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Tag: Featured

Closing the Cracks with the FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

Slipping through the cracks has become much more difficult for drivers with the 2020 implementation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.  The following scenario paints a picture of how easy it once was for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who violated the FMCSA drug and alcohol testing regulations to move from job to job and continue to threaten public safety on U.S. roadways. Later in this article, we will explore requirements and responsibilities related to the clearinghouse.  The Scenario In March 2019, John Doe, a CDL holder...

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Beyond Behavior-Based Safety: Why Traditional Safety Practices are No Longer Enough

Traditional safety management practices are built on the assumption that human behavior is rational and occurs primarily through conscious decision-making. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are, in fact, irrational by nature, creatures of habit and deeply influenced by past experiences. To create the next step change in the practice of occupational safety, we must revisit existing paradigms defining it, revise them to better align with research emerging from advancements in neuroscience, and adapt to practice realigned strategies of an affective nature. Irrational by Nature In 2016,...

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Using a Learning Management System to Augment Lineworker Training

“You can’t learn how to climb a pole by looking at a computer screen.”  That’s a sentence that has been repeatedly used in our industry to discredit web-based learning. And it’s true; in any skilled trade, neither distance learning nor classroom work alone can replace the skills and confidence gained from practicing tasks and building up muscle memory in the field. But does that mean there’s no place for distance learning? Absolutely not. When properly used to augment a field skills training program, online training can speed the development of skills, make your training program more efficient...

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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...

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Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, and welcoming bad news as an opportunity for improvement, not for implementing discipline. The company is well on their way to that destination, and it’s due in no small part to their employees’ dedication to their jobs,...

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Mitigating Heat and Cold Stress with FR/AR Clothing

Within the utility industry, employers have long looked to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) garments to help protect workers from injury due to flash fire and arc flash. Because these garments are designed using specially engineered, self-extinguishing fabrics and are certified to rigorous testing standards, they can help prevent or lessen the severity of injury. Utilizing FR/AR garments as part of a comprehensive personal protective equipment program is also one of the ways employers can meet OSHA’s mandate to provide workers with employment and a place of employment that are free from...

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Best Practices for Bucket Truck Rescue

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...

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Designing a Safe and Reliable Electrical Maintenance Program

The critical importance of power to every aspect of our world cannot be overexaggerated. It must be generated and distributed effectively to end users, and any disruption in that process means loss of operations, money and, in extreme cases, life. Therefore, the reliability of power creation and distribution must be continually safeguarded and improved. This doesn’t happen by chance or through reactionary maintenance tasks; rather, it must be focused on from the early design stages and continue through the life of the assets tasked with these functions. Adopting a “Monitor, Inspect and Manage”...

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Using PPE to Bolster Safety Resilience

Task-based and daily wear PPE programs help protect a company’s workers and improve resilience. Alexander Pope famously wrote that “to err is human,” yet as safety professionals, we often feel that we can prevent incidents if we eliminate all risk. It’s a concept that has permeated nearly every facet of the safety sphere: account for the risks, eliminate their presence and prevent injuries. Even still, incidents and injuries do happen, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. This has brought about a shift in the safety mindset, moving toward a more resilient outlook. This entry is part 3 of...

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Safety Advancements in the Line-Clearance Industry

Progress over the last decade has made the industry a safer place for line-clearance workers. When I started working for an investor-owned utility in 1974, I was fresh out of high school and had little knowledge of safe work practices and policies. I was truly fortunate to collaborate with people at the utility who cared about my safety and made sure I developed safe work habits that I still espouse today. This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series FEBRUARY-MARCH 2022

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ANSI A92.2: 2022 Changes and Training Requirements

Here’s what owners and operators should know about upcoming updates to the standard.  Updates are coming to the ANSI A92.2 standard, titled “American National Standard for Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices.” Your most common piece of powered equipment soon will have new or revised requirements for design, manufacturing, testing, training and operation. These new requirements go into effect in August of this year. First, let’s cover some of the most notable changes, and then we’ll look at some often misunderstood training requirements. This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series...

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

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...

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Security in the Field: A Largely Unnoticed Need

It’s time for worker security to receive the same attention as worker safety. Society today is no longer predisposed to viewing utility employees in a friendly manner, and aggression toward them is growing. For some time, the steady rise in aggression toward utility workers has flown under the radar. Whether employee or contractor, job site violence is a real threat. Of the multitude of issues fueling this aggression, one of the most significant is shifting public opinions of utilities themselves. For a growing segment of the population, public utilities are nuisances to be confronted, not benefactors...

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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...

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From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

Understanding, developing and applying these habits enable us to better respond to stimuli, making us more effective people. I am excited to tell you that Utility Business Media Inc. recently published “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” a book that I wrote. During the research and writing process, I read a lot of books and want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the bestselling book authored by Stephen R. Covey. I hope that you find the article useful, and I hope it inspires you to read both Covey’s book...

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Just Like the Real Thing: Training the Next Generation of Lineworkers


The Missouri Valley JATC offers comprehensive training at its new state-of-the-art facility. “Many people say that a lot of [lineworker] rules are written in blood, and there is literal truth to that. Safety is our value. We don’t have any competing priorities over safety. It’s not number one. It’s on a list of one.” That’s a quote from Tim Vassios, a lead instructor at the Missouri Valley Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). Both Vassios and his organization – with the support of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association...

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