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Recent blog posts

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.

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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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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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