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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…

Mechanical Equipment Rules for Qualified Workers

Workers performing tasks involving mechanical equipment near energized power lines and equipment have exposure to hazardous step and touch potentials. In the preamble to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, the agency describes 19 fatalities that involved derrick trucks, aerial lifts and other machines. These fatalities occurred when contact was made between live parts and mechanical equipment.  OSHA’s mechanical equipment standard was developed specifically to apply to operations performed by qualified workers when tasks are performed near energized power lines and equipment. Rules th…

The Case for Enhanced First-Aid Training for Lineworkers

Imagine you are working in a remote wilderness area on difficult terrain. The job involves setting poles, running wires, trimming trees, operating heavy machinery and working at elevation in track bucket trucks or hooks on a pole. The potential for serious injury is present, and extrication will be difficult if an injury occurs.  This scenario begs the question, are basic first-aid and CPR training enough for a situation like this? Should enhanced first-aid training be considered for remote utility work? Could training some of our lineworkers in advanced first aid help them more effectivel…

| Jim Vaughn, CUSP |

August – September 2022 Q&A

Q: Is it ever OK to put a man basket on a crane? My understanding is that OSHA 1926.1400, “Cranes and Derricks in Construction,” states doing so is prohibited.   A: For our readers, the rule you are referring to is 29 CFR 1926.1431(a), which begins, “The use of equipment to hoist employees is prohibited …” The rule goes on to list the basis for exceptions. For line construction, an exception centers around two provisions: the need for access and safety. In a transmission corridor, there are often parallel circuits. An articulating boom in a conventional bucket truck would put the boom elbo…

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture’

Not long ago, Utility Business Media Inc. published my book, “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle.” Researching and writing the book helped me learn to appreciate and apply knowledge and wisdom from other writers. In this article, I want to share some highlights from “The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture,” a book recently written by Rod Courtney, CUSP, who also serves as a board member for the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network. I’ve heard him speak on this topic many times and highly recommend you read his book. The Habits Now, let’s take a look at the eight habits t…

90% of Safety Rules are Written for 10% of the People

Ninety percent of all safety rules are written for only 10% of a company’s workers. Now, that is a bold statement, particularly from someone like me, who has been involved in making safety rules for over 30 years. First, let’s take a minute to look at how safety rules have historically been made. Then I will explain my bold statement. In the old days, a company had a group of safety people who developed the rules. I was one of these people who looked for holes in safety and devised potential solutions. We safety people then presented our rules to management. If management agreed with …

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to touch a hot stove, and, as they get older, we caution them not to drink too many happy hour specials. We have been there, done that, and we know the results were not always ideal. But, as with most things, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, I am currently teaching my youngest child to drive. This is m…

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘It’s Your Ship’

During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on the bestselling “It’s Your Ship” by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff. I hope you find this article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “It’s Your Ship” and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development. Overview Understanding. That’s a one-word summary of why you should read this book and what you wil…

June – July 2022 Q&A

Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any facility can do is to consult a chemist, chemical engineer or fire science specialist to survey and equip your flammable operations. The simple explanation has to do with volatility, which is how easily a chemical vaporizes and then how flammable that vapor becomes and at what temperature. Every chemical in the …

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize these two words often accounts for why we have difficulty understanding their differences when it comes to OSHA standards. The enclosed spaces standard is one of the most misinterpreted standards in 29 CFR 1910.269. This standard is often used by utilities and contractors in lieu of the permit-requ…

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection workers on the street can get out of the resources available. Yet even with all our preparations, there is always a worst-case event dramatized by a recent news photo of an errant car, upside down on a bucket truck that was on a right-of-way well off the highway. It is the reason that OSHA and other …

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, and welcoming bad news as an opportunity for improvement, not for implementing discipline. The company is well on their way to that destination, and it’s due in no small part to their employees’ dedication to their j…

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