Control High-Energy Hazards to Help Reduce Serious Injuries and Fatalities

Reducing and eliminating serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) remains a challenge throughout the utility industry. The work required to generate, transmit and distribute electricity and gas often places workers near hazards that cannot be completely eliminated. Workers must be able to safely perform essential work without contacting or exposing themselves to sources of high energy.

Working Safely from Elevated Heights

Each year, OSHA reveals which of its regulations are most violated by employers across the U.S., based on the number of citations given. Violations of fall protection regulations are routinely in the top 10. Given that this is a widespread issue, I’m going to use this month’s Tailgate Topic to provide a brief overview of typical fall hazards as well as some protective systems you and your company can use.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required controls for worker safety. Note: Live-line barehand work, also found within the standard, is not addressed in this article. Pole and Tower Failures Pole and tower failures can easily occur due to additional or unbalanced stresses created during climbing and the installation or removal of equi…

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, there was one foreman in particular who we all thought was one of the best to work for. His name was John Lane, and he’d been a lineman before I started with the company in 1967. I worked with him as an apprentice on a cut-in truck that he referred to as “South Macon Power and Light.” John was the most …

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to chapter five. On top of that, I just published my second book – “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle: Innovative and Practical Insights on the Art of Safety” – which I was really excited to promote in this issue of Incident Prevention magazine. Because of you, I can’t do that; instead, I …

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org), all energy sectors reported hiring difficulties: “Lack of experience, training, or technical skills were again cited as the top reasons for hiring difficulty by employers across all five surveyed sectors. The need for technical training and certifications was also frequently cited, implying the nee…

Thermal Protection for Electrical Work

Thermal protective apparel for electrical work appears to have reached a point of inflection from “What needs to be done?” to “How can it be improved?” Looking at the safety standards recently approved for publication,

Understanding Wind Speed Limitations on Utility Equipment

The question about what’s permitted for operating aerial devices and digger derricks in high winds is one that comes up frequently with users. Utility crews often must deal with working in wind. Trouble trucks responding during storm recovery, transmission operations to place visibility balls on lines and working above rooflines in urban locations are just a few examples. Plus, some areas of the country experience high winds regularly or seasonally. While OSHA restricts use of material-handling aerial devices and digger derricks in winds greater than 30 mph, the reality is that both OSHA…

| Rod Courtney, CUSP |

The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture

I began writing my new book – “The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture” – in 2004 while working as a civilian contractor for Kellogg Brown & Root in Iraq. I was the area HSE manager for a large portion of the Logistical Civilian Augmentation Program #3 Project. Our contract required us to hire a certain percentage of local national employees (Iraqis) to help build bases for the U.S. military and coalition forces. This was to help the local economy and to teach the Iraqi people new skills that they could use once we were gone. In theory, this was a great idea; in reality, howev…

| Bob Dunderdale, CUSP |

5 Safety Factors to Consider in Unfamiliar Territory

On a routine workday, it’s likely that you are in a familiar place. The people and the system around you? They’re probably familiar, too. But when we as lineworkers are asked to respond to storms or other emergencies via mutual aid or a storm call, all that can change quickly. Suddenly, we may find ourselves in unfamiliar territory. So, in this month’s Tailgate Topic, let’s review five safety factors we must consider when on a foreign property.

Getting Safety Communications Right with SBAR

Utility workers know getting communications right about safety – especially in pre-work discussions such as job hazard analyses, plans of the day and tailboards – is vital to going home safe. It can also be difficult to accomplish. However, we have seen firsthand the effectiveness of training lineworkers to use a communications tool called SBAR, which stands for “situation, background, assessment, recommendation.”

Closing the Cracks with the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Slipping through the cracks has become much more difficult for drivers with the 2020 implementation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.  The following scenario paints a picture of how easy it once was for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who violated the FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations to move from job to job and continue to threaten public safety on U.S. roadways. Later in this article, we will explore requirements and responsibilities related to the clearinghouse.  The Scenario In March 2019, John Doe, a CDL h…

Beyond Behavior-Based Safety: Why Traditional Safety Practices are No Longer Enough

Traditional safety management practices are built on the assumption that human behavior is rational and occurs primarily through conscious decision-making. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are, in fact, irrational by nature, creatures of habit and deeply influenced by past experiences. To create the next step change in the practice of occupational safety, we must revisit existing paradigms defining it, revise them to better align with research emerging from advancements in neuroscience, and adapt to practice realigned strategies of an affective nature. Irrational by Nature In 2…

Using a Learning Management System to Augment Lineworker Training

“You can’t learn how to climb a pole by looking at a computer screen.”  That’s a sentence that has been repeatedly used in our industry to discredit web-based learning. And it’s true; in any skilled trade, neither distance learning nor classroom work alone can replace the skills and confidence gained from practicing tasks and building up muscle memory in the field. But does that mean there’s no place for distance learning? Absolutely not. When properly used to augment a field skills training program, online training can speed the development of skills, make your training program more effic…

The Skinny on Confined Spaces

There are rules in our industry. We, as utility or utility contractor employers, must follow the rules for two reasons. The first reason is that, if we don’t follow the rules, we get into trouble with the regulatory authorities. The second and more important reason is that the rules are in place to protect employees from injury or death. So it is with confined spaces. Confined spaces can and have killed workers. Confined space is a confusing issue among many of our colleagues and one I get questions about all the time. In fact, a recent inquiry about confined spaces in wind generation spur…

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