A male worker was electrocuted while working on live power lines Thursday afternoon in central Laredo, authorities said.
Laredo police identified him as Pedro Luis Salinas, 30, of Concepcion, a small community located between Hebbronville and Falfurrias. Salinas was an electrician for T&D Solutions, a subcontractor of American Electric Power working on live lines, according to police.
"At this phase of the preliminary investigation, there's no indication that foul play was noted," said Investigator Joe E. Baeza, LPD spokesman. "An autopsy will be performed, nonetheless."
First responders were dispatched at 5:40 p.m. to the 100 block of East Fremont Street for an injured person report.
"Details regarding the accident are under investigation," AEP said in a statement. "Further specific information about the accident will have to come from local authorities. Our hearts go out to the family of the victim."
An LPD report states Salinas was in an aerial lift bucket working on several lines.
"The spotter (a co-worker) reported that he was watching Mr. Salinas work on the electrical line," the report states, "when all of the sudden, he noticed a spark flash ignited near Mr. Salinas."
Salinas fell inside the aerial lift bucket. He was unresponsive and had shallow breathing, according to police. Co-workers administered CPR until paramedics arrived.
EMS crews rushed Salinas to Laredo Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
Webb County medical examiner personnel took custody of the body.
Baeza said that, as per procedure, police are investigating the case.
LPD notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. The agency will conduct its own investigation.
OSHA states on its website that its mission is to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."
T&D Solutions, a PowerTeam Services Company, is one of six outstanding companies that make up PowerTeam Services. The companies include KS Energy Services, Southeast Connections, Distribution Construction, Associated Diversified Services, and Culy Construction & Power Services.
With initial service operations in Southeast Texas and Louisiana, T&D's service territory has expanded throughout the Southwest, Central South, Midwest, and East Coast with over 1,200 resources. Our success is a direct reflection of our Mission Statement and our dedication to those principles.
T&D Solutions approaches safety as an ethos instead of a mandate, and Team Member Jon Appling says the cultural conversion is taking grip as planned.
“We’re actually changing people’s hearts, and that changes the way they do things,” Appling says. “To change the way a [team member] thinks, you have to change [his or her] heart.”
The way T&D Solutions is changing hearts, minds and behaviors related to safety is by emphasizing training throughout its ranks and having all levels of management – field workers and office personnel alike – spend more time on-site with the crews that deliver the utility company’s services.
“That’s from our CEO on down,” Appling reiterates. “There’s a commitment to be out there to show that you actually care about a [team member’s] safety. You have to get out there where they’re working and show that you’re concerned about what they’re doing.”
Two Big Grids
T&D Solutions is concerned about the power and energy needs of an 18-state market that extends west to New Mexico, north to Iowa, east to Maryland and south to the Gulf Coast states. In these states, T&D Solutions services electrical utility companies, concentrating on safely transporting electricity from the source of generation to its final destination for business and residential customers.
The company’s capabilities include transmission services including trained to hot-stick up to 230 KV, substation operations, distribution of electricity and a variety of turnkey processes for renewable energy. T&D’s transmission operations include new construction and maintenance services on electrical systems conducting bulk transfer of electrical energy from generation power plants to substations near population centers. The company currently serves two of the three major grids in the United States.
For substations, the company converts voltage from high to low, or vice versa, depending on a project’s scope. This work includes switching, protection and control equipment as well as one or more transformers.
For distribution work, T&D’s projects involve new construction, system improvements and complete rebuilds. The company also has participated in several FEMA projects involving several hundred miles of power lines.
The Safety Differential
Appling admits most companies like T&D Solutions offer similar services. Utility capabilities usually are the same across a swath of the country, and the industry remains competitive with so many providers operating in overlapping regional markets.
This applies to the industrywide acceptance of increased safety needs for employees and end-users alike. However, Appling says T&D’s execution of its specialized safety plan is what makes his company stand out from the competition.
“I see our market being more competitive for sure because you have more companies that do the same thing T&D does, so that limits the amount of resources to go around the different companies,” Appling says.
Appling makes it clear that T&D Solutions has always made safety its top priority. However, the company’s approach to safety is what has changed, and getting everyone involved at all levels has proven to be a successful strategy as incident rates continue to drop.
“Everyone has to be brought into it,” Appling says. “When a man goes to work every day, he has two choices – he can work safely or unsafely.”
The choice to work safely comes innately with an upper-level commitment to training, Appling says, and T&D Solutions is going all-in with its instruction. The company is constructing its own training facility on a 140-acre parcel it owns in Kountze, Texas, that will feature residence halls as employees become certified as linemen. Forty acres will be devoted to training grounds and dormitories for students, and the rest of the acreage will feature a T&D family resort with fishing areas, campgrounds and RV hookups for T&D team members and their families.
“Instead of getting new people sporadically, we’ll get the big bulk of our training out of the way through our program designed by the [U.S.] Department of Labor,” Appling says.
Appling says the curriculum prepared for the facility will feature a mix of classroom and hands-on training. T&D will set up simulated power lines where trainees can test their skills.
Led by President of Safety Eugene Williams, Director and Manager of Training Daniel Welch and CEO Chad Dubea, the facility will ensure anyone employed by T&D who wants to pursue additional safety training can do so within their employer’s curriculum.
Although T&D intends to continue growing organically, Appling says initiatives like the training facility show it remains committed to safety first.
“Our vision is we definitely want to keep growing and we want it to be manageable, but we are never going to jeopardize our safety net just so we can get more market share,” he says.