Training Emergency First Responders in Electrical Safety

Gus Loder, one of Hydro’s safety specialists, knows a thing or two about working with and around electricity.

For a number of years, he’s been delivering electrical safety courses to community fire departments throughout the province. He also provides training as part of the curriculum for the annual Fire and Emergency Services Fire School, instructing first responders on electrical safety.

“Fire fighters and other first responders can often encounter electrical hazards on the job,” says Gus, who is also a certified firefighter and a Fire Chief himself. “The training we deliver arms them with the knowledge they need of the electrical distribution system, the associated dangers and how to deal with them, so that they are better equipped to safely assess and respond to incidents involving energized lines and equipment.”

We had a chance to chat some more with Gus about his experience and his flair for educating others on safety.

Describe your role in promoting safety.
GL: As Senior Safety Health & Environmental Advisor with Hydro, one part of my job is teaching our employees about power line hazards. I also do learning sessions with fire departments across the island. I’ve been involved on other related safety initiatives too, including sitting on a working group with other industry partners that focusses on efforts to reduce the number of public contacts with power lines.

How did you first get involved in electrical safety training?
GL: In my previous career as a safety advisor with WorkplaceNL, I helped develop and chaired a technical advisory committee for power line hazards, and created a power line hazards training program. The electrical safety for firefighters component was developed to give volunteer firefighters the knowledge needed to deal with issues that they could face on the job. Being a regional Instructor with Fire and Emergency Services and a firefighter for almost 30 years, and now as the Fire Chief for the town of Badger, I recognized that a lot of this knowledge was lacking and needed to be passed along to others. I can relate firsthand to how a safety situation can evolve very rapidly and you need to rely on your training to help you get through. Knowledge is power and we need to get the power in the hands of the first responders that can use this.

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about your job?
GL: This profession is ever-changing and you never know from one day to the next what challenge you might have to face. You have to adapt and be very up-front and honest with employees and co-workers that you’re there to help. 

What’s your main message about electrical safety?
GL: If you don’t have the necessary knowledge, just reach out and find it. Electricity is to be respected and not feared, but you have to have a good understanding and awareness. If you don’t, that’s when real danger arises. For anyone who is unsure what to do around electricity, the best action is to do nothing rather than do something that could make a situation worse. 

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
GL: When you get feedback on how your efforts impact a co-worker. That’s when I’m reminded that many people really do appreciate my role and my effort in helping keep them safe, so they can go home safely to their families. When you get a message or a “thank you” after a training session, it feels good and reminds me that it makes a difference. And, when you can stand up in front of an audience and say, “Hi fellow firefighters, I am one of you, I understand the work you do, and I’m here to help you,” I can see how the group then takes every word to heart.

Safety is a core value and top priority at Hydro. And we’ll continue to promote the safety of our employees, the public, our partners and stakeholders through education and awareness. Kudos to Gus for being the energy our first responders can count on.

Hydro Safety Advisor, Gus Loder, delivered valuable electrical safety training to first responders at the provincial Fire and Emergency Services Fire School in Clarenville, June 2019.