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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.

Tagged in: Safety Management
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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.

Tagged in: Management Toolbox
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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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Storytelling as a Management Tool

Never before have facts been so easily accessible. For instance, enter the phrase “utility injury statistics” into Google, and you’ll immediately have access to approximately 8 million search results. Facts, however, don’t persuade people to take action, and when people’s lives are at stake, managers must use all of the tools available to them to help encourage and improve safe work practices. Storytelling is one teaching and persuasion tool getting increasing attention in the workplace, and following are four powerful ways it can assist you in your management career.

Tagged in: Management Toolbox
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Drones and the Future of Tower Safety

My entire adult career has been dedicated to electronic communications and related safety issues. When I was an adjunct professor at American River College in Sacramento, Calif., I regularly told my students to constantly strive for efficiency in the safest way possible. That same statement has also been my principal motivation in working to develop an idea to use drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), to eliminate the most dangerous aspect of tower climbing – how best to attach a line on the structure that enables all workers to climb while meeting the 100 percent attachment regulation required in OSHA’s new final rule. In my position as an instructor at Safety One Training International, which provides safety training for utility and telecommunications professionals out of its headquarters in Littleton, Colo., I’ve been able to take this idea to new heights, so to speak.

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Photovoltaic Solar Safety Management for Utilities

Most people who have worked in the electric utility industry are familiar with the safety concerns and applicable safety regulations associated with conventional nuclear and fossil electric power generation. Over the past several years, however, there has been an increase in the number of new generating facilities constructed across the U.S. that incorporate renewable technologies such as solar, wind and biomass. This article will provide a basic overview of one of these technologies – utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar – along with discussion of related safety considerations.

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From its infancy in the late 1970s and early 1980s until now, behavior-based safety (BBS) has been a source of conflict in the safety profession, among company and union leadership, and even between practitioners. Nonetheless, after 30-plus years of use at companies that run the gamut of industries in dozens of countries around the world, it seems safe to assume that the theory and practice of BBS are here to stay. And since that is the case, this reality begs several questions. What is it about the BBS system that companies, safety professionals and practitioners find appealing? What are the criticisms of BBS and are they valid? How have the proponents of BBS answered them? How is BBS different or better than it was 30 or even 20 years ago? What is its future?

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Welcome to the first in a three-part series about arborist safety. In the second and third parts of the series, we will take a look at tree-felling and cutting methods as well as storm response techniques for utility workers. This first article, however, will give readers a broad overview of chainsaw safety, including powerful statistics, reasons why chainsaw operators struggle to follow safe work practices, and the essential education and training for workers who engage in chainsaw-related activities.

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Stringing wire in any environment can quickly go wrong. Dropped conductors can wreak havoc if precautions are not taken. In an energized environment, the result of losing control or dropping conductors has a greatly magnified risk.

Guard structures are the first type of protection conventionally used to prevent contact with energized lines. Ideally, guard structures are positioned so that whether it’s the unexpected loss of stringing tension or something as major as a dropped conductor, the conductor being pulled will not make contact with the energized lines. There are other requirements, too, one being non-automatic setting of breakers for the lines being crossed if it is not possible to de-energize and ground them.

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It’s official: Flame-resistant clothing is now considered PPE, and employers are required to furnish it to employees when there is a chance that they may be exposed to electric arcs or flames. This change has been a long time coming as the industry has been in limbo for years. A number of forward-thinking companies have been furnishing arc-rated FR clothing to their employees for some time, while others have waited for regulations to require them to do so. The company from which I retired as well as other large investor-owned utilities have uniform policies that incorporated arc-rated FR clothing years ago.

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Q: I can't seem to clarify what U.S. Department of Transportation hours-of-service rules apply to utility workers. Are we exempt from the rules?

A: The university studies and experience of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that prompted the hours-of-service rules do have some value to us as an industry with drivers. The data used to form the rules shows that fatigue affects performance. This is a model that can help us to establish safe practices with our drivers. However, there is good reasoning for exemptions when the work we do ensures electrical service for users that helps keep them safe and healthy. And because of this reasoning, there are utility exemptions for driver logs as well as hours of service, which include time behind the wheel as well as other work performed by a driver. By the way, FMCSA clarifies that when calculating hours of service, line work or any other work for the employer – including work not associated with driving – is classified as on-duty not driving time.

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I was part of a recent training session during which a gentleman from a petroleum refinery made the following statement: “Our culture will eat any program you have for breakfast.” That was such a spot-on comment.

If we believe that one more program is going to fix our organizational safety and efficiency problems, we might be sadly mistaken. We waste far too much time and money on programs to correct specific problems rather than looking more broadly at culture and behavior.

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A lot of safety training is focused on the individual operating in a crew setting, but there are many employees who work alone. How is their safety training different? If you answered that their safety training is not and should not be different, you are correct. However, their work environment is different from a crew’s work environment because they must rely solely on themselves to stay safe. Staying safe on the job requires constant vigilance by every employee, which includes utilizing the best practice of performing a detailed job briefing, tailboard or toolbox talk before starting work.

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