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Worksite Safety Archive



The Case for Enhanced First-Aid Training for Lineworkers

Imagine you are working in a remote wilderness area on difficult terrain. The job involves setting poles, running wires, trimming trees, operating heavy machinery and working at elevation in track bucket trucks or hooks on a pole. The potential for serious injury is present, and extrication will be difficult if an injury occurs.  This scenario begs the question, are basic first-aid and CPR training enough for a situation like this? Should enhanced first-aid training be considered for remote utility work? Could training some of our lineworkers in advanced first aid help them more effectively respond? Would training them help them to recognize potentially hazardous situations in advance to avoid injuries altogether?  As a utility worker wi…

June – July 2022 Q&A

Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any facility can do is to consult a chemist, chemical engineer or fire science specialist to survey and equip your flammable operations. The simple explanation has to do with volatility, which is how easily a chemical vaporizes and then how flammable that vapor becomes and at what temperature. Every chemical in the workplace should have a safety data sheet that lists the material’s vapor point and relative flammability. The issue then is the material’s vapor flash poin…

Best Practices for Bucket Truck Rescue

| Ty Fenton |
Bucket trucks are among the most frequently used pieces of equipment in a utility’s fleet. Because of the common use of the trucks, it becomes easy for operators to become complacent in their equipment, inspection, operation and rescue plan – often defaulting to the last job safety analysis with limited consideration for the task at hand and the work environment. In a frequent scenario, one of Colorado’s electric utility contractors was issued an urgent service ticket. The lineman assigned to the job had years of experience and assumed this task would be much like the hundreds of closed service tickets in his past. Due to time constraints, time of day and ease of repair, he set off solo to complete his mission. Upon arriving at the scene…

Heat Injury and Illness Prevention: Past, Present and Future

On October 27, 2021, OSHA published in the Federal Register an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. This followed OSHA implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards and the development of a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections in September. At the same time, the agency formed a Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health to start collecting information in preparation for the rulemaking.  Past Not many hazards found in the workplace share the same historical prevalence as heat stress. In fact, one could surmise that workers getting sick or injured while working in the…

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…

April – May 2022 Q&A

Q: Why are communications systems bonded to a utility system neutral? Doesn’t that make the communications messenger a parallel neutral path? A: Yes, it does, but this is a case of “Which is worse?” There are a number of things we do for one purpose that create hazards for another. We must know the issues and choose what we will do. Down guys are one example. In transmission and distribution, many utilities install insulators in the upper section of a down guy to isolate it from the electrical environment at the top of the pole. The purpose is to protect the public from the potential of a hot guy. Then the engineer calls for a bond connection below the insulator to ground the guy, further ensuring the guy cannot become energized, again t…

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Protection from Flames and Electric Arcs It is important to remember that all arc hazards are not equal. By Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST According to OSHA, electric power generation, transmission and distribution workers face a significant risk of injury from burns due to electric arcs. Studies have concluded that a large percentage of arc-related incidents resulted in either a fatality or in extremely painful third-degree burns, which require skin grafts and leave permanent scarring. Based on these conclusions, OSHA adopted standards to address forms of personal protective equipment other than clothing. These standards – titled “Protection from flames and electric arcs” and found at 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(8) an…

February – March 2022 Q&A

| Jim Vaughn, CUSP | ,
Q: Is it a good idea to wear dielectric boots in a substation? Do they provide additional protection to a worker? We feel that the worker is at equipotential – given the grid and stone are maintained per design – so we don’t believe that dielectric boots would provide extra protection. What are your thoughts? A: The design of the substation’s grid has two purposes in its construction. One incorporates ground rods to create a low-resistance electrical path to get harmful voltage and current into the earth to protect the equipment in the station. The grid itself helps by interconnecting the rods. To most of us, the second purpose is more important. The grid creates a plane of bonded equipotential across the ground in the substation. The cr…

Grounding Conductor Confusion: What’s the Best One to Use?

| Stephen Oaks | ,
Consider new testing data before making a final determination. Proper grounding is both a life-and-death matter and an operational imperative. But many questions remain about grounding. Some of the most frequently asked include: Why do some designers, utilities and contractors use one type of grounding conductor while others use a different type? If copper and aluminum carry power through transmission and distribution lines, then why not use them everywhere, including for grounding? What is the best grounding conductor? The grounding conductor selection process should include both of the following steps: Use the recommendation from Section 9 of the National Electrical Safety Code, which states that choosing a conductor to satisfy a g…

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…

Lineworkers and Line-Clearance Workers: Understanding Their Similarities and Differences

Everyone in the utility sector should familiarize themselves with the relationship between these two work groups.

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…

Actionable Safety: Modeling Change for Line Crews

Demonstrating simple strategies for teams to practice can begin to effect behavioral changes that improve safety. When leaders model a specific safety behavior or tactic, we can achieve multiple positive outcomes, including initiating change in our organizations. It is critical, however, that we physically model the behavior with our actions – we must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. When we truly lead by example, we can expect our team leaders to model our behavior as well. With that said, in this article, I’m going to present you with some simple, actionable safety strategies you can model that will begin to change your company’s culture of safety and crew dynamics. The Confidence to Speak Up During incident and accident investi…

December 2021 – January 2022 Q&A

| Jim Vaughn, CUSP | ,
Incident Prevention magazine still receives many questions about the different facets of equipotential bonding. In this installment of Q&A, we provide detailed answers to several of the most frequent questions in an effort to help the industry better understand and resolve these issues for the safety of their workers who use temporarily grounded systems. Q: We have heard that we should be bonding baskets to the grounded transmission or distribution bus to equalize voltage differences between the basket and grounded phase. The idea of using a jumper bond from an insulating aerial lift to the grounded overhead conductor is new to everyone. How does this work, why do we need to do it, and how should we do it?

A Historical Review of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

A Historical Review of Workplace Safety in the U.S. While OSHA may sometimes make it difficult for businesses to do business, their rules are necessary for the safety of the American workforce. Has OSHA ever made it difficult for businesses to do business? It sure has, and I will be the first to raise my hand in agreement. I started my career in the electrical utility industry as a lineman helper five years before President Richard Nixon signed into law the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It became enforceable in late April 1971. At that time, I was just beginning my apprenticeship as I was too young to be a lineman in the mid-1960s and Uncle Sam had some other ideas for me. Now the federal government was try…

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified | Part 6

De-energizing Lines and Equipment for the Protection of Employees It’s critical for workers to understand the process of de-energizing lines and equipment to hold them clear. As with all articles in this series, it is important to start with the hazard. Electrical hazards are present when electrical systems are assumed to be de-energized but are not. It is important to remember that transmission and distribution (T&D) systems are different from other energy systems found in general industry and construction industry applications. Electric T&D systems are mostly located outdoors, meaning these lines and equipment are subject to re-energization by means other than normal energy sources. OSHA describes scenarios such as lightning st…

October-November 2021 Q&A

Q: We are contractors with a truck grounding question for work inside substations. Working within a proper clearance, the generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) that owns the transmission circuit coming into the substation believes 4/0 equipment grounding is needed, while the consumer utilities operating the substation say 1/0 or 2/0 is required. We sometimes are required by the G&T to use double 4/0 to meet the required available fault current. Can you explain the disparity in requirements? Also, do we meet the OSHA requirements if we use the 1/0 or the 2/0 for equipment grounding on manlifts when working within the minimum approach distance in a de-energized area that is locked out and tagged out?

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…

Establishing a Comprehensive Ergonomics Program During a Pandemic

| Lisa Harris |
Austin Energy is the electric utility provider for the rapidly growing city of Austin, Texas. This community-owned, not-for-profit enterprise of the City of Austin employs approximately 1,100 office-based and 600 field-based employees. Employee safety, health and wellness have always been a top priority, and in 2019, Healthworks Ergonomics – the company I co-own – was hired to develop a comprehensive ergonomics program to complement Austin Energy’s existing initiatives.

August-September 2021 Q&A

Q: We have been reading OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 regarding two-man work, but we cannot find a definition for “routine switching.” We are under the impression that a trained troubleshooter can replace blown fuses in cutouts without a second man. Since it is not specifically mentioned in the exceptions, do we have this wrong? We have old porcelain cutouts on our 4-kV system where you cannot remove the door with a stick and must grab it with your hand, putting the worker within the minimum approach distance of the energized 15-kV overbuild above. This is especially an issue for us at night and in storms. Can you help?
This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series AUGUST- SEPTEMBER 2022
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