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Years ago I went to a horse-racing track with my co-worker Larry. Horse racing is his passion, so he spent hours choosing which horses he would wager on in the races that were on the slate that day. Larry taught me a lot about how the races work.

In a nutshell, the track establishes the line on each horse in a race by reviewing lineage and the relationship the horse has with its assigned jockey. They calculate how well each horse runs on a particular type of track, such as turf or dirt. They also consider track conditions. Does the horse run best in wet or dry conditions? Is the horse better at long distances or shorter ones? Additionally, they check the form of each horse in the race, including win-loss records, how the horse has interacted with other horses in the race and its record on different types of tracks.

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I have personally investigated more than 800 incidents involving serious permanent injury, death, equipment failure and structural failure. Time after time, we were pulled in late to assist with investigations in which early investigators had failed to properly investigate the incidents. They had jumped to erroneous conclusions, thus resulting in incorrect admissions, strategies or other actions in the related litigations. When properly analyzed, each incident was shown to have occurred differently than originally assumed, and often a different party or action was the precipitative cause. Finding this out late in the game really hampered effective defense or prosecution, resulting in higher litigation and settlement costs, and even in improper jury decisions because the jury believed the earlier, confusing conclusions.

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Measuring, Planning and Cutting Methods for Chainsaw Operators

The first two articles in this series discussed the risks of chainsaw operation as well as chainsaw safety, planning and precision felling techniques. In this final article, I will discuss several other topics that chainsaw operators should be knowledgeable about, including how to estimate tree height, make an open face notch and use felling wedges.

Estimating Tree Height
An important part of felling trees is the ability to estimate a tree’s height in order to determine its position as it falls, hits the ground and comes to rest. Accurate height estimation allows the operator to determine if felling the whole tree is truly the best approach in a given situation and, if it is, helps the operator to avoid hitting or brushing against obstacles, hanging up trees and leaving behind dangerous branch hangers. Remember that the height of the felling cut will affect the felling path and the position of the tree when it reaches the ground.

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Growing a Human Performance Culture

Human performance methods help us to understand some key aspects of business: accountability, conservative decision-making, and overall commitment to goals and values. These fundamental principles comprise a larger objective known as organizational alignment.

The concept of organizational alignment derives from years of studying, using and teaching human performance techniques, and even from an old TV rerun, which I’ll soon discuss. The constant challenge is demonstrating to employees how to relate to management and vice versa. I have continued to search for the reason why there are disconnects. It seems that everyone wants the same things, but the processes to achieve them do not reflect these shared goals.

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Recent PPE Changes and 2015 Trends

2014 was a year of changes in electrical safety. The new OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard has moved arc-rated (AR) clothing and PPE to the forefront, unlike the 1994 changes. Additionally, for facilities covered by NFPA 70E, the new 70E standard has added a level of complexity to PPE. This article will review changes in PPE as well as trends to expect this year.

NFPA 70E Changes
In the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, the term “Hazard Risk Category” (HRC) has been replaced by “PPE level” or “arc rated PPE category” (ARC). As a result, manufacturers may start using “ARC” instead of “HRC” on labels to indicate their level of performance in an arc. One PPE manufacturer is also considering using “CAT” (category) with a level. Expect to see more emphasis on the cal/cm² rating in 2015 and less on categories as NFPA, OSHA, NESC and IEEE move toward matching the protection to the hazard and move away from categories of protection. The incident energy that defines the ARC levels will remain the same, but HRC 0 – natural fiber clothing – was eliminated and now PPE is required to be AR.

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With the new OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 rules have come many questions, and one that Incident Prevention often receives is how to define an appropriate anchorage. There will be forthcoming interpretations as employers ask questions of OSHA, but the April 4, 2014 preamble, or “Summary and Explanation of the Final Rule,” does provide a good basis for interpreting the rules. You can read the preamble at www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/.

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As I write this article, I am reflecting on 2014 and thinking about how many contacts and fatalities the electric utility industry suffered last year. There were fewer than in 2013, but the improvement was only slight. At present, the most accurate count for 2014 is approximately 40 fatalities and 45-50 electrical contacts. One serious injury or fatality is too many, and all of them can be avoided by planning and the proper use of training, tools, time and teamwork.

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Q: The issue of multiple snaphooks in a single D-ring and Incident Prevention’s stance on it have received a lot of attention, and we are pleased to address this topic once more in the Q&A section.

A: iP received two notable responses to our guidance regarding manufacturer approvals and OSHA’s requirement that prohibits the use of two snaphooks in a single D-ring unless (1) the snaphook is a locking type and (2) the snaphook is specifically designed for certain connections.

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February 2015 Management Toolbox

What Are You Doing Differently This Year?

You can resolve to make a change any day of the week, but New Year’s resolutions continue to be popular as we start fresh with a new calendar. As 2015 begins, what kinds of changes do you want to make across the next year, particularly in your management career? Following are several potential resolutions to consider, whether you’ve already started your list or are still looking for inspiration.

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In the fall of 2010 I participated as an incident investigation board member to determine why a light-duty steel lattice structure collapsed, resulting in an injury. Shortly after this accident took place, our investigation team met with and interviewed the crew members who were at the work site that day. One crew member in particular still remains firmly embedded in my memory. During his interview he was very emotional while he described the sequence of events that led to the collapse of the steel lattice structure and the injury to his co-worker. He ended his testimony by stating, “Please tell me what happened. I don’t know what happened. I’d like to know what happened.” We left the interview assuring the crew member that we would find out what had happened.

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The critical steps of a work task are just that – critical. They are distinct from important steps and can cause immediate injury if not properly executed. If you research the definition of a critical step in relation to human performance, you will find that it is a human action that will trigger immediate, irreversible, and intolerable harm to a person or asset if that action or a preceding action is improperly performed. In other words, it’s basically the point of no return once the action is performed. On the other hand, many actions that you may need to take leading up to a critical step are important and should be recognized as such. Some examples of important steps include preparing for a task, verifying proper equipment to be worked on and selecting materials.

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2014 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

During the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo held this November in Costa Mesa, Calif., representatives from the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network presented the 2014 Carolyn Alkire Safety Advocate Award to John Morton, CUSP, of Willbros Utility T&D, and the 2014 John McRae Safety Leadership Award to John Price, CUSP, of ENMAX Power Corp.

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Arc Flash and the Benefits of Wearing PPE

Part of the recent OSHA updates includes increasing protection for employees who may be exposed to arc hazards. I am aware that there are many utilities that have proactively completed an arc hazard analysis for their systems, and that their employees are already wearing arc-rated clothing. Some of these utilities provide a full wardrobe of arc-rated clothing, including shirts and pants. Some utilities currently only provide tops. Still others have not completed their arc hazard analyses and do not provide their employees with any arc-rated clothing.

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Closing the Safety Gap

The safety gap is that dimly lit space between what is and what should be, between the expectations set forth by your safety program and the actual work practices that take place on your work sites. Within that gap lurks all that we hope to avoid. As safety managers, one of our primary objectives is to close the safety gap by identifying and eliminating risk in our work environments. To do so, however, requires clarity. Without a thorough understanding of our risks, both historical and present, we are left with a static, generalized program that is not responsive to the dynamics of our work.

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Chainsaw Safety, Planning and Precision Felling Techniques

Chainsaw operators have to be able to think on their feet and adjust to their surroundings. Accidents and injuries can be dramatically reduced, and productivity increased, when workers have the knowledge, training and skills they need to properly operate a chainsaw. In the following article – the second part of a three-part series – I will discuss a variety of components related to safely operating a chainsaw, including what operators need to know about PPE, body positioning and reaction forces. I will also detail a five-step felling plan used by chainsaw operators around the world that you can adopt for your company’s use.

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Every utility and every contractor that works for a utility should have a substation entry training program. These programs are primarily written for non-electrically qualified workers, but there are many line personnel who do not have substation training or who do not understand the risks inherent in a substation. Hazard awareness training for substation entry is necessary for anyone who enters electrical substations to perform work tasks. Following are some recommendations for the type of content that might be appropriate for an entry awareness program. This material may not be all-inclusive and some information may not apply to your stations. Most of this content is necessarily basic, but it is also suitable as pre-entry hazard review and training for experienced electrical workers.

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As all of you now know, the updates to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V have been out for several months, and the October 31 enforcement date extension has come and gone. There were some anticipated changes to the standard that the industry was expecting, but the more subtle revisions I’ve seen may be the ones that are more difficult to implement. The industry was given extra time to understand and clarify some of the changes, and extensions in a few areas may be granted once again.

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Q: In regard to work boots and arc flash protection, what does OSHA mean by “heavy-duty work shoes or boots” in 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(8)(v)(B)? Are boots made of synthetic material acceptable if they are work boots?

A: As with all OSHA rules, it is up to the employer to understand the risks and the necessary protections. In many cases the consensus standards give guidance that can be used to satisfy the OSHA standard. Even though NFPA 70E exempts utilities, OSHA has clearly used the NFPA as a source of material to assist utility employers in protecting employees, and the clothing standards in 70E may be a good place to start. NFPA 70E is not an adopted standard, but as OSHA stated in an October 18, 2006, letter to Michael C. Botts (see www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=interpretations&p_id=25540), “A national consensus standard … can sometimes be relevant to a general duty clause citation in the sense that the consensus standard may be used as evidence of hazard recognition and the availability of feasible means of abatement.” In Table (C)(10), NFPA 70E requires leather boots as needed.

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December 2014 Management Toolbox

Four Ways to Handle Criticism

You would be hard-pressed to find a leader who hasn’t faced criticism about his or her job performance. The higher someone climbs on the corporate ladder, the more responsibility he or she has, and the more likely that person is to hear from others who disagree with his or her choices or actions. Criticism is inevitable, and the sooner you learn to effectively deal with it in a healthy way, the better off you’ll be. Following are four ways to handle criticism the next time you are faced with it.

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Almost everyone in the world has heard the term “common sense.” Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com) offers two definitions of the term:
1. Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
2. The ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.

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