The “Perfect Attendance Award,” may be the highest achievement in elementary school, but a “Flawless Safety Record Award” just may be the cream of the crop for Carmine Tropepe.
“It feels very, very good to receive this award,” said Tropepe. “It feels nice to be acknowledged.”
Tropepe, who has been working at National Grid for the past 41 years, received an award for being incident-free during the course of his career. However, drilling holes was something he didn’t see himself doing in the long run.
“I didn’t want to stay with the company at first,” he said. “I told this guy ‘I can’t see myself working with pipes for the rest of my life,’ but he talked me out of [leaving].”
Tropepe started working with the company when he was only 20, saying that after a very tedious job search, he wound up working at National Grid’s Queens office in Maspeth. After 30 years, the company started to switch him between Queens and their other office in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where he now works.
Tropepe slowly became accustomed to his job, saying that throughout the years he grew to love it more and more.
“I hated it in the beginning, because all you do is dig and dig and dig and keep your mouth shut,” he said.
However, through his hard work, he began to move up in the ranks and even tried welding and heavy-pressure drilling, eventually reaching a very elite position.
Much has changed since his first day of drilling holes. Tropepe has even starred in a safety training video, which has been viewed by employees throughout the company and overseas in the UK.
“I’m getting to be like a star,” he said.
In the video, Tropepe tells his story as a young man growing up on the job and the confident attitude he displayed in his 20s that quickly changed as a result of a conversation he had with a New York City firefighter.
Tropepe was drilling a live gas main near a firehouse in Brooklyn and commended the firefighter for being brave in such a dangerous job. The firefighter looked at him and said, “When I go to a fire, I know that I’m heading into a dangerous situation, but you – your situation could change in the blink of an eye. You think my job is dangerous? Your job could change in a second.” From that point on, Tropepe said he really began to respect his work, saying that even the slightest mistakes could result in an unwanted disaster.
“It was a good awakening because you really do have to be careful,” he said. “You’re working with three elements that can start a fire: gas, air and all you need is a spark.”
Tropepe has traded his drilling days to be a teacher for the company’s Learning and Development department. He emphasizes safety to his students, as well as lessons on high-pressure drilling and machines.
“I think they listen to me more because I came up through the ranks just like them,” he said. “They listen to me and respect me more than someone with a suit and tie that just talks to them but never really did the job.”
One of his students, operator Jimmy Guidice, 17, even said that Tropepe was tough but “pushes us in the shop to practice and always focus.”
Ed Ruszkowski, Regional Manager for Learning and Development, also commended Tropepe, saying he is “very sincere, passionate, extremely knowledgeable and a person that wants to share that knowledge.”
April will mark his 42nd year at National Grid, prompting him to consider retirement in the summer.
“One part of me wants to retire and the other part wants to stay.”
Photo Courtesy National Grid
After 41 years with National Grid, Carmine Tropepe has received the “Flawless Safety Record Award.”