It was 2000. The world hadn’t ended when computers left the 1990s as many thought it would, and Ken Madison was looking to make a career change.
He had worked at a building supply center and a heating and cooling wholesale house, both in the delivery department, but he made a decision that would prove to benefit him and his family for the next 23 years and beyond.
He applied to be an apprentice at Local 22 and was dispatched to Miller Electric. Over the years, he tried his hand at every opportunity that was presented to him, eventually becoming a foreman, general foreman, superintendent and now, Miller Electric’s new Safety Director.
Ken credits his career with the trust field leaders put in him and the potential they nurtured. Today, he’s eager to do the same for apprentices and electricians in the field, and to ensure everyone gets home safely to their families each and every day.
“Throughout my career, I’ve worked with great foremen and general foremen. I was offered opportunities to get into leadership roles. I firmly believe for anyone to be successful anywhere, you need to show up, be accountable, be dependable and seize opportunities as they become available to you.” – Madison
As Miller Electric grew, so did Ken.
“Over the years, Miller got so much work that they needed field leadership to step up and shepherd it. I learned that handling that increased work load required both safety and efficiency,” Madison says. “Working with the prefab shop and listening to the ideas coming from the field helped me do that.”
Nothing matters more than safety.
It might sound cliché, but Ken has learned that nothing matters more than getting each person home to their family safely at the end of each day. As he grew in his role and time with Miller Electric, he learned to see the great value in working safely.
“The majority of us come to work each day to make a living so we can enjoy our family time away from work,” Madison says. “When someone is injured and laid up, they can’t go to baseball games or band practice or dance recitals. When you’re younger you may not see that, but the longer you work, it becomes clearer how important it is to follow safety protocols on every job and in every situation so you can go home to your family without injury or incident.”
Leading by example
Ken is focused on two goals this year – to grow a stronger daily safety awareness on every job site. And second, to continue to drive safety incidents down. He believes the best way to accomplish those safety goals is by talking about safety every day, and keeping individuals aware of their surroundings.
The other key is to lead by example. When field leadership consistently displays the kind of safe habits that everyone should, the entire workforce will work more safely.
“I’m a big proponent of our foremen and general foremen leading by example,” Madison says. “When the top leads in a good safety culture, that behavior has nowhere else to go but throughout the company. It is the key to keeping us all safe.”
Stretch and Flex, Toolbox Talks, Ongoing Training
Ken has other tools at his disposal to continue to encourage safe work. One of those is daily stretch and flex talks each morning where field leadership can address any safety issues or concerns arising on a particular jobsite. A second tactic is weekly toolbox talks that are carried out company-wide and focus on a more general safety topic. Finally, Miller Electric’s ongoing NFPA 70E safety training and arc flash safety training can help electricians, wiremen, cablers and everyone in the field continue to work safely.
Knowledge and habit breed safety, which becomes even more important when a condensed schedule becomes a factor.
“When materials don’t show up on time, or some other delay caused by customs or suppliers or anything really, shortens the time we have to complete a project, it’s critical that we don’t cut corners or work in a way that puts our safety and the safety of others in danger,” Madison says. “Thankfully, Miller Electric is committed to our safety because they care about us. While we’re a big commercial electrical contractor now, we still have the care and concern of a mom and pop shop. That’s something I’ve always appreciated about the Miller family.”
Family is important to Ken. He and his wife Michele have been married for 29 years and have three children together. While Ken’s kids used to keep him busy with their sporting activities, today their 3-month old grandchild keeps him busy. Though, when he’s not at work Ken enjoys hunting and fishing with his son as well as attending his nephews’ sporting events and volunteering with the Knights of Columbus.
“When I’m not busy doing those things, I just enjoy sitting on the porch with Michele around the fire ring, enjoying the evening.”
When you stop and think about it, just like safety, it’s the little things that count.