Author: Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP

Web AQI Table

Mitigating the Risk of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfires have become increasingly common in recent years, and many lineworkers have found themselves working around these fires – and their aftermath – as part of their jobs. Because of the hazards that wildfires present, it’s critical that these workers understand how to protect themselves. This month’s Tailgate Topic will address the hazard of wildfire smoke. Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor. The small particles are the primary health concern. The smallest particulate matter – and usually the most harmful – is called PM2.5 (solid particles and liquid droplets...

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Using Checklists to Mitigate Error and Injury

Today’s utility crews are working in an increasingly complex and fast-paced environment. Utilities and their contractors have come under intense pressure to get work done quickly and to ensure that it is done without error or serious injury. With this increased pressure comes increased risk. So, how can we reduce the possibility of error on our worksites given such a demanding environment? One simple way is to use checklists. I realize this is hardly a new concept, but my colleagues and I have found that checklists, when properly written and consistently used, are a proven method to reduce risk...

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Five Essentials of Successful Safety Programs

Recently my teammates and I were given the opportunity to evaluate the safety programs of a cross-section of contractors conducting potentially hazardous work for a large utility. It was our goal to help those contractors identify the vulnerabilities of their safety strategies and to help them become even more reliable partners to the utilities they serve. In my line of work, I am often asked what commonalities I see among the most effective safety programs. The temptation is to think that bigger is better, or that world-class safety requires an enormous investment of resources. I wrote this...

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Optimizing Your Safety Observation Program

World-class organizations do not achieve sustained safety excellence without a process in place that identifies risk exposure well before an incident or injury occurs. Yet countless companies have established observation programs without measurable success. In the paragraphs that follow, my goal is twofold: to provide readers with a greater understanding of the importance of employing a proactive safety observation strategy in the workplace, and to offer a step-by-step guide to ensure its effectiveness. Broken WindowsTo begin, I want to provide two examples of a topic that has significant influence...

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Closing the Safety Gap

The safety gap is that dimly lit space between what is and what should be, between the expectations set forth by your safety program and the actual work practices that take place on your work sites. Within that gap lurks all that we hope to avoid. As safety managers, one of our primary objectives is to close the safety gap by identifying and eliminating risk in our work environments. To do so, however, requires clarity. Without a thorough understanding of our risks, both historical and present, we are left with a static, generalized program that is not responsive to the dynamics of our work. Allow...

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