News & Updates

News & Updates

ValleyBuild’s Fresno Curriculum to Add Lesson on Solar Safety

California’s high-profile solar industry is helping to drive development of a new lesson for ValleyBuild’s apprenticeship readiness training program in Fresno.

A day-long safety component is expected to be introduced this year in Fresno, according to Joe Estrada, business development/marketing outreach coordinator for the Fresno Area Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). Estrada is crafting the program, which will deal with site and mechanical hazards along with electrical hazards that are present on solar job sites.

 “We want everyone in the trades to work as safely as possible on construction sites,” said Chuck Riojas, financial secretary/treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

“Due to the Central Valley’s wealth of sunshine, solar-related projects remain popular here and all workers – especially electricians – need to be aware of hazards on the job,” he said. “That’s why we are introducing a new safety element into our apprenticeship readiness training program.”

Solar projects – especially large-scale projects – can present both routine risks and unique challenges. Workers need to look out for physical hazards such as open trenches, weather-related issues such as heat exhaustion or thunderstorms and also the risks associated with electricity, for example.

In some cases, Estrada said, an injured worker on a large project might have to travel several miles to reach a first aid location or job trailer. “Some of the projects we are working on are three miles long and two miles deep,” he said.

The risks were brought home last year when a worker in an entry level position was electrocuted on a job site. While that tradesperson had no connection to ValleyBuild or its training, the death – coupled with the ongoing popularity of solar construction — helped spur interest in adding a new safety component to the ValleyBuild MC3 (Multi-Craft Core Curriculum) Apprenticeship Readiness program in Fresno.

ValleyBuild operates in a 14-county area of the Central Valley and leads in preparing men and women for good-paying careers in the construction trades. Many of the program’s graduates are finding jobs on solar construction sites.

“What has made our area such a booming area in the state is the solar industry and the projects going in on a regular basis,” Estrada said.

It has been difficult to meet the need for electrical workers on those projects. Many ValleyBuild graduates are entering those jobs, he said, and there is a strong emphasis on ensuring that workers have the safety training they need.