Training Focus Needs to Happen

Safety and training needs to become a priority in the industry.
Training Focus Needs to Happen
John F. Hendershot

Interested in Safety?

Get Safety articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Safety + Get Alerts

It has only been six short years since I made the transition from banking into the construction world. My thoughts prior to beginning the transition were that business is business, and throughout the marketplace we either have a product or a service to offer, and we do it in a fashion that is efficient, customer focused and within compliance. What I did not expect when I made my career switch was how much workplace safety would begin to weigh heavily on me.

Never had I wrestled with how to ensure safe practices and environments for my team members before, and it was quite foreign to me. It wasn’t foreign in a way that I could not comprehend what the actual practices were, but how numb industry professionals were to conducting safe work practices.

Some of the things I witnessed, and still witness, make my stomach do backflips, because they are blatantly irresponsible. Before we invested in a safety manager, which was probably the best decision that we have ever made, I would often say, “accidents are going to happen when you are doing everything right, but we will have a better probability of it not happening if we are well prepared and trained.”

The longer I have been a part of the underground construction industry, the more confident and outspoken I have become in being an advocate for safety training, and uniform core competencies industrywide. To be honest, I am not a huge regulation person, but I think something must be done to align contractors in a fashion that everyone operates safely, and within the same parameters.

Waging War

For too long we have waged a war within the marketplace that has put highly skilled, well-trained and well-compensated employee-focused companies with companies that offer little to no training other than a demonstration from the manufacturer or salesperson who sold the equipment. Not to mention little to no safety or procedural training.

The war still battles on, because the main source of measurement for companies, other than within the pipeline industry, is where the price point falls. Safety may be given lip service, but rarely, if ever, are any credentials of qualification, certifications or competencies.

Basic Training

How is it that within an industry that can be immensely dangerous to both our crews as well as the community at large is this not taken more seriously? I find it odd that a pipeline contractor working in the same right-of-way as a contractor boring in fiber optics has a whole dossier pack full of training, certifications and procedures, while the fiber contractor has probably never even had a basic first aid class, let alone any sort of procedural or certification training.

Does this strike anyone else as odd? It’s not like the pipeline contractor is taking on any more risk than the fiber contractor. They both work in the same areas, with the same dangers. So why is it that both contractors are not required to have uniform competencies that extend to all contractors working in like environments?

It is my opinion, as contractors, industry professionals, locators, utility, pipeline, and telecommunications companies, we come together and jointly work toward a remedy. This doesn’t need to be a law, but guidelines would be highly encouraged and be made public so customers can see what contractors are doing.

I believe the conduit for this to happen can be initiated through organizations like the Great Lakes Trenchless Association. If you are interested in speaking with me or joining me on this mission, please email me at


John F. Hendershot is the CEO of DIG-IT INC., a utility and telecommunications contracting company based in Hastings, Michigan. He is also the president of the Great Lakes Trenchless Association. For more information on DIG-IT INC. go to, and for more information on the Great Lakes Trenchless Association go to


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.