Author: Lee Marchessault, CUSP

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The Field Observation: A Proactive Safety Methodology

Electrical utilities are among the most hazardous industries in which to work. And since the early days of power distribution, utilities have investigated and analyzed fatalities and other incidents in an effort to prevent recurrences. One proven way to help verify and measure the effectiveness of an organization’s safety efforts is to conduct field personnel observations – or, in OSHA terminology, “inspections” – on a consistent basis. Conducting these observations enables the organization to take a firsthand look at what is going on in the field, as well as document employees’ demonstration...

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Are Your Substations Safe?

Electrical power is a critical service that profoundly affects our daily lives. Without it, we would lose cellphone service, safety on city streets would be compromised because lights would not work, and the quality of life as we know it would diminish significantly. We would have to close schools and hospitals, and most jobs would be eliminated. Much of our food supply also would be critically impacted. To continue living the life we are accustomed to – and have come to expect – we must have a reliable source of electricity, which starts with generation. Outside the generation station, power...

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Making Sense of Protection Requirements for Open-Air Arc Flash Hazards

Electric utility workers face complex, high-risk electrical hazards nearly every day. Information about shock hazards – which may come from impressed voltage, residual energy, induction, objectionable current flow in a grounding system or stored energy – has been taught to many of us for quite some time, as have the methods of assessing them. On the other hand, arc flash hazard assessments are still relatively new to us. In the past, most of us knew that an arc flash could potentially occur during the course of performing our tasks, but the level of the flash and the PPE requirements...

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Properly Securing Vehicle Cargo is Serious Business

Utility workers are required to receive electrical safety training on a variety of topics, including grounding, switching and tagging, de-energizing, live-line work, pole-top rescue and job briefings. Unfortunately, there are some training topics – like how to properly secure loads on vehicles – that are not always given the attention they deserve. For instance, when I first passed my commercial driver’s license test 25 years ago, I had to undergo training on proper inspection of commercial vehicles, physical limitations, record keeping and proper driving techniques. Part of the training discussion...

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The Power of an Effective Field Observation Program

Electric utilities are among the most hazardous industries in which to work. This was recognized in the early days of electric power distribution when extremely high fatality rates occurred. Since those days, utilities have examined injuries and fatalities to learn how to prevent others. The examination process has included analyzing possible hazards, mitigating the identified hazards to a safe level of acceptable risk, creating policies and procedures, developing and providing protective equipment, and making the workplace as safe as it can be … or has it? Unless we make a conscious effort...

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