New law provides NY utility employees with added protection

By Nathan Stone


the-lawNational Grid’s field workers face any number of challenges while performing their daily duties. Weather, terrain, and visibility can make restoration and repair work challenging to complete, and our crews use the best measures to ensure the safety of the public and all workers involved.  Unfortunately, when our employees and other utility workers are performing essential services they sometimes encounter aggressive behavior or assault by members of the public.

Thanks to the efforts of our unions, government relations team and elected officials, beginning Nov. 1 any action that prevents a utility worker from performing a lawful duty and causes the worker physical injury would be considered a class D felony, an increase from the misdemeanor classification for this offense under the previous law.  The amended law includes penalties of up to seven years in jail if an assailant is convicted.

National Grid’s state government relations team worked with our unions and with the Energy Coalition of New York to talk to state legislators about the prevalence of utility workers assault and strongly advocated for legislation to amend the existing law and increase the penalties for these offenses.  The associated bill, sponsored by state Senator William Larkin (R-Orange County) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Queens), was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in August.

“Lawmakers know and respect the work our employees deliver, but helping legislators understand some of the specific threats and circumstances we face on the job was essential to getting their support for this bill,” said Echo Cartwright, National Grid director of New York Government Relations. “Patience, timely examples from our security group, and collaboration with our partners were the keys to our success.  We are grateful it passed and earned the Governor’s signature.”

The safety of all of our crews is tremendously important to National Grid, and is part of our core values.

“Members of National Grid’s Customer Meter Services group often have face-to-face contact with the public, and are sometimes the targets of aggression while performing essential company duties like collections,” said Tim Graham, National Grid Vice President, Customer Meter Services. “This law will help ensure stiffer penalties for interference and help to safeguard them.”

The law will provide increased protection for utility workers by increasing the resources available to pursue legal action.

“This law was amended to place utility workers in the same category as peace officers, prison guards, prosecutors, and first responders while performing their lawful duties,” said Edward Hanover, National Grid Manager, Security Operations. “Increasing the crime category from a misdemeanor to a felony increases the consequences for the offender. Felonies are the highest category of a crime and demand police response and thorough investigations.”

The law has also been expanded to include MTA station and terminal cleaners as well as process servers.

“Our workers face hazards in the field on a daily basis,” said Andrea Pustulka, National Grid CMS Director West.  “This law will finally give a level of protection to our people that they deserve. Hopefully, the public will think twice before assaulting one of our own.”

National Grid employees are reminded to always be vigilant and aware of their surroundings while performing the tasks. If confronted while carrying out an authorized job related activity, do not hesitate to follow the procedures for reporting a threatening situation:

Contact your supervisor once your safely out of danger.

Contact law enforcement if you were injured or threatened with a weapon.

Contact Security for instructions on how to proceed with law enforcement.

ALWAYS REPORT THREATENING OR CRIMINAL INCIDENTS.

National Grid’s 8,000 New York employees support the delivery of natural gas and electricity throughout the state.  The company serves 2.3 million natural gas customers in New York City, Long Island and upstate New York, and 1.6 million electricity customers in upstate New York.

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