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January 23, 2024 As a founding member, MYR Group helps advance industry safety through ET&D Partnership

OSHA Renews Partnership to Protect Electrical Transmission and Distribution Workers

MYR Group Chief Operating Officer of Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Tod Cooper, right, signs a five-year renewal with OSHA’s ET&D Partnership on behalf of MYR Group President & Chief Executive Officer, Rick Swartz.

It started with a simple but profound objective: send everyone home safely. 

Historically, electrical line construction contractors had taken on safety independently, working within the guidelines set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But by the early 2000’s, the rate of serious accidents and fatalities across the industry needed to be addressed. 

So, executive leadership from six founding member companies, including former MYR Group President and CEO Bill Koertner, proposed something practically unprecedented at the time – work together in a formal collaboration to improve safety for workers in the electrical line construction industry. 

Together, and in partnership with OSHA, they formed the Electrical Transmission & Distribution (ET&D) Partnership in August 2004 with the call to action to reduce injury and fatality rates across the industry. 

To this day, it’s one of only a few national partnerships between employers and OSHA. 

“It was unique at the time and it’s still unique quite honestly,” said Jim Foley, MYR Group’s vice president of safety operations and a member of the ET&D Partnership’s steering team. “They had to set any competitive differences aside, and in the name of safety, come together and try to make a change for the better of the industry.” 

The ET&D Partnership celebrated 20 years of collaboration in October, extending its commitment for five more years during a renewal signing in Washington D.C. 

The partnership grew considerably over the years, now encompassing 12 partner companies from both union and non-union contractors and covering an estimated 80 percent of total workers in the line construction industry. 

Over the past 20 years, the ET&D Partnership founded industry best practices such as insulated rubber gloves and sleeves, job briefings, administrative controls, and more. They also pioneered improvements in training through the 10-hour line worker training program and the 20-hour supervisory leadership program. 

To understand the true effectiveness of the partnership over two decades, just look at the safety indicators and the dramatic decrease in serious injuries and fatalities in the industry since 2005. 

Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR), Lost Time Injury Rate (LTIR), and Days Away, Restricted, Or Transferred (DART) have all seen declines of 70 percent or more by 2022 – even as more than double the number of hours were worked in 2022 (120.6 million) compared to 2005 (52.4 million). 

“From a safety standpoint, it’s the best thing that’s happened to the industry. It really is,” MYR Group President and CEO Rick Swartz said. “We want to save people’s lives and make sure they’re not getting hurt. It’s not just touching our company –  it’s touching the industry. … In the end, we’re a people business and nobody needs to get hurt doing the work we do. And definitely, nobody needs to lose their life.” 

To work effectively, the ET&D Partnership had first to analyze accident and incident data to identify common causes, which meant all members had to be open and transparent. Without the data, effective best practices and training to implement them couldn’t work. 

“That was big, you know, for everyone to leave their egos at the door and be willing to share information,” Swartz said. 

Once the data was analyzed and understood, best practices were created, and training was rolled out to line workers and supervisors. This created standardization across much of the industry and made the training material digestible and consistent, no matter which company an employee worked for. 

In fact, the results were so successful that OSHA began incorporating the partnership’s best practices and standards into its guidelines and requirements. The 10-hour training program ensures every line worker receives the essential information they need to safely perform their work while the robust 20-hour supervisor training program equips field leadership with the tools and information they need to guide their crews daily. 

“Now we’re at least all talking the same language in the trainings, which I think really helped us improve safety across the industry,” MYR Group Senior Vice President of Transmission & Distribution Brian Stern said. “Like in any training, if you hear a different message every time you go through it, you start getting confused about what we’re actually trying to do. The consistency and clarity of training is probably the biggest improvement we’ve seen over time.” 

The same process is followed to this day. A steering committee of safety vice presidents and managers acts as the operational arm of the partnership. From there, the proposed goals are introduced to the executive team consisting of CEOs from all the member companies, who discuss the proposal until a unanimous decision is reached. 

Nothing moves forward unless all membership leaders agree, ensuring the highest level of buy-in and effective rollout. Once ratified, a training task team handles the rollout of the partnership’s initiatives and trainings quarterly. 

Representatives from the ET&D Partnership companies pose for a photo outside the Frances Perkins Department of Labor Building in Washington D.C. after renewing the partnership for five more years.

Best practices, training resources, and more are available on the ET&D Partnership website and a mobile app, providing line workers more access to safety information than ever before. 

“Through the partnership, we came up with best practices, not just from a safety standpoint, but from a training standpoint,” Swartz said. “That allows your employees to retain, adapt, and carry that information forward and have a safer work environment out there in the field.” 

The ET&D Partnership’s guiding light is the same as 20 years ago – always working toward zero injuries and fatalities. 

MYR Group is proud to be a founding member, and the partnership represents just one of many ways the company pushes safety in the industry forward. 

Because at the end of the day, all employees deserve to return home safely.