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Tag: Current

Receiving Feedback

Most leadership development programs talk about the vital skill of giving feedback, as they should. I hope you’ve been trained on coaching and feedback and that you practice and enhance those skills frequently. But what about receiving feedback? That is another skill that can be learned, practiced and improved. And it’s a skill I don’t think we provide enough training on. I’ll propose it is difficult if not impossible to give feedback if you aren’t good at receiving it. So, let’s talk about how to practice and enhance the skill of receiving feedback. Sources of Feedback Feedback is everywhere...

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April – May 2024 Q&A

Q: We recently participated in a safety seminar during which OSHA’s digger derrick/crane exemption was discussed. We have used the exemption with digger derricks to raise baskets of travelers to pole-tops for wire-pulling installation. Are we in compliance if we are not using a certified crane operator for this work? A: Our interpretation of the OSHA rule indicates that your use of the digger derrick exemption is incorrect. Here’s a little history: OSHA’s Cranes and Derricks in Construction (29 CFR 1926.1400) final rule of 2010 included the exemption of digger derricks. In October 2012, OSHA...

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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 will not fail when the correct tension and sagging factors are used, even in the coldest air. Before we talk about calculating proper sag and tension, I want to share some relevant personal history. I remember the days when I first...

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Switching and Tagging

Discipline is one of the many things that have served our industry well. Decades before OSHA was established by the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, our industry already had disciplined procedures for switching, controlling and tagging circuits. When OSHA began to establish rules for the power-line industry, they recognized the superior discipline that utilities had employed in the control of hazardous energy and wrote into the standards those procedures that were being generally applied across the industry. Readers can find OSHA’s hazardous energy control (i.e.,...

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February – March 2024 Q&A

Q: We were driving ground rods with a hammer drill for a switch pad on a construction site when OSHA inspected the site. OSHA was there to see the general contractor, but they cited our crew for not using a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) where we were plugged into the site’s construction temporary. That brought up these questions: Why GFCI? What does GFCI do and how does it work? A: The GFCI or GFI (ground fault interrupter) was invented by University of California at Berkeley Professor Charles Dalziel. A GFCI does not limit voltage; you can still be shocked, but you won’t be killed...

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Game-Planning for Safety

Given a relatively equal amount of talent on both sides, the sports TEAM (Together Everyone Accomplishes More) with the best game plan will likely win. Examining what champions – especially those that create dynasties – do well provides us with insight into achieving excellence in safety. Job and Task Hazard Analyses Most champions excel at scouting. They understand the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of their opponents so well that they can predict what they will do in certain situations. This is fantastic news for us because our opponents – hazards and risks – are quantifiable and predictable....

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What’s Missing in Your Training?

Author’s note to readers: Be careful not to judge this article before you finish reading it. Even some members of Incident Prevention’s editorial advisory board were concerned the wrong message might be sent. I don’t think so. We have a great history of training and a lot of good trainers in the college-operated programs, the for-profit training centers, the apprentice yards and on the job. But there are issues with some of our training as evidenced by what we see on social media. We must start the conversation to honestly confront these issues, and maybe that begins here. You are invited to...

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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 a wider challenge in the utility industry. This article explores this topic, providing information on the most appropriate methods and highlighting how easily errors can occur. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(8)(ii) requires that “the employer shall make...

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The Art of Safety – A New Hierarchy

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...

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December 2023-January 2024 Q&A

Q: Our network group employees don’t work anything over 600 volts without working clearance. When working 480 volts, can they wear Class 2 sleeves with Class 0 gloves? We’ve looked through OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and are unable to find where it says they can’t. A: We applaud you for attempting the research. OSHA’s perspective on the standards is to tell employers what they must accomplish (not how to accomplish it) or not to do it. Most of the time, your research begins with OSHA regulations. We look to them first because they are statutory and what we must answer to. When we understand OSHA’s...

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Safety Signs and the Importance of Training

When I think about safety signs, the first thing I hear in my head is the hit 1970s song “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band, particularly the part that goes, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.” In our industry, we have a lot of signs, and the truth is that few of them are useful. What is it about signs that helps us, and what is it about signs that hurts us? Part of my full-time job involves providing expert witness litigation support, so I frequently discuss and relate aspects of the courtroom experience here in these pages. That’s because the purpose...

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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 https://electrical-engineering-portal.com/download-center/books-and-guides/schneider-electric/ferroresonance: “Ferroresonance is a non-linear resonance phenomenon that can affect power networks. The abnormal rates of harmonics and transient or steady state overvoltages...

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October-November 2023 Q&A

Q: With distribution URD cable and other circuits in the same duct bank, should there be any concern about inductive current/voltage on the conductor if there is a fault on the opposing circuit? Most of our circuits are in plastic conduit and encased in concrete. We have a neutral running through from the substation, and the vaults are grounded to earth with it all tied together. We also still have some lead cable (PILC) in our system. A: There are several conditions to your answer. For the poly-dielectric insulated, if the cables are not jacketed, the concentric in a common conduit will be...

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Be Prepared for the ‘Big One’

At NASCAR’s Talladega, Pocono and Daytona superspeedways, there is always talk of the “Big One.” The Big One is a wreck that frequently characterizes those three-hour, 200-mph, 42-car races on a three-lane-wide oval. Of course, there have been superspeedway races where the Big One didn’t happen. Numerous racing organizations go years without getting caught up in a superspeedway Big One. Sometimes it’s attributed to luck. Other times it’s chalked up to preparation, planning and skill. When the Big One does happen, it’s usually because somebody messed up. Sometimes the person who messed up takes...

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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. Over the years, I’ve received numerous questions about the latest training procedures published in the 29 CFR 1910.269 standard. In the many meetings that were held across the country prior to the standard’s publication in 2014, one question that kept coming...

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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...

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August-September 2023 Q&A

Q: Is there a rule that determines at what voltage level we must ground downed primary (e.g., at voltages higher than 4 kV)? A: No, there is no rule that you must ground downed primary when working to get it back up in the air. When conductors are on the ground, the objective of grounding is twofold. The first objective is to help collapse the voltage and trip the circuit should the circuit inadvertently become energized while crews are working on it. The second objective is to aid in bonding the conductor close to the potential of earth where the workers are in contact with the downed conductors;...

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The End of the Pin-On Man Basket

I have been warning my clients to prepare for an expensive high-reach, non-insulating platform compliance issue, and that time is very near, if not already here. The issue is the use of pin-on man baskets for cranes. For quite a few years, it has been illegal to use a crane to hoist personnel with a few exceptions. The most recent OSHA prohibition is found at 29 CFR 1926.1431(a), which begins by stating, “The use of equipment to hoist employees is prohibited …” As I mentioned, there are exceptions. Specifically, 1926.1431(a) goes on to state, “… except where the employer demonstrates that the...

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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 was the best method for protection while working on de-energized lines and equipment. There was no other option that I was aware of, so I never questioned the training. For the most part, we never left my former employer’s system until mutual assistance became an issue later in my...

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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 to wear sleeves for the same reason. The OSHA Strategic Partnership Program agreement to wear sleeves was developed by major contractors and utility organizations in 2005-2006 and reaffirmed even after the 29 CFR 1910.269 updates were made in 2014. The agreement was an effort to...

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June-July 2023 Q&A

Q: How do consensus standards apply to the employer responsibility for safe work practices? Are they absolute? A: No, consensus standards are part of a system the employer can use to develop their safety programs. The issue is, can the employer defend their programs that do or do not conform to the consensus standards? Compliance with a consensus standard does not ensure compliance with OSHA. In fact, OSHA has clearly defined the role of consensus standards as useful for the employer in complying with the more performance-based requirements of the OSHA standard. “Performance-based” refers to...

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The Art of Safety: Protect the Worker

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...

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Training Users of Aerial Lifts

Last year, Incident Prevention published an article by Altec’s Phil Doud regarding changes to the ANSI A92.2 standard regarding vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating aerial devices (see https://incident-prevention.com/blog/ansi-a92-2-2022-changes-and-training-requirements/). It is a good and timely article. In it, Mr. Doud points out that many of the training requirements in the revised 2021 edition of the standard were already expected, but the standard now captures in detail the type and content of training for aerial lift operators and supervisors of those operators. It is time for such...

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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 prepare everyone for “the big one.” Everyday storms and outages can be handled locally with a single point of command and control from the system operations center. However, when a stronger, more widespread storm occurs, local and area supervision may be a better and more organized method. The...

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ATVs and UTVs: Minimizing the Hazards

Throughout all of industry, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) are involved in the majority of off-highway vehicle (OHV) incidents that result in injury. It’s not much different in the utility industry. While there is no official mechanism for counting or comparing vehicle class versus incidents, surveys and experience seem to indicate that of the vehicle classes used in our industry, ATVs and UTVs used in construction account for a high incident and injury rate. I have run safety at three large utility-related entities, and this awareness of the high incidence of ATV/UTV...

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The Art of Safety: C5 Leadership

C5 safety leaders care about their teams and focus on what they can do to prevent harm and encourage growth. The Art of Safety is understanding, leading, developing and protecting people, including yourself. It’s how to lead safety and work safely. We excel at the science of safety, things like ergonomics, electrical theory and fall protection. I can calculate, for instance, gravity and acceleration during a fall and how much force would be involved in hitting a lower surface. I know electricity is going to take every path to ground, and I can use Ohm’s law to determine current, voltage and...

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Arc Flash Precautions: A Review

David McPeak hosts the Incident Prevention Institute Forum (https://ip-institute.com/ipi-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” to arc flash hazards by reviewing some of the minimum precautions that employers and employees should take as well as what the regulations require.

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Testing and Test Facilities

Electrical testing hazards arise when specialty testing is performed on electric power lines and equipment to determine maintenance needs and fitness for service. OSHA requirements for testing and test facilities are found at 29 CFR 1910.269(o) and 1926.963. Specialty testing refers to cable fault locating, large capacitive load tests, high-current fault closure tests, insulation-resistance and leakage tests, direct-current proof tests and other tests requiring direct connection to power lines. These tests include interim measurements using high-voltage and/or high-power methods on new lines...

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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 if you cover up the lines with a nominal voltage-rated cover, there is no danger of an energized pole and therefore no chance of ground gradient step potential. The manufacturer’s usage suggestion for any cover is for incidental brush contact by a qualified...

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Electrical Protective Equipment and Live-Line Tools

These items must be appropriately used and cared for to maintain their insulating capabilities. This article will address two unique areas of electric power regulatory standards: electrical protective equipment and live-line tools. As with all articles in this series, let’s start with the hazard. Electric power workers have exposure to electric shock hazards with extremely high risk of serious injury or death. Although personal protective equipment should always be considered the last line of control, electrical protective equipment – when designed, manufactured, tested, maintained and used...

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From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’

Not long ago, Utility Business Media Inc. published a book I wrote: “Frontline Leadership – The Hurdle.” During the research and writing process, I read a lot of books and want to share highlights from some of my favorites. This article will focus on the bestselling book “Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson, M.D. I hope you find the article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “Who Moved My Cheese?” and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development.

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OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required controls for worker safety. Note: Live-line barehand work, also found within the standard, is not addressed in this article. Pole and Tower Failures Pole and tower failures can easily occur due to additional or unbalanced stresses created during climbing and the installation or removal of equipment. Workers...

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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 was one foreman in particular who we all thought was one of the best to work for. His name was John Lane, and he’d been a lineman before I started with the company in 1967. I worked with him as an apprentice on a cut-in truck that he referred to as “South Macon Power and Light.” John was the most likable...

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From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to chapter five. On top of that, I just published my second book – “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle: Innovative and Practical Insights on the Art of Safety” – which I was really excited to promote in this issue of Incident Prevention magazine. Because of you, I can’t do that; instead, I must...

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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...

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Mechanical Equipment Rules for Qualified Workers

Workers performing tasks involving mechanical equipment near energized power lines and equipment have exposure to hazardous step and touch potentials. In the preamble to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, the agency describes 19 fatalities that involved derrick trucks, aerial lifts and other machines. These fatalities occurred when contact was made between live parts and mechanical equipment.  OSHA’s mechanical equipment standard was developed specifically to apply to operations performed by qualified workers when tasks are performed near energized power lines and equipment. Rules that...

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August – September 2022 Q&A

Q: Is it ever OK to put a man basket on a crane? My understanding is that OSHA 1926.1400, “Cranes and Derricks in Construction,” states doing so is prohibited.   A: For our readers, the rule you are referring to is 29 CFR 1926.1431(a), which begins, “The use of equipment to hoist employees is prohibited …” The rule goes on to list the basis for exceptions. For line construction, an exception centers around two provisions: the need for access and safety. In a transmission corridor, there are often parallel circuits. An articulating boom in a conventional bucket truck would put the boom elbows...

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From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture’

Not long ago, Utility Business Media Inc. published my book, “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle.” Researching and writing the book helped me learn to appreciate and apply knowledge and wisdom from other writers. In this article, I want to share some highlights from “The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture,” a book recently written by Rod Courtney, CUSP, who also serves as a board member for the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network. I’ve heard him speak on this topic many times and highly recommend you read his book. The Habits Now, let’s take a look at the eight habits the book...

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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...

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OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize these two words often accounts for why we have difficulty understanding their differences when it comes to OSHA standards. The enclosed spaces standard is one of the most misinterpreted standards in 29 CFR 1910.269. This standard is often used by utilities and contractors in lieu of the permit-required confined...

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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...

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From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The Success Principles’

During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Jack Canfield. I hope you find this article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “The Success Principles” and my book as part of your continuing personal and professional development. To highlight how much I believe in this book and want to encourage...

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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...

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February – March 2022 Q&A

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....

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From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘Extreme Ownership’

What actions can you take to solve problems rather than blaming, complaining, defending and denying? During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” authored by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I hope that you find this article useful, and I also hope it inspires you to read both “Extreme Ownership” and my book as part of your continuing personal...

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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 the utility employees who are doing the work. But it is time for me to say goodbye to the industry, enjoy my retirement, and spend time with my grandchildren and other family. My career in this industry started in 1967 in Macon, Georgia, when I was hired as a helper on a line crew. I progressed from journeyman all...

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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...

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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...

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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. So, which standards are in question and what qualifications must employees have? For starters, fiber optics is considered a communications conductor – not “supply” as referred to in the NESC. The installation and maintenance...

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