NECA-IBEW (the National Electical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 48 has expanded its time loss benefit with Harrison Trust to provide pregnancy benefit to members through their third trimester. The new benefit rolled out on January 1, 2020, and this unique partnership between management and labor is setting a new standard for others to follow.

A pregnant woman who stops working within 13 weeks prior to the doctor-certified projected due date will be paid $800 per week in time loss benefits. Disability is not a requirement, and the member’s health care will be paid without reducing her hour bank.

These benefits will also continue 13 weeks after the birth of the child, for a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. All members who qualify for this new Harrison benefit, regardless of classification, get the full weekly time loss amount.

The Trust will also pay the monthly health insurance premiums, so that the member will receive six months of free health insurance coverage during that time for their families.

The primary intention of this benefit is to empower pregnant members to do what they think is best with respect to working while pregnant and while recovering from pregnancy. The coverage is offered as an acknowledgement that being in the final trimester and working on a construction job can be very challenging. This also acknowledges the importance of the first three months of a baby’s life, and addresses how difficult it is to find infant care during the hours an electrician works.

“I’m so glad to see NECA/IBEW are supporting women who work in the trades,” said Commissioner of Labor and Industries Val Hoyle, “Increasing the amount of protected time off women can take while pregnant and after childbirth is a great investment. It’s good for women’s careers, good for families, and good for our workforce.”

As with any workplace hazard, employers should assess overall risk level based upon anticipated exposure range and the degree of injury or illness severity.  In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are forced to navigate unfamiliar territory complicated by the absence of formal safety standards, such as OSHA or ANSI, to specifically direct employer compliance actions.

The WHOCDC, OSHA and NECA all provide excellent Coronavirus specific resources to educate employers and our workforce on what this new virus is, how it can affect our health, and most importantly, precautions we can take to reduce potential exposures in all settings of life.

While under specific State mandated orders, certain business types have been forced to close to limit spread of the virus, it appears that many of our construction projects will continue to remain open, at least for now.  Whether we have multiple crews working on a large-scale project, or just a few workers on a small service job, the strategies to protect our workforce, and prevent the spread of the virus, are fairly universal.

These include:

  • Infectious disease policy development – contractors should establish and document the specific actions each business unit – office, pre-fab, service, construction site etc. – will follow moving forward. Key elements the policy should contain are employee illness response protocol, suspected exposure reporting, means to limit group activities, sanitation procedures and PPE use.  OSHA has just released an employer guide #3990 which can help in this process.
  • Employee training and education – Effective employee training on policy requirements and employer / client expectations is crucial for work practice uniformity. The training should be documented and repeated as necessary when noncompliant actions are observed in the workplace, or new procedures are introduced.  NECA produced a good Coronavirus toolbox talk that can also be used in your overall training efforts.
  • Hand washing and overall general hygiene – This cannot be overemphasized with your teams. Construction projects can be dirty and have historically struggled with providing employees suitable toilet and hand washing facilities.  As such, frequent hand washing with preferably soap and water, or a sufficient supply of hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available, is critical. Toilets must be cleaned and sanitized more often, including all commonly touched surfaces such as toilet seats and door handles.  Sharing of hand and power tools, including arc and shock rated PPE, should be eliminated and when necessary, thoroughly cleaned between uses.  Employees should use tissues or their sleeved arm when sneezing and focus on not touching their face.
  • Group meetings, crew size and social distancing – Work related activities such as stretch-and-flex, safety meetings, gathering for lunch and breaks are now considered high risk and must be managed accordingly. Current recommendations limit work groups to preferably 10 people or less AND only when the setting allows for social distancing from each other of at least 6 feet.  This makes it nearly impossible for 2 workers to be in the same scissor lift, service truck, vault etc.  Additionally, employers are directed to maximize work from home protocols for office workers and social distancing for those employees who must remain in the office.  If the social distancing option is used, a designated persons(s) should be identified to audit group sizing and effectiveness of minimum spacing protocols.
  • PPE use – If your company policy or site-specific requirements do not already mandate donning of safety gloves and glasses, you should implement those actions now. The CDC is currently NOT recommending that healthy people wear respiratory protection such as N95 or half face masks.  If employees choose to voluntarily wear such PPE, keep in mind that OSHA  requires that they be provided with Appendix D  I would also recommend documenting such activity.

As we continue to respond to this rapidly changing event, you are likely to encounter additional site-specific protocols such as pre-screening workers before being allowed onto the job site.  The EEOC has recently recognized this activity as acceptable in light of the virus reaching pandemic status.

If you need more information or I can provide assistance in any manner, please contact me.

Barry Moreland
NIETC Safety Director
bmoreland@nietc.org
503.501.5066

This past week, Rosendin Electric partnered with the Hillsboro Chamber’s School to Career program to teach high school seniors from the Hillsboro and Beaverton school districts about the electrical industry.

On January 8th and 9th, the 18 students who attended the Early Learning Opportunity (ELO) were able to explore each department within Rosendin Electric at Rosendin’s Hillsboro office, including Project Management, Estimating, Building Information Modeling (BIM), IT/Technologies, Engineering, Pre-Fabrication, Business Development and more.

The day was not just about taking a tour through the facilities, but about receiving hands-on learning from those in the field. Each day started with a “Stretch & Flex” routine, an informal all-staff meeting that kick starts the day with a safety and health meeting as well as light stretching. The Stretch & Flex routine gave the students a glimpse into the electrician world and exposed them to the more active learning and working environment they have the option to receive.

“We know a lot of these students are going to want to, or are at least thinking of becoming an electrician,” said Courtney Hron, Business Development Manager at Rosendin Electric. “We’re going to provide them with the tools and resources to get them there, telling them ‘here’s the IBEW, here’s how you can join,’ and really just pointing them in the right direction, because a lot of it is already public knowledge.”

Programs that provide ELOs to students can help them make an informed decision before they decide whether to spend thousands of dollars at a university, studying classes for a major they might not even keep.

“I think for a lot of these students, money is a big driving factor,” Hron said. “Within a few years, some of these students could be making nearly 100 grand a year as an electrician.”

For high schools and parents, programs like School to Career help to bridge the gap between students and the career paths they may want to pursue.

“From 9th through 11th grade, students will go to some of the 100-120 different career days we host a year,” said Tabitha McCampbell a School to Career Coordinator. “By their senior year, they will have narrowed down what they want to do their 15-hour experience in, fill out a request form, and we place them in a group ELO that is related to what they are interested in.”

A group ELO will include a range of different activities, speakers, and field trips, all focused around a specific career area. According to McCampbell, School to Career was able to do the entire 15-hour program at Rosendin over two days because Rosendin was able to teach the students a wide variety of things, including being an electrician, engineering, building information modeling, and more.

“We rely a lot on our partnerships with companies and organizations to make this program work,” McCampbell said. “They volunteer their time and resources to help out the students.”

McCampbell said that they plan to continue their great partnership with Rosendin, including at least one annual group ELO at Rosendin.