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Train the Trainer 101 Archive



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 spurred this article. We will first look at the classification of the spaces we work in so that you start from the right perspective as you try to comply w…

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 regulating authorities expect employers to train all employees, specially train supervisory employees and provide the equipment necessary to protect work…

A Close Look at Step and Touch Potentials

The topic of step and touch potentials is controversial, which is precisely why we need to discuss it. In my role as a work methods auditor and consultant, I see more variations in how employers address step potential than in any other aspect of equipotential bonding. I know the reasons for this and will address them here. But first, I need to clearly state the following: The theoretical argument for hazardous step potential in electric utility work environments clearly exists. Every employer must assess the hazards of step potential in their work environments and adopt a plan to protect exposed workers. Every employer must train their employees to recognize step potential hazards and employ the procedures necessary to protect workers f…

Safety Signs and Sign Policy

You might be surprised how a little thing like a safety sign can turn out to be one of your company’s biggest financial losses of the year. Over the last decade, I’m aware of three clients who lost big because a sign they put up was the wrong color, the print was imprecise, or the employer didn’t have a sign policy or effective safety sign training. Let’s start with having a sign policy. When helping to develop any policy, I always tell clients that the policy you write is only as good as the training you provide when you roll it out. For instance, if I were to research signs in preparation for a sign policy, I would likely start with the ANSI Z535 safety sign standard. That is where you find the results of the research and testing perfo…

Containing Contagions in Close Quarters

Pandemic preparation is nothing new. In fact, I have been telling employers since the 1980s that a pandemic plan is one of the business/safety mechanisms they should have in place. It’s just good practice to address and interrupt a contagion that could potentially immobilize the employer’s workforce. The United States has been researching pandemic responses since a swine flu outbreak in 1976, but few if any publications back then addressed workforce contagions. The earliest literature on organized pandemic responses appeared around 1976 when the U.S. government established formal research panels to develop a nationwide response to a pandemic threat. The panels performed research and modeling activities and revised and expanded both resea…

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, stop! You can’t do it all. You must figure out how to apply available resources to the challenge you have, and you start that process with an audi…

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 to repair itself. If we artificially stimulate the body to ignore those signals, the outcome is not just bad – it can and has become deadly. In the…

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 experience as a former transmission line contractor, we only had a few incidents with UTVs, but it was on every job where we used them. In my time si…
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 that might collapse and cause a crane to become unstable. It’s obvious that a crane operator setting structures on a right-of-way doesn’t …

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 is better coverage using smaller, low-power, overlapping range with multiple antennas. This is the same technology used in large offices and hospita…

Trailers, Brakes and Common Usage Errors

I perform audits of both utilities and contractors. When I work with them to do those audits, we include trucks and trailers. The trailers I’m talking about here are not the box vans behind tractors, but the general-duty trailers used to haul trenchers, backhoes, wire reels and padmount transformers. It’s no surprise that the trailer issues we discover are in keeping with the types and frequencies of violations that enforcement officials find on the roadways: those involving lights, load securement and brakes. Auditors also get a lot of questions about trailer safety, or more specifically, trailer rules, which are in place for trailer safety. I almost always receive those questions after an enforcement action has occurred. Many enforceme…

A Practical Review of the ANSI A92.2 Standard

This is a review of ANSI/SAIA A92.2-2015, “American National Standard for Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices.” As a consultant, investigator and auditor, I have been surprised time and again that people who should know this standard do not know it that well. Most fleet managers are familiar with the rules, which is important because the A92.2 standard obligates owners of aerial lifts to be held liable for equipment they sell in certain scenarios. On the employee side, a working knowledge of A92.2 can prevent incidents and loss of life. In fact, a recent live-line barehand training class was what inspired this topic. We found that a bucket truck had the leasing company’s logo sticker adhered down both sides of the insul…

A Practical Review of the C2-2017 National Electrical Safety Code

In the June-July 2020 issue of Incident Prevention magazine, I made a mistake in the Q&A. I stated that there is no consensus on a particular procedure when, in fact, there is. It is new in the most recent edition of the National Electrical Safety Code, but I missed it when it was published in 2017. In light of my error, I decided I should take a closer look at the most recent revision of the standard and present my findings here for the benefit of iP’s readers. The NESC is one of the consensus standards that I regularly recommend as an important resource – every safety professional should have a copy of it in their library. Here’s some important information about the use of consensus standards: First, the standards are more procedur…

Arc Flash and Face Masks

Recently I have received numerous emails and phone calls regarding respiratory air-filtering masks rated for arc flash. I’m sure everyone reading this, no matter what country you’re in, is aware why that’s the case: the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a regular reader, you know it is my methodology to address topics by first citing the related safety standards in effect and then discussing the issue from a practical perspective typically related to the utility industry. This time is no different – for the most part. Initially, the use of masks during the pandemic was limited as effective respiratory protection and still is for the public per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As far as OSHA was concerned regarding workplaces, …

Train the Trainer 101: The ABCs of Grounding Mobile Equipment

Across our industry, I have found all kinds of policies for grounding trucks. I also have found that in many cases, employers’ rules for grounding trucks are not based on OSHA requirements and – even more concerning – are not based on sound principles of protection. I believe the grounding policies are well intentioned, but they fail to achieve two important goals: (1) meeting the OSHA standard and (2) protecting workers where electrical contact hazards exist. So, let’s take an ABCs approach to the issue because even though some detailed explanation is required, it really is that simple. A Defensible PlanYou must be able to defend your plan or policy. This is the case for every plan or policy. Defense is built around establishing and acc…

Train the Trainer 101: FMCSR Awareness

When analysts look at utilities, and to some extent utility contractors, they often see what’s referred to as “mission creep.” That occurs when the expertise of the utility should be focused on quality and continuity of service but begins to be compromised by focus on too many other areas. The opposite of mission creep is when business elements that are critical to successful progress toward the goal get overlooked because of focus on the goal. One business element that gets less attention than it deserves are big trucks and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Granted, 75% or more of the FMCSR do not apply to utilities, and many parts that do apply are difficult to implement. Implementation is tough because, even as emp…

Train the Trainer 101: Know OSHA – or Pay the Price

There are two reasons why it’s problematic not to know OSHA. The first reason gets the employer in trouble. The other reason gets everyone in the utility sector in trouble. Let’s begin this installment of “Train the Trainer 101” with a discussion about the first reason and why it’s important to know OSHA from the perspective of rules and regulations. There are some realities we need to acknowledge to understand the difficulties different employers face. These are generalities based on my experience; I do not seek to classify all sectors of the utility industry as the same. It is a reality that municipalities – and the contractors who work exclusively for municipalities – are more or less late to the OSHA table because OSHA has excepted g…

Train the Trainer 101: Rigor and Discipline

The date was January 28, 1986. The event was the tenth and final flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Seventy-three seconds into flight, the booster rocket that was lifting Challenger into space exploded, killing all seven astronauts aboard. When events like the Challenger explosion happen, you never forget where you were at the time. You remember the iconic photos and the national days of mourning for those lost. After the Challenger explosion, President Reagan appointed the Rogers Commission to investigate the disaster, and some of you may remember the news commentary on the Rogers Commission Report. If you didn’t study the reports from the incident, you likely aren’t aware of the stunning findings, the changes that were called for …

Train the Trainer 101: OSHA, Training and Certification

The occupational safety and health industry and civil authorities require that employers provide training to employees. In the U.S., OSHA mandates safety training related to tasks assigned to employees. The agency often also requires the employer to certify that the training has been completed. In fact, if you have an incident requiring OSHA notification, the first question that will be asked is, “Was the employee trained for the task?” The second inquiry will be a request for documentation of the training, usually followed by an enforceable subpoena for those training records. Training and certification of training are important for two reasons. The first is that training has clearly been demonstrated to reduce incidents and injuries to…

Train the Trainer 101: Manufacturer Warnings and OSHA-Compliant Safety Performance

Over the past few weeks I have received several inquiries regarding horizontal directional drilling (HDD). It’s not unusual in our industry for questions to make the rounds of utilities and contractors, generating interest and often controversy. I also have recently received several inquiries regarding OSHA allegedly canceling the digger derrick exemption in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes & Derricks in Construction.” OSHA hasn’t done that, but somebody said they did, and folks started asking around. Soon after, I received calls for clarification on the matter. In the digger derrick case, there was nothing to it; OSHA has not changed anything about the exemption. However, concerning HDD, there is an issue that raises an interesting q…
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series AUGUST- SEPTEMBER 2022
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