In July this year, thanks to the generous donation from Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, the local NRECA International team in Guatemala received a safety training course to create a safer environment for American co-op volunteer lineworkers.
Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange is well known throughout the American electric cooperative community for their commitment to lineworker safety.
Last year, 45 volunteers traveled to Guatemala, and the number is not going down this year, or next,” said Ingrid Hunsicker, NRECA International’s senior program manager who oversees the volunteer program. “We are lucky to have co-op safety experts to train our local staff, and Thanks to Federated, they can now be better equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to create a safer environment for our volunteers.”
John Medved, the Director of Safety, Compliance and Security Services at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative in Virginia, teamed up with JT Jacobs, the Associate Safety and Training Instructor for the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives. They both delivered a three-day training session in July to make sure the local team is equipped with enough knowledge to ensure the safety of the volunteer lineworkers when they bring power to these rural communities in Guatemala.
John is an experienced NRECA International volunteer, and has participated in electrification projects in Haiti, Bolivia, and Guatemala. Like all the American co-op lineworkers who volunteer to bring electricity in remote regions, the high safety standards he follows are a routine part of his job. For him, it begins with the pre-job safety briefing review in the morning.
CREATING A SAFER ENVIRONMENT FOR EVERYONE
“The safety briefing in the morning before the volunteers head out to construct power lines in a remote community in Guatemala is key,” he said during a recent interview. “The training helped the team to better understand how to reinforce key points, such as where the first aid equipment is located, what to do in case of an emergency, and just ensure that everyone is well prepared.”
“I’ve been on three volunteer trips since 2015, and we’re always well briefed by the local team on what to expect, and what to look out for when we’re on the job,” he added. “This training will allow the NRECA International team in Guatemala to create a safer and more efficient work environment, and follow the same safety standards we do here in the U.S.”
American co-op volunteers who travel to Guatemala for electrification projects know the NRECA International staff well. Erik Berganza, electric engineer, and Zully Guzman, the administrative accountant received training, as well as Juan Chacon, Willy Coc and Mynor Vargas, the translators who spend a lot of time with the volunteers.
During the three days, each received first aid training to learn how to perform CPR, use an AED and provide first aid. They also received training and instructions on how to care, inspect and use hotsticks, protective grounds, and other necessary tools critical for safely constructing and maintaining power lines. And lastly, the team was given an in-depth pre-job safety briefing review.
John was satisfied with the outcome of the training.
“It was better than I expected. Their engagement and appreciation showed that they were receptive to the material and would be more likely to apply the knowledge in real-life situations,” he said. “The biggest improvement from the training was the team’s increased confidence and competence in responding to emergency using safety measures.”
This training couldn’t have come at a better time. In October, 16 volunteer lineworkers will be traveling to Guatemala to bring power to 82 families, and John will be one of the volunteers.
“I believe the staff is now well-equipped to handle emergencies and safety measures, by promoting the culture of preparedness and safety,” he said.