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It will soon be that time of year when wind speeds increase all across the U.S. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wind speeds typically increase in January, peak throughout March and April, and decrease during the summer months. The increase in wind speeds creates high wind conditions that, if not properly planned for, can potentially result in worker injury and equipment damage on job sites.

Defining High Wind Conditions
High wind conditions are often a result of straight-line winds and are different from high winds caused by a tornado. Straight-line winds can occur any time of day or night, during thunderstorms or on perfectly sunny days. These types of winds are typically sustained winds from 10 to 40 mph that can suddenly gust up to 50 mph or more at any moment.

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Stringing Best Practices: Mesh Grips vs. Preforms

When you ask lineworkers what differentiates their work from general construction, it’s not surprising that they will typically say they work with big lines at high voltages. Lineworkers take pride in keeping lines up and fixing them when they come down. We know that lines do come down inadvertently, and we also know that the losses resulting from such incidents can be substantial. No amount of regulation will combat these problems, so that’s where best practices come into play. Best practices establish the most common methods to achieve operational success within the parameters of regulations, provide work techniques inclusive of the collective trade experience and debunk field-level work practices that counter those efforts.

Each year thousands of miles are strung, and many lineworkers have likely wondered how many lines have dropped due to misaligned or misapplied practices. In fact, we asked this same question at Allteck, which prompted research into the matter; our goal was to compile the best working knowledge about some stringing problems commonly encountered by workers in the field. The prevention strategies regarding this topic appeared limited, and most stringing information related to post-incident countermeasures, such as the bonded and grounded stringing site.

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Understanding Safety Culture Through Perception Surveys

If you asked workers at your company who is responsible for their safety, how do you think they would answer that question? Would they say the safety director is responsible, or would they tell you they’re personally responsible for their own safety? You might be surprised by the answers you receive. While the reality is that we are all responsible for our own safety, some employees may perceive that the safety director bears that responsibility.

What if you asked them about your safety program in general? Do employees think it’s strong or weak? Again, you may receive answers that widely vary. For example, management may perceive the company’s safety program to be among the best in the industry because very few accidents have occurred. On the other hand, field employees may feel like no one cares about them or their safety.

In a nutshell, an employee’s perceptions often dictate his or her attitude toward on-the-job safety. And if perceptions about safety in your organization differ greatly from employee to employee, this can indicate that your company’s safety culture isn’t as strong as it needs to be.

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RF Safety for Utility Workers

Utility workers could be exposed to radiofrequency (RF) radiation every day and not even be aware of it. With today’s telecommunications explosion, even utility poles are housing cellular systems such as antennas and distributed antenna systems. And yet, the rapid growth rate of RF technology does not change the fact that we are still obligated to follow the laws and comply with OSHA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements, especially when dealing with RF radiation exposure limits.

Required Training
Not surprisingly, training is the best route to both RF safety and rule compliance. Anyone who enters a telecom tower site, or who works around antennas located on or near utility poles and building rooftops, must have received training that meets the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.268(c), and they must also be properly protected from any RF radiation emitted from antennas. Appropriate RF safety training will teach workers to recognize RF radiation hazards and control their exposure.

Unfortunately, many utility workers have not yet been fully trained in RF safety because their employers do not realize the training requirements nor the true dangers of RF radiation. Whatever the case, now is the best time to ensure workers complete training. They must know what they could be potentially exposed to and how to protect themselves. In fact, in the FCC’s June 4, 2013 final rule (see www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-04/pdf/2013-12716.pdf), the commission states that individuals “must receive written and/or verbal information and notification (for example, using signs) concerning their exposure potential and appropriate means available to mitigate their exposure.” Additionally, the FCC stated, individuals exposed as a consequence of their employment must have appropriate training regarding work practices that will ensure that that they are “fully aware of the potential for exposure and can exercise control over their exposure.” The update goes on to note that education is the key to a successful RF compliance program.

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2015 USOLN Safety Award Winners Announced

On September 28, the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network held its annual awards ceremony at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Louisville, Ky. During the event, USOLN board members presented the John McRae Safety Leadership Award to Robert “Bo” Maryyanek, CSP, CUSP, MBA, and the Carolyn Alkire Safety Advocate Award to David McPeak, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM, CUSP. Maryyanek currently serves as eastern regional safety manager for Asplundh Construction Corp. McPeak is director of corporate safety programs at Pike Enterprises LLC, as well as director of Stay Safe Solutions LLC.

The John McRae Safety Leadership Award was created to honor McRae, a fourth-generation lineman who enjoyed a 42-year career before passing away July 27, 2010. He was active in the military reserves for nearly 30 years and instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts Municipal Lineman’s Association. McRae, a member of San Diego’s IBEW Local 465, spoke across the country about electrical training and went on to assist in the launch of Incident Prevention magazine.

Maryyanek was chosen to receive this award because of his commitment to workplace safety and heavy investment of time and energy in industry safety organizations including the USOLN. “To personally know Bo is to understand his passion for safety,” said Carla Housh, USOLN executive director and publisher of Incident Prevention magazine. “His intensity and dedication to building a safer utility work environment come straight from the heart. Bo is a tremendous supporter of the Certified Utility Safety Professional program, and he also had the pleasure of knowing John McRae as a member of IUOTA. I know John would be extremely pleased that Bo is the 2015 recipient of his namesake award.”

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Over the years I spent as a lineman, I did my share of underground installation and maintenance work. During my years in safety, I have seen the expansion of safety processes associated with underground, especially in response to the most recent OSHA changes. Not all of the changes have been effective, and that’s why we’re now going to spend some time addressing several underground safety questions Incident Prevention frequently receives. We’ll look at the rules and practices and what works from a practical perspective.

Handling URD Neutrals
This will not come as news to most of you, but for more than 60 years we have been splicing URD concentric neutrals during underground repairs without isolating the neutral or bonding across the open neutral in the ditch. That is something no lineworker would do on an overhead neutral, yet hardly any readers will be able to recall a time when someone was injured making neutrals in URD. Now, as OSHA’s language and expectations are more defined regarding grounding for personal protection, industry better recognizes current flowing in grounded systems, and employers are looking for ways to create equipotential and grounding during underground maintenance. For the most part, it’s not going well. The two questions I hear most are, why should we ground and how do we do it?

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OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I and 1926 Subpart E cover the requirements of personal protective and lifesaving equipment. With the publication of OSHA’s final rule in April 2014, the general industry and construction standards are now essentially the same for electric utilities, and there are few if any differences in the PPE required by each standard.

In addition to OSHA’s regulatory standards, there are ANSI/ASTM and other consensus standards that govern the manufacturing, type and ratings for all PPE. These consensus standards change as the industry evolves and PPE improves. All PPE should meet the most recent standard requirements. In the remainder of this article, we will examine OSHA’s PPE requirements for electric utility workers, as well as some of the latest consensus standard requirements.

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Q: I’ve been reading ASTM 855, IEEE 1048 and the National Electrical Code, and I’m a little confused by the practice of grounding through a switch. Can you help me better understand this?

A: In transmission/distribution applications, there is no issue with grounding through a switch. To explain, we always have to ask whether the issue is grounding through (in the path) a switch or grounding (by way of closing) a switch. The application may sound the same, but it depends on which standard you read. Our subject matter experts think the confusion lies in the well-known NEC rules, which require permanent installations to have a connection-free path for the ground electrode conductor at the service entrance of an electrical system. According to the code, grounds – except in some specialty connections – cannot be disconnected through operation of a switch or breaker contact. ASTM 855 is an equipment manufacturer's standard that has no application to utility practices in the field other than being used as a guide for shop construction, sizing, rating and assembly of personal protective grounds. IEEE 1048 does address the value of having the grounding switches closed when de-energizing a system for work; that ground switch is a very low-resistance path to earth at the feeder or transmission bus source that will lower fault current in an accidental or inadvertent energizing of the source. The ground switch in the station is also a path to ground that will divide and help reduce the amount of induction current on a circuit. Closing the switch can help reduce induction current at a work location, depending on how far apart the work location and the ground switch are.

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December 2015 Management Toolbox

Personal Development Exercises for Business Executives
As a manager in your organization, part of your role is to guide the development of others and encourage them to strive for excellence. But in order to successfully help others learn and grow in their careers, you also have to focus on your own development. As 2015 comes to a close, following are some activities you can resolve to engage in next year to become a better, stronger leader and role model.

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It’s happened to most of us. We’re at a job site and someone gets hurt. We’re not sure how badly the employee is hurt or if we should call 911. Sometimes when an incident occurs, we think it might be better to take the injured employee to a care facility rather than call 911 for emergency assistance. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, there are two simple guidelines to help you decide what to do. First and foremost, remember to do no further harm. If there is any chance that you could cause the employee additional injury by taking him or her to get medical care, call 911 for professional help at the job site. Second, there are three types of injuries that always necessitate medical personnel capable of advanced care. Always call 911 when any of the following are involved.

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Many OSHA regulations call for someone on the job site to make sure that people, equipment and the site don’t come together in the wrong way. Generally known as a “spotter,” this person provides guidance so people don’t get hurt and things don’t get damaged.

However, the role rarely gets the respect or attention it deserves. Most people think that being a spotter is an easy job that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower, so the task is often handed to the “low man” on the site, or assigned to someone who’s not particularly busy that day. Either way, the person performing the role gets little – if any – preparation or training.

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“I really like change as long as it is happening to someone else.” Have you ever heard that old saying? Well, for quite some time we have been talking about certain changes making their way to our industry, and now they are finally here. As utility workers, we sometimes complain about changes in our work environment, especially some of the more recent ones. For example, take the new OSHA fall protection regulations. Now we can no longer free climb and must be secured to a wood pole from 4 feet off the ground.

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In the 1980s, my main job responsibility was “gin-setting” power poles in backyards and rights-of-way in Maryland. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a gin pole is a supported pole that serves as a lifting device; it has a pulley or block and tackle on its upper end to lift loads. Without the luxury of a boom truck, pole-setting was one of the most demanding activities in line work. Over my 37 years of setting poles, some days were more memorable than others. On one occasion, a pole had to be set behind a row house. Access to the work site was so limited that the only solution was to maneuver the pole through the front door of a home, down the hall and out the back door. It was a funny experience because as work was going on, the unit owner and her two children sat on the couch and watched TV, as if we weren’t there, until we finished.

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Fundamentals of Substation Rescue Plans

I’ve worked in substations for most of my adult life, and I’ve picked up a few things along the way. Some were the result of good experiences, while others I learned through less than ideal circumstances. In this article, I want to share with you what I learned from my first experience with confined space rescue in a substation.

It was mid-August of 1983 in Florida and the outside temperature was in the high 90s. Inside the 69/13-kV transformer, the temperature was well over 100 degrees. Two journeymen were conducting an inspection inside the transformer when they discovered a problem in the winding. They called the lead man in to take a look. One of the journeymen climbed out of the transformer and the lead man climbed down to the bottom. He was in there for about 20 minutes, and as he began to climb out, his leg got stuck and he soon became claustrophobic and panicky.

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Recruiting and Training the Next Generation

The electric utility industry has a big problem on its hands. A great number of lineworkers born between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s either have reached or are nearing retirement age. As these individuals age out of the workforce, the industry will continue to experience an inevitable downturn of knowledge and talent.

The proof is in the numbers. According to a February 2015 report in Power Engineering magazine (see www.power-eng.com/articles/npi/print/volume-8/issue-1/nucleus/who-will-replace-nuclear-power-s-aging-work-force.html), approximately 20 percent of workers at U.S. electric and natural gas utilities are currently eligible for retirement, and 40 percent will be eligible in the next five years. The report also cited U.S. Department of Labor statistics, which indicate that up to 50 percent of the country’s utility workforce will retire in the next five to 10 years.

The burning question is, who’s going to step in to replace these workers? And once they’re hired, what’s the best way to go about training them to safely perform their job tasks?

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Shifting Your Organizational Safety Culture

In one way or another, culture helps to shape nearly everything that happens within an organization, from shortcuts taken by shift workers to budget cuts made by managers. As important as it is, though, it can seem equally as confusing and hard to control. Culture appears to emerge as an unexpected byproduct of organizational minutiae: A brief comment made by a manager, misinterpreted by direct reports, propagated during water cooler conversations and compounded with otherwise unrelated management decisions to downsize, outsource, reassign, promote, terminate and so on.

Culture can either grow wild and unmanaged – unpredictably influencing employee performance and elevating risk – or it can be understood and deliberately shaped to ensure that employees uphold the organization’s safety values.

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Investigating Industrial Hygiene at Salt River Project

At Salt River Project, a large utility based in metropolitan Phoenix, there are a great variety of jobs, situations, risks and exposures that must be addressed, assessed and controlled. Journeymen lineworkers labor in heat approaching 120 degrees on the desert floor, while hydrologists trudge around in near-zero-degree weather to examine snowpack on the mountainous Mogollon Rim. A pressman needs a hearing assessment to judge the impacts of a six-color press, while electronics technicians must be evaluated for radio-frequency exposure from telecommunications equipment. A warehouseman at a power plant in the high desert prairie requires education about hantavirus exposure from deer mice, while a call center representative needs an ergonomic evaluation to guard against back and joint issues.

So, while the term “industrial hygienist” may conjure visions of a W. Edwards Deming-like technician scrutinizing manufacturing processes, nothing could be further from the truth at SRP. Industrial hygiene encompasses scores of jobs within the water, power and telecommunications utility that serves much of central Arizona. Employees work in and around dams, irrigation ditches, power plants, high-voltage lines, state-of-the-art facilities and legacy buildings dating back to the Truman administration. Industrial hygienists assess risks for jobs that didn’t exist a year ago as well as occupations that have been in existence since SRP was founded in 1903.

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Author’s Note: Before we get to the article, I want to thank the members of Incident Prevention’s editorial advisory board for their help in assembling this installment of “Train the Trainer 101.” They help me keep my head on straight, especially when I have ideas that are way outside the box. Even though I am also on the board, they still hold me to high standards of accountability and accuracy. These folks are a great asset to iP and make better writers of everyone who contributes to the publication.

Over the past year, iP subject matter experts have fielded many questions about how to meet the minimum approach distance (MAD) and arc flash (AF) rules published by OSHA in the 2014 final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V. The questions about MAD came from a variety of perspectives, but they were primarily submitted by contractors trying to facilitate the information transfer now required by 1910.269(a)(3) and 1926.950(c). Without information about a system’s fault characteristics, the contractor cannot determine MAD, either by calculation or via the tables in 1910.269 Appendix B and Appendix B to 1926 Subpart V. That means the contractors must fall back on the sometimes absurd provisions of alternative tables R-7 through R-9. In my work for a contractor, we have found that those alternative tables can make some work – particularly transmission work – very difficult, if not impossible, especially when faced with compact lattice structures or old construction standards on wood poles. For AF programs, that lack of information may be overcome effectively by experienced guesswork, but compliance by guesswork cannot be defended when the compliance safety and health officer asks how you determined the AF compliance requirements.

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It’s now been 18 months since OSHA’s final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V was published. For the most part, the dust has settled and the industry has started to adjust to the requirements of the new standard. However, questions still abound regarding certain issues, and I’d like to address two of them – employee training and host-contractor information transfer – in this installment of “Voice of Experience.”

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Q: Is equipotential grounding now a personal protective grounding method required by OSHA?

A: The answer is yes, even though OSHA doesn’t specifically say so in terms we easily understand. The terminology isn't OSHA's fault. As an industry, we adopt certain familiar ways of describing or discussing things and simply don't recognize what OSHA is trying to communicate unless we do some diligent research. In 29 CFR 1910.269(n)(3), OSHA requires arrangement of grounds to protect employees without using the word “equipotential.” The title of the rule, however, is “Equipotential zone.”

The full text of 1910.269(n)(3) states, “Temporary protective grounds shall be placed at such locations and arranged in such a manner that the employer can demonstrate will prevent each employee from being exposed to hazardous differences in electric potential.” By definition, that is equipotential grounding.

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