TEC Safety Specialists Eager for More Students in 2021

January 15, 2021

Zoom meetings and virtual events are the new norm for a lot of co-op workers. But for lineworkers, who perform some of the most dangerous work in the world, video doesn’t quite cut it.
“I’ve always equated what I do with somewhere between a revival preacher and a football coach,” said Curtis Whitt, TEC Loss Control regional supervisor, who leads in-person training sessions across parts of Texas. “We hope to inspire or motivate these guys to do the things that they already know to do.”

With gatherings, travel and in-person training curbed to slow the spread of COVID-19, there was a rise in electrical contacts in 2020, attributable at least in part to the drop-off in training opportunities. Now, with vaccinations soon to reach essential workers, Whitt and other safety specialists at TEC are focused on getting back to the important work of discouraging the shortcuts and bad habits that can kill a lineworker.

“I know in my day, after we had a safety meeting, I worked pretty safe for a while,” said Danny Williams, TEC Loss Control manager. “I’d think about those safety meetings. Then after a little while, I’d kind of get a little complacent and go back to some of my old ways.”

TEC Loss Control schools reached 1,137 students in 2019 but just 468 students in 2020—a 59% drop. Access to some TEC training facilities was restricted during the pandemic, and some co-ops didn’t send lineworkers to schools at all. TEC was forced to table about 125 in-person safety meetings, sidelining Williams and his seven safety specialists.

“Our hands are tied,” Williams said. “We have continued to train wherever we can.”

TEC’s specialists turned to Zoom meetings and webinars to continue reaching the roughly 100 organizations that rely on them for safety training, but they’re eager to return to the in-person work that they know really makes a difference.

Already this year, registration for 15 TEC Loss Control schools has closed because they are full, and more than 630 students have signed up for the 49 schools on the 2021 calendar—more than attended in 2020. More schools will be added to meet demand.