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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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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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