The call began with a brief description of CWA’s Executive Board COVID-19 Vaccine Position Statement which can be found at this link: CWA Executive Board COVID-19 Vaccine Position Statement

Jose Zuniga, Local 3808 participated in the Tennessee OSHA informal hearing regarding the fatality of Dan Semich, Local 3808 member while performing a mid-span work operation and provided an update. TOSHA cited the Company for three serious violations as follows:

1. The employer did not ensure that ladders that are used only on stable and level surfaces unless they are secured or stabilized to prevent accidental displacement:

In that an employee was using a fiberglass extension ladder that was not secured or stabilized to prevent accidental displacement when leaned against a telecommunications strand.

(Proposed penalty: $5,000)

2. Before work was begun in the vicinity of vehicular or pedestrian traffic which could endanger employees, warning signs, flags, barriers, and/or other traffic control devices were not placed conspicuously to alert and channel approaching traffic:

In that an employee was working on a public street, on a ladder installing a fiber optic drop line, with no form of warnings or traffic control devices to alert approaching traffic.

(Proposed penalty: $2,800)

3. The following method or an equivalent method was not used for testing the strength of the strand: A rope, at least three-eighths inch in diameter, shall be thrown over the strand. On joint lines, the rope shall be passed over the strand using tree pruner handles or a wire raising tool. If two employees are present, both shall grip the double rope and slowly transfer their entire weight to the rope and attempt to raise themselves off the ground. If only one employee is present, one end of the rope which has been passed over the strand shall be tied to the bumper of the truck or other equally secure anchorage. The employee then shall grasp the other end of the rope and attempt to raise himself off the ground.

In that the telecommunications strand’s strength had not been tested prior to the employee accessing the strand with an extension ladder.

(Proposed penalty: $3,200)

Tennessee OSHA and BellSouth Telecommunications, LLC dba AT&T Tennessee were unable to reach an abatement agreement and it appears the Company will contest the citations and/or penalties.

Local 3205 reported that an “F span clamp” and “B clamp wrench” can be ordered which allows the mid-span work operation to be performed from the ground. [There is currently a trial in Tennessee and the Company will provide updates as they become available]

Local 3808 reported that the F span clamp and B clamp wrench were discussed during the TOSHA conference described above.

Local 3102 reported that Wire Technicians are not properly trained on mid-span work operations. [Local and State OS&H Committees should address training issues in Local Governance Partnership meetings or in joint OS&H meetings with the Company. Also, if an employee does not feel safe performing any work operation they should contact their manager to have them demonstrate how to safely perform that work]

Locals 3102, 3407, 3605, 3608 and 3808 reported on the Little Giant extension ladders the Company is purchasing to replace Werner extension ladders. Eventually all ladders will be replaced, but some departments may expedite process more than others. It was noted the Company did not purchase the ratchet leveler model with bubble levels and will continue to use the wooden ladder wedges. [It was also noted that employees should be provided hands-on training prior to using the Little Giant ladder].

Local 3608 reported that contractors are performing pole transfer work on joint use poles including mid-span operations. There is a question of whether some or all of the work is related to One Touch Make Ready. Locals 3102, 3104 3605, 3803 and 3908 also reported issues with unknown contractors performing pole transfer work using inferior attachments and methods leading to safety concerns. Matt Wood, Local 3411 that he is working on a Broadband Regulation project for CWA and asked that any pictures of examples be sent to him at: mailto:[email protected]?subject=Pole transfer work examples [These action items have been referred to Isa Shabazz, CWA Staff Representative and Co-Chair of the District 3 Joint OS&H Committee]

Local 3205 reported they are working with the Company safety staff on hand-hole lids. The current lids have a hook that requires using your back to open instead of using your knees and you can’t use a manhole hook. Local 3603 reports they have also worked on this issue, have ordered new “blue” hand-hole hooks that work better and will try to send pictures of the new hook.

Local 3611 reported they had a Utility Operations technician who had a trailer incident and discovered the employee had never been trained to back a trailer.

Local 3908 inquired about the purpose of the AT&T OSHA 300 logs sent to the Locals from District 3. The OSHA 300 logs were requested from BellSouth Telecommunications for all BST locations for the prior year. A spreadsheet was created from the data and sent to all BST Locals to check their locations for known incidents or injuries that may not have been reported. At this time, data is still being collected and sorted. Once the final product is ready it will be distributed to the Locals for their Local OS&H committees use and for State OS&H committee use as they see fit.

While on the subject of OSHA, a reminder was provided that a “whistleblower” provision in OSHA Section 11(c) provides in general that no person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because the employee has:

(a) Filed any complaint under or related to the Act;

(b) Instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to the Act;

(c) Testified or is about to testify in any proceeding under the Act or related to the Act; or

(d) Exercised on his own behalf or on behalf of others any right afforded by the Act.

Any employee who believes they have been discriminated against in violation of section 11(c) of the Act may, within 30 days after such violation occurs, lodge a complaint with the Secretary of Labor alleging such violation.

Multiple Locals reported they were not receiving presumptive positive COVID-19 reports which employers are using for contact tracing. Some Locals reported they are regularly receiving these reports. If there is a question about whether the Local received reports of a known occurrence, the Local President should work with their CWA State Staff Representative to determine what action needs to be taken. These reports do not include any names, but they should include information such as the job title, location, date of positive test, number of employees who were in close contact, the Return To Work dates, cleaning schedules, status of vehicle and information on cleaning the ice machine if it was used by the employee. A suggestion was made that the vendor who cleans the ice machines should mark the machine as disinfected and noting the date the cleaning was performed. Local 3605 described a recent ice machine that was disinfected as having been drained and turned off for a couple of days while employees were advised to use their WEX card to purchase ice.

Local 3608 reported that plug-in GPS units (GEO-Scorecard) are distractions while driving due to the constant beeps triggered when certain driving behaviors are sensed such as hard braking, speeding, etc. There are also concerns about the accuracy of the equipment. [This action item has been referred to Isa Shabazz, CWA Staff Representative and Co-Chair of the District 3 Joint OS&H Committee to request data on the GEO scorecard and its effectiveness]

Next Meeting:

The next District 3 Occupational Safety and Health conference call will be Wednesday, December 8, 2021 from 1:00 PM Eastern – 3:00 PM Eastern.

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