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Southeast Area Tripartite homes in on ‘industrial evolution’

Warren Fairley, IVP-Southeast, talks about the power in numbers when owners, contractors and Boilermakers collaborate.

SAFETY, THE FUTURE and updates on the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund and MOST were topical issues during the 2019 Southeast Area Tripartite March 27-29 in Destin, Florida. Seventy-five company representatives, contractors and Boilermakers met for the 12th year to discuss common issues and challenges to enhance collaboration across the industry.

“Boilermakers are committed to working together to solve the problems with your industries and organizations,” said Warren Fairley, International Vice President for the Southeast Section. “We must listen to each other so we can improve our ability to work together and increase our successes together.”

Fairley also touched on the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund, noting that the Southeast Section has raised almost $434,000 this year to deploy toward marketing, organizing, recruitment and employment.

“The M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund is good for the Boilermakers, because it focuses us on the critical areas of recruiting and training,” he said. “It’s good for contractors and owners, because it gives you access to more, safe, highly trained members, which will result in higher quality work.”

More highly trained Boilermakers means safer jobsites. Mark Garrett, Director of Health and Safety Services and MOST programs, discussed the importance of communication to developing and maintaining a safe working environment.

Business owners, contractors and workers build trust and respect with each other by communicating clear expectations about what they need to do a job safely and by encouraging active participation in the process, he said. “One of the key points to creating a culture of safety is to give people permission to think and contribute. It creates ownership of the safety program. When people feel like they’re part of something, they’re more apt to reach goals and help it succeed.

“See something, say something,” Garrett concluded. “It doesn’t make you a rat or a snitch if you see somebody doing something unsafe and take the time to tell them how to perform the task in a safe manner. This could save a life — their life or someone else’s.”

In addition to the common goal of jobsite safety, tripartite speakers covered disaster relief, social media and industry evolution. Of special interest were dynamic keynote presentations by Tennessee Valley Authority’s Senior Program Manager for Industrial Relations and member of the MOST Owners Advisory Committee Jerry Payton and TVA Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer Van Wardlaw.

Payton reported on MOST’s approach to teaching and learning based on human performance, noting the results-based method begins with a specific set of goals and then determines how teams and individuals work to satisfy those goals. “The Boilermakers MOST program was the first program of its type in the industry, and now several other crafts have adopted the same approach,” he said.

As it relates to safety, Payton said, the human performance technique has resulted in every member of the Owners Advisory Committee encouraging anyone on their property — whether that’s a utility, refinery or paper mill — to stop work to prevent a hazardous safety event.

“However, there is still work to do to change the culture of the workforce,” he said. He advised that MOST programs should continue to encourage workers to point out safety issues on the job and “get the right people involved to execute a change in plans so people don’t get hurt.”

Also from TVA, Wardlaw discussed the electricity industry’s resource evolution over the last 120 years from hydro, to coal, to nuclear, to natural gas, to the latest progression toward renewable and distributed energy resources (DER). DER is a resource generated near the point of use instead of at a centralized source such as a power plant. It can provide all or some of a regions’ immediate electric and power needs and includes solar, wind, combined heat and power, energy storage and demand response.

“DER is just the next piece,” Wardlaw said. “So, don’t let that shake you into thinking that suddenly everything that proceeded it will go away.”

His take on recent energy evolutions: The industry continues to morph as it’s always done, and while traditional energy supplies are impacted, they are still very viable. To deal with this rapidly changing landscape, Wardlaw advocates focusing on the “Three Ts:”

  • Talent — acknowledge the reality of the evolution and hire workers who have expertise in new technologies
  • Training — maintain workers who have skills in traditional energy sources and commit to investing in their growth
  • Trust — continue to build a reputation as a trustworthy partner

“The Boilermakers Creed says exactly what those Three Ts say,” Wardlaw concluded. “If we want to continue to be known as high quality craftsmen and be good at what we do, then we’re going to keep our people trained to make sure we’re successful for years to come.”