Author: Will Schnyer

Everyone is the ‘Safety Person’

Like many of you, I follow social media power-line forums to remain engaged with current industry-related topics. One of those forums reports on nationwide electric utility incidents and accidents. Before I start reading an article posted to that particular forum, I already know a whole lot of people have been impacted by an unfortunate event and will have to confront its consequences.   Some of those forum posts indicate that one of our brothers or sisters has sustained injuries that might leave long-lasting mental and/or physical scars. Unfortunately, I have also been a member of a crew...

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Thirty Years of Personal Perspective

Not long ago I ran into an old acquaintance I had not spoken to in more than 25 years. We shook hands and wondered aloud at where the last couple decades had gone. As we were reminiscing, my friend eventually asked what I do for a living. I told him that I’m currently a division maintenance manager for Western Area Power Administration. I also mentioned that, before becoming a manager, I had spent a good portion of my career as an IBEW electric utility distribution and transmission journeyman lineman and foreman. “Wow,” my friend commented. “Being a lineman must have been really dangerous.” “No,...

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Snubbing to Steel Lattice Structures: Lessons Learned

In the fall of 2010 I participated as an incident investigation board member to determine why a light-duty steel lattice structure collapsed, resulting in an injury. Shortly after this accident took place, our investigation team met with and interviewed the crew members who were at the work site that day. One crew member in particular still remains firmly embedded in my memory. During his interview he was very emotional while he described the sequence of events that led to the collapse of the steel lattice structure and the injury to his co-worker. He ended his testimony by stating, “Please...

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OSHA Job Briefing Basics

A job briefing – sometimes referred to as a job hazard analysis or task hazard analysis – is a tool at our disposal to assist us with safely performing electric utility work. Before we begin, let’s review 29 CFR 1910.269(c) regarding job briefings so we can lay a foundation for using a job briefing effectively. The section states that the “employer shall ensure that the employee in charge conducts a job briefing with the employees involved before they start each job. The briefing shall cover at least the following subjects: hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions,...

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Live-Line Work on the Jersey Shore

Early on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the Eastern Seaboard. She spanned 1,100 miles and was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Sandy’s impact was devastating, taking the lives of at least 131 people, leaving 7.5 million customers without electricity and causing billions of dollars in damage. Answering the CallOn November 1, 2012, thousands of electric utility personnel and contractors answered the call to assist East Coast utilities with repairing damaged distribution and transmission power line infrastructure. Three U.S. Department of Energy power marketing agencies...

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The Value of Personal Protective Equipment

Earlier this year I transitioned from an IBEW bargaining unit line foreman to a division maintenance manager. The transition is somewhat hard to fathom because it seems like it was just yesterday that I started my career in the electric utility industry. I can still visualize the day I started as an overhead distribution helper. I reported to the superintendent of the maintenance facility on a Monday morning and received the standard welcome aboard speech. When finished, he walked me out of his office and handed me off to an overhead distribution line crew foreman. The foreman looked at me,...

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Felling of Trees Near Power Lines

Here at Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), our line crews are responsible for the operation and maintenance of approximately 17,000 miles of power lines within a 15-state region of the central and western U.S. Within that region are geographic areas where vegetation hazards can pose a threat to the reliability of some of our power lines. To identify these hazards, WAPA utilizes both routine aerial and ground patrols to collect and monitor vegetation data. The criteria we use to establish vegetation minimum clearance distances is based on the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.333 minimum approach distance...

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Live-Line Tool Use and Care

After attending a Monday morning safety meeting, a lineman is assigned the task of driving to a remote county road to measure the conductor height of an energized 115-kV transmission line. A rural farmhouse in the vicinity is scheduled to be moved and subsequently would pass directly underneath the transmission conductors. The lineman’s foreman wants to know if the top of the house will encroach on the minimum approach distance to live parts as it passes underneath the conductors.  The lineman arrives at the site. He parks his utility truck on the side of the road and turns on his vehicle...

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