Thursday, March 16, 2023

New Hire Training Reduces Risk


Behind-the-scenes view of a remote new hire training... lots of screens!

Depending on your source, around one third to 40% of all injuries involve employees that are new to their job, with less than one year of experience. That's a huge portion of injuries. It also presents a great opportunity to reduce the likelihood of injuries within your company by focusing on your new hire training and onboarding processes.

Most companies have some type of onboarding process, and for our member companies, TT&S is a part of that, providing new hire training relevant to each job title. Each new hire class also includes basics on first aid and CPR, so employees exit the class with the skills to assist someone in an emergency.

This instruction is important, with much of it explicitly required by regulation. However, what many may not realize is that new hire training doesn't stop with only the formal classroom safety training.

The classroom training can cover a lot of material and deliver important information to employees, but those employees need to see that training reinforced in their actual jobs, by supervisors, coworkers, and company leadership. If they don't, the learning that took place in the classroom may not stick.

They also need to see what those safety principles look like in their specific job settings. At what points of their job are they expected to wear helmets, or a respirator, or gloves? They'll take their cue from their coworkers and supervisors first.

Whatever your process for new hire training, make sure you know what training is legally required. For our member companies, TT&S takes that on, keeping informed of regulatory changes and ensuring all training is compliant. And once new hire training is finished, make sure that coworkers and supervisors are ready to assist the new employee and ensure they keep safe.

To help with this, TT&S also offers a course for front-line supervisors on ways they can coach employees on safety skills, as well as safety responsibilities for supervisors. If you would like to sign up for this course or receive a recording, please feel free to reach out.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

We're not full of hot air -- respiratory protection is important!


Respiratory protection can be a confusing topic. There are so many hazards that require respiratory protection, and many times those hazards are invisible. It can be tempting to ignore invisible hazards -- out of sight, out of mind! And then there are so many different styles of respirators, so how do you know what you have will protect you?


Here's a little FAQ that might help you out.

Signs You Might Need Respiratory Protection


-       Working in an enclosed space

o   Think about poorly ventilated areas like attics, crawlspaces, grain bins, or storage tanks. Mold, mildew, pests, or asbestos may be concerns in these spaces.

-       Working in an excavated area

o   If the excavation is at a depth of 4 ft or more, air monitoring must take place to ensure the atmosphere is safe. If not, you might be looking at wearing respiratory protection or other safety measures.

-       Any job that sends particles flying around

o   Sanding, sawing, grinding, etc.

-       Pandemics

o   We have to add this one to the list due to COVID-19, so make sure to always follow proper respiratory protection recommended by public health experts.



What kind of Respiratory Protection do you need?


-       Unless you’ve been trained by your employer and assigned a specific respirator, it’s not your job to determine this. There are many different types of respiratory protection, and they’re all for fairly specific situations. Approach your employer for clarification. If your supervisors or management team has questions, TT&S is always happy to help!


Respirators are not comfortable to wear and I hardly see anyone wearing one. Do I really need to wear one?


-       Not everyone is educated about the consequences of skipping respirator use. There’s lots of things that can go wrong depending on what type of particulate you’re dealing with, but long story short, the respirators are there to protect your lungs. Sometimes the bad effects from not using a respirator are not felt for twenty or even thirty years down the line! So if you don’t wear one and feel fine, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. 


-    Not wearing a respirator when you’re supposed to can lead to difficulty breathing, lung cancer, or catching a disease like hantavirus. So the stakes are pretty high.


-    If the style of respirator is truly uncomfortable, it's worth bringing it up to your supervisor. There are many different styles of respirators, and chances are there is one that might work better for you while still providing protection.

Friday, February 24, 2023

2023 TT&S Annual Conference & Vendor Showcase

The 2023 TT&S Annual Conference & Vendor Showcase at the Bismarck Hotel was a conference like no other. Our members and other regional companies must have seen something they liked, because they turned out in record numbers. From the comments we heard, this was our best yet.

TT&S works with a volunteer group made up of TT&S staff and board members and a variety of our regular conference exhibitors. Credit goes to them for the continued improvements, but feedback and ideas may come from anywhere.

Carissa Swenson, Executive Director of BAND, 
provides the keynote address to a full room

The conference opened on Tuesday, February 14, with the keynote by Carissa Swenson, Executive Director of the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND). For those who aren't familiar, North Dakota is one of the most fiber-connected states in the nation, thanks to our local telecommunications cooperatives. Details about what BAND does can be found on their website at

After Carissa, attendees learned about cybersecurity from Nathan Heinert, an IT analyst with the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center. Nathan has worked in cyber security for National Information Services Cooperative (NISC) and North Dakota Information Technology (NDIT). His current mission for NDSLIC is producing and disseminating cyber intelligence to help protect the residents and critical infrastructure of North Dakota. 

Tuesday's hoard of 
door prizes
The opening day ended with the Tuesday exhibitor social in the Dakota Ballroom. Door prizes are always a big attraction, and this year was no exception. Items included mugs, shirts, electronics,  camping and fishing equipment, coolers, gift cards, and more! It can be a challenge to give away all the door prizes from TT&S and many of the exhibitors and sponsors, but nearly everyone goes home with something special by the end of the conference. And then there is the big cooler. Attendees must have cards stamped by exhibitors for a chance to win either a Yeti or another heavy-duty brand at each social. One cooler was given away on Tuesday and a second on Wednesday.

While TT&S's conference team were giving away door prizes, the first ever Tech Wars tournament was taking place. Not all companies had a team for the competition, but those who did participate were challenged. Times were added together for the cat 5 termination and fiber splicing and then had deductions for the third team member's skills at a cornhole toss. The best time was set by Polar Communications, with a close second from Consolidated Telcom. Winners received glass steins etched with the 2023 Tech Wars logo and bragging of being the "Champion Team" for technical skills.

Wednesday started with breakfast in the hotel Courtyard, and then it was off to breakout sessions. Crucial Conversations was a new topic for those who didn't want to attend the technical sessions. The technical sessions that attendees had the option to attend at the same time included home security systems, WLAN security, and locating. After these initial two-hour sessions, the remaining options were one-hour sessions, including the Art and Science of Communication, Building Relationships Between Contractors and End Users and Engineers, IPv6, Cybersecurity, FTTH testing, retirement planning from Jane Wigen, WiFi 6 sessions from Adtran and Calix, XGS PON, NISC's products explained for all levels of telecom workers, power in FTTx, and a last minute session from one of our own member company employees on mapping and staking using NISC's software.

Sean Kelly of Light Brigade instructs
BSC students
While this full slate was happening in the south end of the hotel, the vendor room was host to some hands-on fiber training in the morning for the attending BSC students and staff and anyone who wanted an introduction to fiber optic cable handling. The instructional vendor, Light Brigade, provided their expertise to introduce the students to fiber optic cables with equipment and tools that they would use on the job as a telecom technician.

This carried on with a presentation and discussion on fiber troubleshooting in the afternoon for all those who had more experience working with fiber optic cable.

For the luncheon, a potato bar was served with something for everyone while TT&S Director Kyla Bratz called out individuals who deserved special recognitions. Mileage awards were announced for those who had reached specific levels in the last year without a reportable accident. Ten individuals earned certificates for 250K miles, 500K miles, and even 750K miles. Also recognized were the TT&S board of directors and the conference planning committee, especially for their individual contributions to this year's conference.

After the luncheon, afternoon sessions continued, including a session on reasonable suspicion and roundtable discussions in which speakers voluntarily stick around to answer any unanswered questions that attendees may have had after their sessions. 

Wednesday ended with a new level of excitement at the social. Aside from drinks, music, visiting with exhibitors, and another hoard of door prizes, the cornhole tournament was the real draw. Twenty-eight mixed doubles teams competed. Jeff Tweten, who built the TT&S official cornhole boards, set up the boards and judging according to official rules. Although single elimination helped to cull the teams quickly, the tournament did run past the social end time. The final round came down to a nail-biter between the best two teams. The top two teams took home trophies and bag sets from TT&S and $100 from Bachmann Industries.

The TT&S Annual Conference and Vendor Showcase closed out on Thursday morning. While attendees finished their breakfast, they were treated to Monica Kramer McConkey's engaging presentation about mental resilience in the workplace. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor who owns and operates a Mental Health Consulting business called Eyes on the Horizon Consulting. Following the mental health presentation was Rachel Iverson, a local sports nutritionist and expert in physical wellness who has been featured on local news stations.

TT&S would like to thank everyone who made the 2023 Annual Conference & Vendor Showcase an outstanding success! We look forward to making the 2024 conference another fun and educational event.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Twas the Day Before the Conference

'Twas the day before the conf'rence

And everything's done.

It's all put together

so we can have fun.

All the name badges stuffed,

And the prizes packed up,

Ready to go

In the back of a truck.

To the venue we'll take them

On Tuesday, the first day,

And set up the table

To get registration away.

Then all the excitement

Takes off in a flurry.

After the speakers,

To the social you'll hurry.

This year, we have games

To liven the mood,

With prizes and vendors

And all the good food!

We can't wait to see you

At the conference this year.

Get ready to learn

And bring your good cheer!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

2023 TT&S Conference Opening Day Speakers

TT&S is excited to announce the opening day speakers for our 2023 Annual Conference!

KEYNOTE SPEAKER:  Tuesday, February 14, 2023 @ 2 pm

Carissa Swenson

Carissa Swenson has been involved in the rural broadband industry for eleven years as a cooperative director and consultant.  Then in August 2022, she was named the Executive Director for the Broadband Association of North Dakota (BAND).  She has earned bachelor’s degrees in business administration and Business Education and a master’s degree in Instructional Technology.  She has spent most of her life in towns with populations less than 500, so she understands rural!  She is passionate about the rural broadband industry and loves the opportunity to share the success stories of the members she serves.  She and her husband Doug have two sons and live in Bismarck, ND.

OPENING SESSION: Tuesday, February 14, 2023 @ 2:45 pm

Cybersecurity Threats - New and Lingering Threats Everyone Needs to Know

Nathan Heinert 

Nathan Heinert is a cyber threat analyst for the North Dakota State & Local Intelligence Center (NDSLIC). He is a graduate of the Bismarck State College (BSC) Telecom program and will be graduating this year from Bismarck State with a bachelor’s in Cyber Security. Nathan has worked in cyber security for National Information Services Cooperative (NISC) and North Dakota Information Technology (NDIT). His current mission for the NDSLIC is producing and disseminating cyber intelligence to help protect the residents and critical infrastructure of North Dakota.

Be sure to visit the TT&S website to register for the conference today. There's still time!

Register online at

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Conference Countdown: Ham and Pickle Rollups

Visions of ham and pickle rollups danced in our heads.


It was not Christmas time – no, it was TT&S conference planning season. And Melanie and I were five pages deep into a banquet menu from the Bismarck Hotel and Conference Center, choosing entrees and appetizers for the conference.


“How about Mexican pinwheels this year for an appetizer?”


“Ooh, the chicken bruschetta sounds amazing.”


“Everyone always loves the jumbo shrimp cocktail, and if we pair it with the pulled pork sliders, it should be a good combination.”


We drooled over those pages for a good forty-five minutes, bringing to mind comments about the food from previous years, trying to anticipate food allergies or specific diets, and conscious of pairing a variety of tastes and textures together.


This type of behind-the-scenes moment happens a lot this time of year, with every little detail about the conference fretted over and questioned. 


A million questions get asked every year on every nuance of the event with some changes as new pieces are introduced: Do you think people will like this buffet or that buffet? Who’s going to officiate the games? Do we have enough prizes?  And on and on, until the details are pinned down.


We draw on Melanie’s vast experience with conference planning frequently. She’s the real brains behind this operation, and I get to jump in every once in a while to add my two cents.


Point being: we’re working really hard on this conference. And we’re excited to see you there!


And, yes, there will be ham and pickle rollups.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Feb 1st to April 30th: OSHA 300A Form Posting Requirements

 It's the new year, and everyone's mind is on the posting requirements for the OSHA 300A log.

Well, maybe not, but we're here to make it simple for you to know what's required.

The OSHA 300A log is a form that includes key information about the previous year, including number of work-related injuries or illnesses within the company, some basic information about those incidents, and total number of employees as well as total hours worked by all employees.

You can access the form at the following link, which also includes the 300 and 301 forms:

The 2022 completed form, including a signature from a company executive, must be posted somewhere conspicuous, such as where labor law posters are displayed, from February 1st to April 30th of this year.

Last year, I conducted a training on OSHA Recordables and the OSHA 300A log. This training can be found at the following Vimeo link:

However, if you have any questions about the forms, whether an injury or illness would be considered a recordable, or any related question, please feel free to reach out.


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

New Year, New Blog

Welcome to our blog!

For the past few years, TT&S has put together a quarterly newsletter. In 2023, we've decided to transition to a blog instead. With the blog format, we can send you updates to safety requirements, as well as timely safety reminders, as soon as they become relevant to you. We can also more easily share a blog post on our social media sites, hopefully to achieve more reach with our safety-focused content.

Another feature of the blog is the comment section. This allows for dialogue about the content. Anyone can ask a question or express their thoughts about the post, and we can provide responses if there are specific questions.

You can expect the same great content that TT&S has delivered over the years through the newsletter, but without the restrictions in space and the need to conform to a specific publishing schedule.

We appreciate feedback on the new layout and any suggestions for types of content that will be the most useful for you.

New Hire Training Reduces Risk

  Behind-the-scenes view of a remote new hire training... lots of screens! D epending on your source, around one third to 40% of all injurie...