Every May, Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month. It’s a time to give workers a voice and highlight innovative ways we can make workplaces safer.
At Electrical Alliance, we advocate for making working conditions as safe as possible by organizing as a union and prioritizing workers’ rights. Our goal is to use the power of organizing to make safer working conditions the standard for all contractors.
Work fatalities disproportionally affect Latino and non-union workers
Sadly, one major safety issue is the fact that worker fatalities disproportionally affect Latino workers and non-union workers. In April, St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland held the second annual Building Trades’ Workers Memorial Day Mass. At this event, attendees remembered the 19 construction workers who died at worksites in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia this past year. One of the church’s priests noted that 13 of the 19 men who died were Latinos, and all 19 who died at job sites were non-union workers.
Seminars to raise awareness about work hazards
To help raise awareness about hazards facing electrical workers as a whole, we and our partners are involved in several important initiatives for National Electrical Safety Month. There have been a variety of seminars to educate the industry and the greater public about changes we can make to improve working conditions.
To kick off Electrical Safety Month, the Washington DC NECA Chapter and IBEW Local 26 put on a seminar that focused on common hazards affecting the electrical construction industry.
For example, Rich Gojdics, Senior VP of Sales at Enerpro PPE, provided an overview of how everyday clothing when facing electrical hazards can significantly increase the severity of the burns. He discussed how, even though the electrical industry is moving towards doing more electrical work in a de-energized state, there are still some activities that place qualified electrical workers in harm’s way. Arc rated clothing that meets design standards still plays a significant role in reducing the severity of electrical injuries when faced by workers.
Electrical hazards continue to be a large concern, but there are also other emerging hazards that need to be tackled. Washington, DC NECA contractor and safety committee memberships have joined efforts to address mental health issues and suicide, which are on the rise in construction.
To help raise awareness of these issues, Lynn Berger from BHS ran a session on the mental health risks experienced by workers. She focussed on three main themes: how to recognize risky behaviors, how to establish successful interventions and, most importantly, where to get help for those in need.
Workers’ safety impacts everyone
There is so much that must be done to improve worksite safety. Across the board, an important takeaway is the role unions play in ensuring these improvements are put in place. Unions make it possible to amplify workers’ voices and, when their voices are amplified, real change takes root.
That’s why, at Electrical Alliance, we help provide the safest workplaces for each and every one of our members. Ultimately, when workers are safe, supported, and empowered, the effects ripple out to their families and communities at large.
We’re stronger together, so we must do what’s necessary to ensure safety across the board.