Skip to main content


Safety Management Archive


Employee-in-Charge Requirements

When was the last time your organization discussed or highlighted the importance of the employee in charge (EIC)? The EIC has the responsibility to ensure job site success, so it is one of the most important job functions within your company. And because electric power workers perform jobs with extremely high-risk hazards that require successful planning and execution, organizations must assess whether they have equipped employees with the knowledge, skills, tools, responsibility and accountability required to successfully implement EIC duties. The electric power industry continues to experience serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). Many times, organizations plan work as imagined, but the actual work that must be performed can turn out…
Picture 2

Direct Current Hazards and Protection Strategies

Protection from direct current (DC) arcs is the latest trend in electrical safety. The growth of commercial and personal electric vehicles (EVs), photovoltaics (PVs), battery backups and grid storage systems makes refreshers necessary. This article introduces some of the DC fundamentals so that end users can build on these concepts to optimize existing electrical safety programs. It will explain the various DC sources, hazards, applicable safety standards and protection strategies. Direct Current Sources DC is produced from PVs or solar panels, batteries and smart power electronic devices known as DC converters. The converters utilize semiconductor devices for rapid smart switching of alternating current (AC) using intelligent circuit co…
AI article by Nelson

Harnessing AI: Crafting the Future of Safety Professionals

| Barry Nelson |
In an ever-evolving world, technological advancements have the potential to transform industries and revolutionize the way we approach safety. Among the many emerging applications of artificial intelligence (AI), one particular use case stands out: the ability to listen to and analyze tens of thousands of daily tailboard conversations to determine their effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes. Consider this example: A prominent utility company in the Southeast conducts thousands of tailboard meetings every day, recording these vital planning discussions through a simple video application. The challenge arises when attempting to manually review and evaluate the vast volume of these conversations. The sheer magnitude renders human effo…
Wilkins article Emergency Plan

Planning for Emergencies: How to Increase Survivability When Someone Gets Hurt

Most of us never plan for an accident to occur on the job site, and there is no way we can know how an individual or crew will respond to the trauma of seeing a teammate injured or killed. That’s something I learned when my crew watched me take the combined induction from two energized 500,000-volt circuits for roughly 30 seconds. The incident tested the crew’s emergency preparedness, and in my opinion, we could have done better. Yes, I survived. But the choices made after my high-voltage contact could have proven deadly had my injuries been more significant. Some Background On the morning of my incident, during the pre-job briefing, my crew members and I discussed our emergency action plan. Part of the plan was to utilize the contract h…

The Art of Safety: Self-Reliance

Given the predictable nature of hazards, how and why do incidents occur? Think about this: If I know the winning numbers ahead of a lottery drawing, it’s simple for me to be 100% successful at winning the lottery money. So, if we know how hazards are going to act and how they cause harm, why aren’t we 100% successful at safety? It’s because we don’t fully grasp and utilize the Art of Safety, or how and why you must understand, lead, develop and protect people. That’s why I wrote the book “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle: Innovative and Practical Insights on the Art of Safety” and why I am focusing my 2023 Incident Prevention articles – and their corresponding free webinars – on the Art of Safety. So, let’s get started and dis…
Willis- June-July 2023 iP

Strengthening the Substation Fence

People have finally discovered one of the best unkept secrets in America: Our utility systems can be attacked, and it doesn’t take military tacticians to pull it off. Activists have recently renewed calls for more attacks that disrupt essential utility services and create chaos. Previously, terrorist groups focused on disabling the bulk power grid by attacking assets such as Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation. Now, their target list has grown to include distribution substations and the critical infrastructure of small and midsized utilities. This new strategy aims to inspire harassing attacks on lower-tier infrastructure assets across the U.S. The purpose of these attacks is to create widespread disruptions of e…
Mike Starner June-July 2023 iP

Preventing Struck-By Incidents in Utility Construction

Anatomically modern humans emerged over 100,000 years ago. For the bulk of that time, the environment in which we lived didn’t change much or very quickly. Now, think about how much the world has changed in just the last 100 years. One interesting thing to consider is how modern human innovation has continued to overcome innate human deficiencies. We control the environment around us now more than ever, including the way we travel, the way we enjoy the arts, the way we grow our food, the way we care for our sick and injured, and – to bring this point home – the way we protect ourselves. Today, in our industry, we have access to state-of-the-art training facilities, cutting-edge tools and advanced protective equipment. Our brains, on the …
Joshua Reilly - June-July 2023

The Quail Effect: An Indicator of Safety Culture

It is not uncommon for a flock of birds, such as quail, to scatter when people get too close to them. This sometimes happens on work sites, too, but instead of birds, it’s workers who scatter when they see safety personnel show up on their job site. A lot can be said about an organization’s safety culture by observing how employees in the field respond to the arrival of safety personnel. Think about it: Do your crews run for cover when they see Safety arrive at the job site? Do they suddenly go on break until Safety leaves? If so, this typically indicates a problem with the organization’s safety culture. But what can you do to change the culture? How do safety personnel overcome this challenge? In my opinion, the answer is easy – get bac…

Eyes on the Wire: The Year of Actively Caring

Power Delivery leaders and supervisors at Georgia Power are working on initiatives to increase their time in the field and demonstrate active caring. However, as they work through managing meetings, to-do lists, deadlines and time constraints, finding time to be in the field can be difficult. As Power Delivery works to meet this challenge, Georgia Power has implemented an innovative idea and tapped into a reliable and obvious resource. “We looked at bringing in safety specialists but realized the best thing to do was to see if retirees who were familiar with the jobs and who knew what they needed to look for might be willing to come back to work,” said Clarence Spencer, a Georgia Power safety and health supervisor. As part of the company…

7 Secrets of Root Cause Analysis

This article offers practical root cause analysis tips that are secrets – if you define “secrets” by how many people need to learn them. We don’t keep these tips under wraps, but it may sometimes seem that way.Why? Because we find so many people who don’t understand what we see as obvious. So, in an effort to help organizations improve their analyses, we thought we’d break down what we see as the seven most important secrets. Read on to discover each one.
Gauges How to Measure Safety February 23

Gauges: How Do You Measure Safety?

The small utility had just lost two journeymen linemen to contractors, and they needed replacements who could hit the ground running. So, the company held some interviews and hired two seasoned journeymen.
Industry trends to improve worker readiness feburary23

Industry Trends and Solutions to Improve Worker Readiness

The moral and legal obligations to provide workers with a safe workplace are just two of the reasons companies should want to keep their employees safe. However, another big motivator for businesses is how extraordinarily disruptive and costly workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses are for their operations. For example, Liberty Mutual estimated that U.S. employers paid over $1 billion per week in workers’ compensation for disabling workplace injuries in 2018 (see The actual price of work-related injuries and deaths is much more than just workers’ compensation, insurance and medical bills; it has a broad impact on society and the economy.

Increasing Safety Through Underground Integrity Management

The utility sector is at a higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) when compared to construction, manufacturing and mining, according to a 2018 study by DEKRA Organizational Safety & Reliability (see The study found that 30% of the SIFs in the utility industry are the result of motor vehicle incidents and another 28% are attributed to line-of-fire or struck-by incidents. Those are sobering statistics, but they help frame what’s possible in the realm of prevention if we can eliminate the need for many of our unplanned site visits. The encouraging observation is that about 42% (i.e., less than half) of SIF…

A Targeted Approach to Safety Gap Analysis

Does a gap exist between lagging indicator performance and the reliability of industry companies’ safety systems? The bad news is that our work in the industry has led us to believe the short answer to that question is yes. The good news is that our work in the industry has led us to develop an approach that makes gap analysis an effective tool to improve safety system reliability for companies within the utility construction industry. Our Approach Our approach to gap analysis began when working with a large utility company to help contractors struggling with safety performance. These contractors had experienced a serious injury or fatality, OSHA violations or a series of potentially serious incidents. To date, we have performed gap anal…

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,

The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture

| Rod Courtney, CUSP |
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, however, it was a safety nightmare. Being a U.S.-based company, we were required to follow OSHA 29 CFR 1926 (Construction) and OSHA 1910 (General Industry)…

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 holder employed by ABC Transport, was selected for a random drug and alcohol test regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. After receiving noti…

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 2016, a municipality in western Virginia experienced a fatality when a maintenance worker entered a confined space containing lethal atmospheric conditio…

Mitigating Heat and Cold Stress with FR/AR Clothing

Within the utility industry, employers have long looked to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) garments to help protect workers from injury due to flash fire and arc flash. Because these garments are designed using specially engineered, self-extinguishing fabrics and are certified to rigorous testing standards, they can help prevent or lessen the severity of injury. Utilizing FR/AR garments as part of a comprehensive personal protective equipment program is also one of the ways employers can meet OSHA’s mandate to provide workers with employment and a place of employment that are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Designing a Safe and Reliable Electrical Maintenance Program

The critical importance of power to every aspect of our world cannot be overexaggerated. It must be generated and distributed effectively to end users, and any disruption in that process means loss of operations, money and, in extreme cases, life. Therefore, the reliability of power creation and distribution must be continually safeguarded and improved. This doesn’t happen by chance or through reactionary maintenance tasks; rather, it must be focused on from the early design stages and continue through the life of the assets tasked with these functions. Adopting a “Monitor, Inspect and Manage” approach is a proactive way to avoid the concerns at hand by maximizing the value of workforce time and skill. Scalability is no longer an issue w…