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Recent blog posts
Understanding OSHA Electric Power Training Requirements

Are your employees performing work on or near electric power generation, transmission or distribution facilities? If so, whether they are performing electrical or nonelectrical work, electrical training is required. The training provided must ensure employees can identify electrical hazards and employ safe work methods to remove or control the hazards for their safety.

Covered Work
To simplify the application of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, many companies use the term “covered work,” which includes work areas with electrical system hazards. For example, the construction of a power plant is the same as general building construction until the plant begins startup and commissioning. Once electrical systems are started, the job tasks become covered work due to the additional electrical system hazards.

Another example is the construction of a substation. Substation construction is similar to general building construction until the substation becomes energized or is being built in an area with transmission lines. Consider the difference between a substation built in an open field with no transmission lines and a substation built under transmission lines. Although each substation has hazards, the substation under the transmission lines has electrical hazards that would not be found in the substation built in an open field. The substation built under transmission lines is considered covered work due to the electrical system hazards.

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Making the Switch

It is an undisputed and well-known fact that workers’ use of manual tools increases repetitive movement, introduces awkward working postures and elevates the risk of ergonomic injuries and illnesses. Throughout the past decade, the utility industry has done a great job of recognizing these ergonomic safety issues, and a number of utility tool manufacturers have responded by developing new battery-operated tools and tool features that address them. Slowly but surely, ergonomic safety is increasing in the workplace as investor-owned utilities, contractors, cooperatives and municipalities make the switch from manual to battery-operated tools.

However, even with the progress that’s been made, there are many workers who are still using manual cutting and crimping methods on job sites across the country, which means those individuals face a greater likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sciatica, sprains, strains, soft tissue damage and other injuries.

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among upper body injuries involving the repetitive use of tools, approximately 61 percent involve injury to the hands and wrists, 20 percent involve injury to the shoulders, 10 percent involve injury to the arms and 9 percent involve injury to the trunk and back. Signs of these of musculoskeletal disorders include decreased range of motion, decreased grip strength, swelling, cramping and loss of function. Other symptoms of these injuries include numbness, pain, tingling and stiffness.

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How to Navigate the FR Clothing Marketplace

When the original version of the OSHA 1910.269 standard was published, flame-resistant (FR) clothing wasn’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known, but the standard only required that an employer not allow an employee to wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury sustained by the employee. This was covered under 1910.269(l)(6)(iii). The rule eliminated the use of garments constructed with synthetics such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate, which could melt and drip, and led to the adoption of clothing made with 100 percent cotton. The problem was that non-FR cotton – once exposed to thermal energies beyond its ignition point – will ignite and continue to burn, thus adding to an injury.

Now that the much-anticipated revisions to the 1910.269 standard have been published, they have introduced a number of new challenges to the electric utility industry and those entrusted with their employees’ safety. Specifically, page 20317 of the final rule (see www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-04-11/pdf/2013-29579.pdf) states that the “new provisions for protection from electric arcs include new requirements for the employer to: Assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flames or from electric arcs, make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed, ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by employees is flame resistant under certain conditions, and generally ensure that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.”

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Arrive Alive

On a clear, sunny day following a fierce thunderstorm the night before, Mark drove off to work. The schedule for the day was busy with repairing downed lines in several heavily trafficked neighborhoods followed by some scheduled maintenance at a router station. Mark met up with his crew, reviewed the schedule and then the team headed out for what they expected to be a long day. The crew was experienced, though, so Mark felt confident they would be able to complete their list of tasks.

In the driver’s seat of the crew cab on the way to repairing the downed lines, Mark thought about the task ahead; it would pose a challenge, but he and his team knew the drill and felt comfortable navigating to the assigned areas. In fact, he had grown up in one of the neighborhoods on their route and knew a few shortcuts. They were somewhat off the mapped routes, but Mark and the rest of the crew felt they could save some time by following the shortcuts. Indeed, the crew did save some time and found themselves a bit ahead of schedule.

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I recently spent several weeks studying an incident, trying to understand how it had happened and – more importantly – how it could have been prevented. Maybe the answer was associated with human performance, or maybe culture, or it could have been procedures, or ... well, maybe it could have been associated with any number of things. In other words, even with all of my experience and training, I had a hard time finding the singular root cause. This dilemma made me recall a question I missed on an engineer-in-training exam I took in the 1970s. The question had ladder diagrams and loop schematics and required me to determine why indicator light I-107 was off. After a long study of the supporting documents and employing all of my superior intellect, I proudly answered the question 100 miles off. Why? The correct answer was, “The lamp was burned out”; this is probably why I never became an engineer.

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In recent months Incident Prevention has received several questions about underground (UD) padmount transformers, so in this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I’d like to take the time to cover the general aspects of these types of transformers.

To begin, there are a few different types of single-phase and three-phase UD padmounts: live front with exposed live primary parts, 600-amp bolt-on elbows and loop feed with bushings and elbows. All of these transformers are available in several voltage ranges.

The proper PPE must be worn when an employee is opening, entering and working on energized transformers. This includes a rated hard hat, eye and face protection, rubber gloves, heavy leather boots and arc-rated FR clothing. Additionally, all PPE must be worn by any employee exposed to energized equipment and cables until the transformer has been de-energized and checked for the absence of voltage, and all exposed parts have been properly grounded.

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Q: Are there any changes to steel-toe boot requirements for lineworkers in the recently revised OSHA 1910.269 standard?

A: OSHA still leaves it to employers to decide whether hard-toe or protective footwear is required. As with all other PPE, the decision should be made based on risks and history. Wearing safety footwear is not required by the PPE rule. However, what is required in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.136, “Foot protection,” is a mandatory assessment of the work environment. The rule states that the employer “shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or when the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard, that remains after the employer takes other necessary protective measures.”

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June 2015 Management Toolbox

Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback
Arguably the most common types of workplace performance reviews are those that involve only supervisors and their direct reports. However, there is another type of appraisal system that continues to gain in popularity: 360-degree feedback, in which individuals receive input about their performance from co-workers at all levels of the company, including supervisors, peers, subordinates and sometimes even external sources.

A number of benefits can be derived from the use of this type of feedback. Perhaps chief among them is the opportunity for employees to gain a more insightful, well-rounded view of their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. When an individual is only being assessed by his or her direct manager, the outcome may not be as impactful or meaningful, and negative feedback can potentially lead to a rift in the supervisor-employee relationship. In a 360-degree feedback environment, in which performance data is often collected anonymously, feedback from a number of people may help employees discover blind spots and identify skills they need to acquire or better develop. Anonymity, however, is one of the downsides of 360-degree feedback; because employees don’t know who made particular statements, they can’t follow up to clarify and learn more about those statements. However, this type of feedback can be conducted via an open format that allows for discussion among workers.

Tagged in: Management Toolbox
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Utility workers should be familiar with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(c) and 1926.952, which require a job briefing before work begins. OSHA expects each briefing to include a discussion of hazards, work procedures, any special precautions, controls for energy sources and personal protective equipment needed for safe work.

Performing such briefings provides basic regulatory compliance, but taking an additional step significantly improves worker safety. Prudent electric power transmission and distribution providers and contractors require crews on their job sites to perform a task hazard analysis (THA) as part of the job briefing process. This approach is increasingly being recognized as a best practice for the industry.

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Not long ago I ran into an old acquaintance I had not spoken to in more than 25 years. We shook hands and wondered aloud at where the last couple decades had gone. As we were reminiscing, my friend eventually asked what I do for a living. I told him that I’m currently a division maintenance manager for Western Area Power Administration. I also mentioned that, before becoming a manager, I had spent a good portion of my career as an IBEW electric utility distribution and transmission journeyman lineman and foreman.

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Some time ago, two of my students and I observed as two operators replaced fuses on a 6.9-kV electrical bus. Both operators were new to this task that had only recently been turned over to them from their company’s electrical department. When my students and I approached the bus from the front side, I noticed that it was energized. We started our observation in a bus cubicle where the breaker was racked out and de-energized. The operators replaced fuses in a compartment above the breaker cubicle without physically opening the breaker cubicle door, only the compartment above. This was accomplished using gloves for PPE. Once the task was completed, the operators went to the back side of the bus. They began to open the large back door of another breaker cubicle, and at that point the hair on my arms stood up and the little voice inside my head asked, “Isn’t that breaker cubicle energized? I don’t think this is the same breaker cubicle, and why are they doing this without arc protective gear?”

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OSHA and the Host-Contractor Relationship

The revisions to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(3) and 1926.950(c) regarding information transfer have brought many changes to the relationship between host and contract employers in the utility industry. As OSHA noted in the preamble to the revised standard, the existing Multi-Employer Citation Policy is insufficient to ensure workplace safety, and hence the agency has implemented a host-contract employer information transfer standard. The following article will shine light on what information must be communicated by which employer as well as how it should be communicated.

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The Roller-Coaster Life Cycle of IEEE 1307

IEEE 1307 is a little-known work group that is part of a larger IEEE subcommittee known as ESMOL, which stands for Engineering in the Safety, Maintenance and Operation of Lines. Both IEEE 1307 and ESMOL fall under the umbrella of the IEEE Transmission and Distribution Committee. IEEE 1307 is also the title of a utility fall protection consensus standard that has existed since the early 1990s. In light of the recent OSHA changes to fall protection, it seems appropriate to spread the knowledge about this industry standard.

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Facing Unique Challenges

Established in 1891 by a royal charter from King David Kalakaua, today Hawaiian Electric provides electric service to 95 percent of the state of Hawai‘i. The company has approximately 1.4 million customers on five islands, with Hawaiian Electric providing service to O‘ahu; subsidiary Maui Electric providing service to Maui, Moloka‘i and Lana‘i; and subsidiary Hawai‘i Electric Light providing service to Hawai‘i Island.

The state of Hawai‘i is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles away from the coast of the continental United States. This isolated geographic location, combined with the state’s clean energy initiatives, continues to pose unique challenges to Hawaiian Electric as the company strives to meet the demands of customers and the state’s Public Utilities Commission for lower bills and increased levels of renewable energy.

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The Safety Side Effect: How Good Supervisors Coincidentally Improve Safety

Why do those supervisors whose employees are the most engaged, productive and efficient also seem to elicit the best safety performance? Without having to climb atop their safety soapboxes, boisterously wave the banner of safety or plaster every surface with “Safety First” stickers, their style of leadership coincidentally generates safer performance. It is a side effect of the way that good leaders facilitate and focus the efforts of their subordinate employees. But what, specifically, produces this side effect? As it turns out, supervisors who lead in a certain way create a climate in which their employees are more likely to do something that improves safety: take initiative.

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In February of this year, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) circulated an agreement with OSHA. This agreement – which can be viewed at www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/SubpartV-final-settlement.html – ended the petition for review filed over several new provisions of the April 11, 2014 final rule affecting the general and construction industry rules for transmission, distribution and line clearance work. The agreement as delivered consisted of the final agreement and four exhibits that specified the agreed-upon terms. Exhibit A is a series of 46 questions and answers reflecting more detailed terms of new enforcement dates and general terms of agreement found in exhibits B and C. Since the Q&A in Exhibit A and the scope clarification for line clearance tree trimming in Exhibit D are pretty straightforward, we won't treat them here, but we will attempt to simplify and illuminate as best we can the terms found in exhibits B and C. At the time of this writing, the agreements were not signed by all parties, but we hope and assume the agreement will go forward as written.

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Over the last few months I have delivered several presentations and webinars on the recent revisions to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269. During these sessions, attendees asked for clarification on a variety of topics, particularly arc-rated flame-resistant (FR) clothing. This month’s “Voice of Experience” is devoted to helping readers understand more about the impact of OSHA’s changes on this subject.

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Q: We are a 100-year-old municipality and we have discovered some wood tools and a baker board in a long-overlooked storage area. The tools are rotted and termite-damaged, but the situation raised a question: Is it permitted to use wood hot sticks?

A: We did some checking with manufacturers and most agree that wood tools were first replaced by fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) in the 1950s when utilities started transmission voltages over 240 kV. The first published FRP manufacturing standard was for fiberglass tools in the 1960s. We don't currently know of any consensus standards for wood tools, but the 2009 version of IEEE 516 states that some wood may still be in use. Additionally, OSHA still has a voltage withstand test for wood tools, so we assume that means that it is not prohibited to use wood tools that meet the standard for both electrical and physical integrity.

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April 2015 Management Toolbox

Get a Grip on Group Dynamics
It’s no secret that working on group projects can be stressful and frustrating. You might have someone on your team who doesn’t want to pull their weight or is routinely late for meetings. Group dynamics can be tough enough to handle when you know your team members, but negative feelings can escalate when you’re working in a newly formed group with people you don’t know well or at all, and that can have a serious impact on the work you are trying to accomplish. Here are some tips to consider next time you find yourself in a new group situation.

Tagged in: Management Toolbox
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“Look Up and Live” is a catchphrase used by a utility provider that I know of to educate the public about how to identify overhead utility hazards. However, the phrase isn’t just useful for members of the public. Given the number of overhead incidents that have occurred on utility-related jobs, “Look Up and Live” is a phrase that should be used by all utility companies and workers in order to encourage awareness of overhead hazards. In this month’s Tailgate, I will walk you through an overhead incident that recently occurred and discuss what can be done to avoid similar incidents in the future.

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