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Voice of Experience Archive

Ruling Spans - Conductor Sag

Ruling Spans and Proper Conductor Sag

The cold winter weather of recent months has prompted many conversations about proper sagging and tension on transmission and distribution conductors. Improper sagging and excessively high tension on conductors – past their rated breaking strength – have caused unscheduled system outages, but such outages can be avoided by using the correct loading factors. The system […]

Determining Reasonable Energy Estimates

During a recent audit at a utility, it was discovered that the method used to determine incident heat energy was not appropriate for the utility’s application. Discussions with other utilities and subject matter experts indicate that the methods to determine the amount of exposure are challenging. It is unknown whether these are localized findings or […]

Understanding and Preventing Ferroresonance

Ferroresonance is a term and condition not often heard about in electric utility work. Nonetheless, it’s important to know about ferroresonance because it is an immensely hazardous condition that can result in arc flash injuries and damaged equipment. The Electrical Engineering Portal offers this scientific definition of the word at “Ferroresonance is a non-linear […]

Understanding Task-Specific Training

If an employer must defend their company in the event of an incident or accident, training records are a critical tool. There is nothing better to present during an OSHA investigation or a civil tort liability case than documented training records and annual reviews of the proficiency demonstrations that are required by the OSHA standard. […]

Equipotential or Total Isolation?

System grounding is one of the topics that people ask me about most, which is great because I have always found temporary system grounding for employee protection to be a fascinating subject. I performed bracket grounding all throughout my years spent working on line crews in the 1970s and ’80s. I was taught that it […]

Lineworkers and Rubber Sleeves

I am often asked about the benefits of wearing rubber sleeves. Personally, I never had to wear them as an apprentice or a lineman because of my former employer’s belief that an insulate-and-isolate program was the best way to go. Even today, the company that employed me for over 40 years does not require lineworkers […]

Planning for Storm Work

The strength and magnitude of a storm should determine our methods to address it. But long before a significant event occurs, a plan to restore power safely should be made by the host company. I learned during my early days as a supervisor that a storm evaluation and restoration plan is of great value to […]

Arc Flash Precautions: A Review

David McPeak hosts the Incident Prevention Institute Forum ( once a month. I often take part as a panelist, helping to answer questions posed by forum attendees. During a recent forum, topics ranged from fleet mechanics to arc flash exposures and required personal protective equipment. I decided I’d dedicate this installment of “Voice of Experience” […]

Ground Gradient Step Potential and PPE

For various reasons, ground gradient step potential hazards are not always considered or thought to be important. I recently received a call from a large investor-owned utility whose employees had differing opinions about using super dielectric overshoes or work boots when setting a pole in an energized line. Some people are of the opinion that […]

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, there […]

The End of a Career

I have been working in the electric utility business as a lineman, supervisor and safety training consultant for a very long time. I am at the point where I am ready to fade away like a light fog on an early summer morning. I dearly love the work, and I have the greatest respect for […]

Installing Fiber-Optic Cable in Electric Supply Spaces

Based on recent social media comments I’ve seen, questions submitted to Incident Prevention magazine and inquiries I’ve personally received, this installment of “Voice of Experience” is going to focus on OSHA and National Electrical Safety Code issues regarding the installation of fiber-optic cable in electric supply spaces, including who is allowed to perform the work. […]

System Grounding for Worker Protection Against Induced Voltages

In the last installment of “Voice of Experience,” we reviewed OSHA’s rules for transmission and distribution (T&D) equipment grounding. This time around, we are going to discuss where and how induced voltages occur and, more importantly, how to protect employees from hazards associated with induced voltages via proper system grounding. “It’s not dead until it’s […]

Understanding OSHA’s Rules for T&D Equipment Grounding

There seems to be a question of the month every month. Recently I’ve answered a lot of questions about when and how to ground distribution and transmission equipment, particularly bucket trucks, uninsulated line trucks and cranes. My standard response to those questions is, “What is required by the OSHA regulations?” I know some people do […]

Overhead Line Work, Then and Now

Overhead line work requires much planning beforehand and total attention when it is being performed. Recently I’ve had several requests to discuss this kind of work, so I’m going to take you back to the days when I was a lineman and, later, a crew supervisor to aid in this discussion of overhead jobs. When […]

System Operations: Who’s in Charge?

System and utility operators are required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(m) to have a procedure to de-energize their systems for protection of the employees working on those systems. The rules in 1910.269(m) do not specifically require a written procedure, but it is hard to imagine how an effective procedure could be maintained if it weren’t […]

Sharing My Story: I’m a Male Breast Cancer Survivor

It was a beautiful October day in Captiva Island, Florida, where my family and I were on a short vacation at the end of the summer season. I was in a room of the condo we had rented. Housekeeping had recently damp-mopped the tile floor in the room, and as I walked across it, I […]

Lone Worker Limitations

Over the years, I’ve received numerous questions about which duties lone workers can safely and legally perform, and which ones require more than one qualified worker to complete. Tasks that require at least two qualified employees are defined in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(2)(i), which states the following: “Except as provided in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this […]

Inspect and Test to Prevent Wood Poles from Falling

It happens every so often – and more often than it should. A lineworker climbs a wood pole and the pole falls. With the advent of 100% fall protection, the climber is assured serious injury and often death if a pole falls while they are tied to it. Several of these types of incidents have […]

Is it Maintenance or Construction?

Is it maintenance or construction? That’s a question that was asked regularly by industry workers for many years. These days, we can thank David Wallis and the committee members who diligently worked on the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V final rule published in 2014 for clearing things up. To better understand the […]