The Magic Connection

A promise to save lineworkers' lives across the Pacific

A chance meeting

A chance meeting in San Diego that brought two Filipinas together ended with a promise to save lineworkers’ lives across the Pacific. Magic Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) board member Nila Wipf recalls the conversation with Rowena Rodriguez, board chairman for Batangas I Electric Cooperative (BATELEC-I) in the Philippines.

“She told me they needed help,” Wipf remembers. “Because people are getting hurt and some were dying.”

Rodriguez told Wipf that her co-op in the Philippines had lost several linemen recently on the job. Both women were in California for the NRECA 2013 Annual Meeting.

“I promised to help,” said Wipf. “Either with my own personal funds or from Magic Valley.”

One fatality is too many

MVEC General Manager John Herrera didn’t need much convincing. As the general manager, it’s understood that safety is a big part the industry here in America, and he believes it should be a part of what we do internationally.

“One fatality is too many,” said Hererra. “Safety has to be number one. Knowing that BATELEC was lacking that, it was an easy decision for the board and for Magic Valley. We found a way to earmark the money, and asked NRECA International to develop the safety program for BATELEC.”

Later that year, NRECA International conducted a safety training needs assessment at BATELEC-I and determined that while lineworker training was essential, a much broader safety and loss control program was required.

A culture of safety

Chuck Dawsey former CEO of Benton REA, past NRECA national director, and a longtime supporter of NRECA International, was called on to design the program. Earlier this year, Dawsey and Brian Betterton, a former employee of the Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives, held the first two training sessions for BATELEC employees in the Philippines.

“Our goal is to instill a culture of safety in all employees including the Board of Directors,” said Chuck. “This will result in a sustainable safety and loss control program, which will hopefully ensure that employees return home to their families safe and sound every day.”

The Rural Electrification Trading Corporation, a longtime NRECA International partner will conduct the remaining 10 training sessions. Next year, this safety program will be offered to all 121 electric co-ops in the Philippines. Wipf’s push to help the community she grew up in can now help hundreds of others.

“This will touch all the electric cooperatives in the Philippines, and I can’t think of a better project to be a part of,” said Herrera. “This is a testament to my board, their leadership, and the cooperative business model.”