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Organizations Focus on Safeguarding Linemen and Substation Workers

Sept. 19, 2019
The IOUTA and IUSTA invite utility companies to join them in their mission to protect field workers through improved training and the sharing of best practices.

In the electrical industry, workers rarely get a second chance after an incident. The industry can be unforgiving when an employee makes a mistake. Both workers and their employers asked the questions, "What can be done? Is this acceptable?" This is how the Inter Utility Overhead Trainers Association (IUOTA) and Inter Utility Substation Training Association (IUSTA) came into being.

IUOTA held its first meeting on June 12, 1985, in Philadelphia. Eleven charter members represented seven electric utilities. The Philadelphia Electric Company hosted the initial meeting, where the preliminary discussion revealed that all companies present were having similar problems with the high failure rate of line workers.

The organization aims to promote increased efficiency and effectiveness of training for overhead and underground personnel through the exchange of ideas and training information. The scope of training activities includes safety, communications, operations, maintenance, general work practices or work methods and policies related to training.

Mark Taylor, the current chairman of IUOTA, says he joined the association in 2013. He has brought home more than 45 ideas, work methods, procedures and products. For example, in Canada, he didn't know that it was advised to spray Deet on FR clothing until he attended a conference. The safety bulletin was distributed across Canada.

"If you are in or interested in training, safety, work methods, field work or line supervision, this is your group," Taylor says. "This is a no-nonsense approach to safety, training, and work methods."

IUSTA was started in the late 1970s and the purpose of IUSTA is to promote increased efficiency and effectiveness of training for substation and switching personal through the exchange of ideas and information. The scope of activities includes safety, communications, operations, maintenance, general work practices and policies related to training.

IUSTA was re-invigorated about 10 years ago by four utilities that had an impromptu meeting in Philadelphia at the PECO headquarters. IUOTA and IUSTA decided to join forces at the Hershey conference in 2014. The Idea was to attract more members for both groups as well as increase vendor participation.

The meetings are now held annually the third week of August. IUSTA selects a host utility (this rotates every year) and a host vendor (this rotates every year). Host vendor then solicits other trade-related vendors. IUSTA usually attracts 35 vendors for each meeting. The IUOTA executive committee is made up of a chairman, secretary and a co-secretary, IUSTA is made up of a board and the groups begin to plan the agenda.  Presentations are given by members, consultants, industry experts and guest speakers. The agenda is then sent to the members and a call for other topics as well as registration to the event. Standing topics include a burning issues roundtable and accident and corrective action review.

The membership is made up of field workers, supervisors, unions, contractors and managers. The key to the meetings is to share information and learn from one another.

The conference is two days long with an icebreaker before the conference begins. There are events for the spouses, giveaways donated by the vendors and a dinner after the first day of the conference. The association recently added Certified Utility Safety Professional (CUSP) certification and testing to our event.

Vendors pick up the cost through the event through their registration costs. There is no cost for our members to attend other than their travel costs.

A company can benefit from belonging to IUOTA and IUSTA through the sharing of information not only at the conferences but through networking. Also, attendees can ask a question of the membership at any time throughout the year.

The members of this organization bring to the table hundreds of years of professional experience and expertise. If you are already a member or if you are thinking of becoming a member, the information you will bring back to your own utility or contractor will be priceless, according to the association.

Currently, IUOTA and IUSTA have over 45 member utilities and contractors from across the United States and Western Canada. The organizations are continually trying to get our message out to grow the group. Every member brings something unique to the group, but all have the same goal of the safety of all employees.

These organization not only creates personal bonds with neighboring utilities but also harbors great relationships with participating vendors who build and design the equipment we all currently use.

The location of the 2020 conference, as well as the announcement of the host utility and host vendor, is expected to be announced in the fall of 2019. For more information, visit https://www.iuota.com or http://www.iusta.org

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