hang on to them, give them a raise and make a good example of them.

The basic concepts of training apprentice lineworkers have not changed. Regardless of the training material used or the delivery of that training material, many of the skills needed to do the job have remained the same since the beginning. The industry has learned through the years, however, that injuries and near misses usually are the result of a performance pressures, lack of understanding the hazards or both. Misunderstanding the hazards has been the Achilles’ heel of the industry, and even today many still do not understand the consequences associated with this confusion over the industry’s best practices.

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Tony Boyd, CUSP

Defensive Driving: How’s That Working for You?

How is your company’s driving safety performance? If you are like most, you’ve conducted defensive driving safety training companywide, invested large sums of money into these driver training concepts, hired this or that company to improve your employees’ driving safety awareness, and still there have been collisions, near misses and customer complaints about driver behaviors. Most likely, you’ve implemented safe driving rules, using programs like the Smith driving system or others, stressed maintaining safe distances and probably have an organizational policy of not using cellphones while driving, or at least being hands-free. Some companies have even placed cameras in truck cabs to record driver behaviors, hoping to ensure safe driving. And yet, for the most part, driving records, statistics and costs are still driving safety downhill (pun intended). The big question remains: How do you get every employee, on and off the job, to utilize defensive, safe driving techniques?

If I had the answer to that question, I would certainly share it with everyone, but there seems to be no magical solution. I’ve been in the electric utility business for 40 years and have seen the frequency and severity of collisions go up and down each year, just as you have. My commitment to defensive driving began about 20 years ago when I transferred from lineworker to the corporate safety department. It just made sense that if I had to teach defensive driving, assess driver behaviors and report to management about customer complaints concerning driver behaviors, I should make sure I practice safe driving techniques myself. In retrospect, I believe this is the key to improvement. If all executive management and supervisors commit themselves to demonstrating safe driving behaviors, others in the company will begin to follow.

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