Nothing can bore a worker like a safety briefing — right up till someone dies.
Or until Dennis McDade starts rapping.
“We’re always trying to promote safety,” said the 36-year-old McDade, a lineman for Dominion Virginia Power.
A member of his Fairfax field office safety committee, he got to thinking, “Let me see if I can come up with a safety rap.
“I wanted to come up with a little bit of a different angle,” he said, “and have fun.”
“Music’s a passion of mine,” said McDade, who has an audio and video studio in his Manassas Park home.
Working with fellow linemen from the company’s Fairfax office, the Air Force veteran produced his music video “Safety Rap” with quick cuts, sharp lyrics, warm moments and a touch of cool irony.
“There’re no mistakes in this line of work,” said McDade, who has been with Dominion Virginia Power for seven years. “Safety is everything.”
Nationally, 4,628 workers were killed on the job in 2012, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That works out to more than 12 deaths every day.
But no Dominion Virginia Power employee has been lost in a work accident in more than a decade.
Even Tom Farrell, Dominion Resources Inc.’s chairman, president and CEO, does safety briefings — for instance, pointing out the emergency exits — before company meetings.
Believing that improving safety improves overall performance, Dominion Virginia Power has reduced reportable safety incidents by 27 percent since 2010.
When the Fairfax safety committee first saw the video, McDade recalled, “They wanted to see it three times.”
Since he made it in 2008, “Safety Rap” has had more than 300,000 views on YouTube. “I’d like to see it get to a million,” McDade said.
He and his crew have been called on to perform their safety rap at national industry events. “It’s so humbling,” he said. “People were taking pictures — wow.”
Besides “Safety Rap,” his safety video “Zero” is on YouTube, and he stars in Dominion Virginia Power’s “A Lineman’s Journal” video series.
The telegenic McDade also has appeared in Dominion Virginia Power ads and performed for the United Way in Richmond.
Rodney Blevins, now Dominion Resources’ senior vice president and chief information officer, has mentored McDade at the power company.
“He helped us through a critical period in our safety culture performance,” said Blevins, an electrical engineer.
“Safety Rap” demonstrated that “safety had become cool,” Blevins said. Macho was gone: “We had made a shift in our safety culture.”
McDade is married and has two young sons.
Besides songwriting, rapping, creating animations and acting — he performs under the stage name Dyverse — he designs and markets a line of clothing and accessories.
“I’ve actually done jingles for Burger King and Hampton Inn.” He won a $500 gift certificate for that Burger King jingle: “I was taking all my co-workers to lunch.”
In his day job with Dominion Virginia Power, he does service restoration — he’s a first responder for lights-out calls.
“Linemen get a lot of gratification from helping restore electricity to people,” he said.
“It gives me the opportunity to act as a sort of modern-day hero.”