Author: Jim Vaughn, CUSP

After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 20 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at

Eating the Elephant

There is an adage applied to seemingly insurmountable jobs: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Of course, being quite literal, my first thought after hearing the adage for the first time was, “Won’t it spoil before you finish?” And that’s the problem with safety management. There’s too much to do and too few people to do it. One way you are assured to fail is to try to do everything at once. Even a plethora of half-measures do not create sustainable change. Change comes from using a methodical approach to solving problems. If you are one of those overworked safety professionals,...

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Getting Shocked on a Structure?

It’s not static. And there’s a reason that’s important. Static is defined at as a stationary electrical charge built up on insulating material. The website defines static as a phenomenon in which charged particles are transferred from one body to another. For example, if two objects are rubbed together, especially if the objects are insulators and the surrounding air is dry, the objects acquire equal and opposite charges. So, why are these definitions of “static” important? Because what you are experiencing is not static – it is induction. Why is that important?...

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August-September 2021 Q&A

Q: We have been reading OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 regarding two-man work, but we cannot find a definition for “routine switching.” We are under the impression that a trained troubleshooter can replace blown fuses in cutouts without a second man. Since it is not specifically mentioned in the exceptions, do we have this wrong? We have old porcelain cutouts on our 4-kV system where you cannot remove the door with a stick and must grab it with your hand, putting the worker within the minimum approach distance of the energized 15-kV overbuild above. This is especially an issue for us at night and in storms....

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Who is Your Customer?

But first, this public service announcement. Summer is here, and if your organization doesn’t already have a policy on energy drinks, you should do the research and develop one. I had long been skeptical of energy drinks because I know that anything that artificially enhances body function always comes with consequences, especially if it’s overused. It’s no different than any prescription drug that supplants the body’s failed functions. There are always side effects. With heat stress or any other kind of stress, the body gets tired, which is how it tells you that it’s exhausted and needs rest...

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Writing an ATV/UTV Operating Safety Policy

This installment of “Train the Trainer 101” is a little bit different than usual in that we are going to write an operating safety policy. There are two goals here: to help you learn to develop policies that make a difference, and to prevent wrecked all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) on your job sites. Over the last few decades, ATVs and UTVs have taken on a significant role in remote site access and large yard transportation. What have also occurred over the last few decades are serious and occasionally fatal injuries from the operation of ATVs and UTVs. In my own...

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June-July 2021 Q&A

Q: We have received some pushback from clients when setting up transmission pulling on EPZ mats that are constructed over crane mats, covered with galvanized cattle panels, overlapped, stapled down and bonded together. We follow a model passed down through our parent company’s safety research committee. Our clients have asked if the installation is certified. We did some research, found ASTM F2715 and are now wondering if that is what we should be doing. Can you help?

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Web Table

A Practical Guide to Using Outrigger Pads

I’ve met a lot of people over the years while working in the utility industry. One of those people is in management with a respected manufacturer of aerial devices. Back when OSHA published 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes and Derricks in Construction,” he and I and a few others were discussing how a utility operation could best comply with some of the standard’s requirements. The OSHA rules were formed with the perspective of typical construction sites in mind. In particular, we discussed the rule’s expectation that the site’s general manager will tell the crane operator about underground obstructions...

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Web Bonding OPGW

April-May 2021 Q&A

Q: I read the article “A Practical Review of the ANSI A92.2 Standard” in the October-November 2020 issue of Incident Prevention magazine (see, and I’d like to know, is there a standard for the construction of electrically insulating bucket liners? We have problems with the geometry of a bucket. Because the walls of the bucket and the bucket liner are separated, I need to know the tolerance or maximum distance between the walls of those elements. Can you help?

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Understanding Radio Frequency Energy Exposure

Are you concerned about cellular antennas? Decades of research on cellphones and cancer have not found a link between the two, but that hasn’t stopped some communities from creating laws and public service campaigns regarding protection of the public from cellular system threats. What these actions have done is created a sense that the risk exists, leading to much concern and confusion for the public. There are risks, and they are not to be ignored, but many of them are misunderstood. As communications technology continues to develop, its next iteration – 5G – is already here. The idea of 5G...

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