My Story: Wesley L. Wheeler, SMS
Many times, safety pros are asked, “What prompted you to get into the safety field?” For each of us, that story is different. However, once an individual becomes involved with safety, they soon begin to value the importance of the job they now have.
My journey to safety began early in my electrical career. From attending basic first aid/CPR classes in the early 1980s while I was an apprentice, to teaching first aid/basic life support/AED training in the local apprenticeship program for NECA/IBEW in Jacksonville, FL, starting in 1992, safety was always a major focus. In 1997, I attended my first OSHA 500 course with master OSHA trainer, the late Ed Egan, and his co-instructor, Mike Callanan, who was from the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee – now known as the Electrical Training Alliance. It was after that course that I began teaching OSHA 10- and 30-hour classes for apprentices and electricians in the local program.
My next phase was becoming a safety director for a large industrial-based electrical contractor specializing in water, wastewater and manufacturing. In 1997, the owners of the company invited me into the office and announced that I was now the company safety director. It was a contract requirement for a major project to have someone solely dedicated to safety, and, with my field experience, safety training background and familiarity with OSHA regulations, I was the perfect person for this position.
I came to value the job of a safety pro and continued in that role for many years while training additional people to assist in safety duties for an ever-growing electrical contractor, now with more that 250 employees in the company. Providing training to company employees, other contractor and subcontractor supervisors on projects – and even becoming involved with the Electrical Training Alliance’s OSHA instructor training programs with their lead instructors, I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with others.
After leaving that electrical contractor in 2012, I opened my own electrical contracting and safety consulting business in 2013, providing training and assistance to many construction and electrical contractors throughout Florida. It was then that an opportunity presented itself to go to the national office of NECA as the director of safety. This meant moving 800 miles from my home state to the Washington, D.C., area, but it was by far the best career decision I ever made. My longtime mentor and coach, former employer, and true friend, Larry D. Cogburn, was instrumental in that decision. His guidance and recommendation made the jump to NECA seem custom made for my career. In January 2014, I began the next phase of my professional journey.
Having been involved in safety consensus standards with NECA in a volunteer role since 2008, I was now involved with not only the National Electrical Code, but with NFPA 70E and other consensus standard organizations.
I began interacting with other trade association safety pros and OSHA.
I was also involved with assisting in the development of safety publications that assist NECA members in the day-to-day management of their individual safety management systems and programs.
In 2019, I obtained my Safety Management Specialist credential from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. My career has had many rewarding moments in both electrical and safety training. Helping employers and employees work safe and go home each night is always our job responsibility and goal as safety pros – one that I am very proud to be a part of.
Wesley L. Wheeler, SMS
Director of Safety
National Electrical Contractors Association