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Tag: grounding

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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June-July 2018 Q&A

Q: Whenever we see graphics for single-point grounding, it’s always a cluster, a connection to the neutral, a connection to a phase and a chain connecting to the other two phases. But when we check with other utilities or consultants, we see all kinds of arrangements, such as bracket grounds with a single point or two sets of single-point grounds bracketing the workspace. Where do we find the definitive arrangement, and why are there so many variations? A: Under OSHA, the employer is solely responsible for determining how they will meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.269(n)(3), “Equipotential...

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August 2017 Q&A

Q: We are a contractor and were recently working in a manhole with live primary cables running through it. We were cited in an audit by a client’s safety team for not having our people in the manhole tied off to rescue lines. We had a tripod up and a winch ready for the three workers inside. What did we miss? A: This question has come up occasionally, and it’s usually a matter of misunderstanding the OSHA regulations. The latest revision of the rule has modified the language, but following is the relevant regulation. Look for the phrases “safe work practices,” “safe rescue” and “enclosed space.” 1910.269(e)(1) Safe...

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June 2017 Q&A

Q: We have a group reviewing our personal protective grounding procedures, and they are asking if we should be grinding the galvanized coating off towers when we install the phase grounding connections. What are your thoughts? A: In addition to your question, we also recently received another question about connecting to steel for bonding, so we’ll address both questions in this installment of the Q&A. Your question is about the effectiveness of grounding to towers, and the other question is about the effectiveness of EPZs created on steel towers. We’ll discuss the grounding question first...

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Equipotential Grounding: Lessons Learned in the Field

When the earliest linemen first began to ground lines for worker protection, they attached a small chain – known as a ground chain – to the conductors, with the end dropped to the ground. When I began to work on a line crew, I’m sad to say that my grounding practices weren’t much better than those used in the early days. I wish someone had better explained to me then the situations that could arise, the ways grounding could protect me and the best methods to accomplish it. So, in an effort to help out other lineworkers in the electric utility industry, I want to share in the following pages...

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December 2016 Q&A

Q: We hear lots of opinions on whether a lineworker can lift a hot-line clamp that has a load on it. There is a rule that says disconnects must be rated for the load they are to break. We’ve been doing it forever. Are we breaking an OSHA rule or not? A: Incident Prevention has answered this question before, but it won’t hurt to revisit it and use the opportunity to explain how OSHA analyzes a scenario to see if it’s a violation. Most objections to operating a hot-line clamp (HLC) under load are based on OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(12)(i), which states that the “employer shall ensure that devices...

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Safety Best Practices for Outage Season

Football season is here, and hunting season is right around the corner. That means it’s also outage season for the electric power industry. Planned outages allow utilities to take equipment out of service for maintenance, replacement or new construction. The timing is dictated by the utility owners and the regional transmission organizations that oversee the power grid. Planned outages can last from 15 minutes to months, and they can be continuous or intermittent. Most occur late in the year because loads are lower than during the peak summer and winter months. In addition, utilities need to...

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June 2016 Q&A

Q: Is a transmission tower leg considered a lower level? And is there an exception for hitting a lower level when someone is ascending in the bucket truck to the work area? Our concern is that the shock cord and lanyard could be long enough that the person could hit the truck if they fell out of the bucket prior to it being above 15 feet. A: The February 2015 settlement agreement between EEI and OSHA addresses both of your questions, which, by the way, were contentious for several years until this agreement. The settlement agreement includes Exhibit B (see www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/SubpartV-Fall-protection.html),...

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Train the Trainer 101: Grounding for Stringing in Energized Environments

A few years ago I came upon a crew using 6-inch chocks to hold back a 38-ton crane truck. I told the crew I was happy that they were making an effort at compliance, but I had to ask them, “Why do we place chocks under a truck’s wheels? Is it to comply with our safety rules or to keep the crane from running away?” It was obvious to me that the short chocks would not hold the crane. The driver proved my assumption true a few minutes later. From the cab, with the transmission in neutral, he released the parking brake. The crane easily bounced over the chocks and, unfortunately, hit my pickup truck. Sometimes...

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February 2016 Q&A

Q: I work for a small utility and am new to my safety role. Recently I have been wading through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) in an attempt to understand my responsibilities with regard to testing CDL drivers. Can you briefly explain these responsibilities? A: FMCSR 391.31 requires the employer to ensure a driver is competent by means of road testing. The FMCSR allows a valid commercial driver’s license as evidence of competency (see FMCSR 391.33). If the employer accepts the evidence of the driver’s competency, the employer does not have to road test the driver. Rule...

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December 2015 Q&A

Q: I’ve been reading ASTM 855, IEEE 1048 and the National Electrical Code, and I’m a little confused by the practice of grounding through a switch. Can you help me better understand this? A: In transmission/distribution applications, there is no issue with grounding through a switch. To explain, we always have to ask whether the issue is grounding through (in the path) a switch or grounding (by way of closing) a switch. The application may sound the same, but it depends on which standard you read. Our subject matter experts think the confusion lies in the well-known NEC rules, which require...

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October 2015 Q&A

Q: Is equipotential grounding now a personal protective grounding method required by OSHA? A: The answer is yes, even though OSHA doesn’t specifically say so in terms we easily understand. The terminology isn’t OSHA’s fault. As an industry, we adopt certain familiar ways of describing or discussing things and simply don’t recognize what OSHA is trying to communicate unless we do some diligent research. In 29 CFR 1910.269(n)(3), OSHA requires arrangement of grounds to protect employees without using the word “equipotential.” The title of the rule, however, is “Equipotential...

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Train the Trainer 101: Practical Personal Protective Grounding

In the last 10 years I have consulted on dozens of induction incidents, eight of which resulted in fatalities. There were commonalities in each one. Just about every Incident Prevention reader will agree that one of the topics that receives the most attention across the power industry – in writing, training and conversation – is personal protective grounding (PPG). Not a week goes by that I don’t email or talk to someone about PPG and, in particular, about dealing with induction. At iP we discuss and share information as well as news about incidents involving induction, and yes, they do...

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Voice of Experience: Fundamentals of Underground Padmount Transformers

In recent months Incident Prevention has received several questions about underground (UD) padmount transformers, so in this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I’d like to take the time to cover the general aspects of these types of transformers. To begin, there are a few different types of single-phase and three-phase UD padmounts: live front with exposed live primary parts, 600-amp bolt-on elbows and loop feed with bushings and elbows. All of these transformers are available in several voltage ranges. The proper PPE must be worn when an employee is opening, entering and working on energized...

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June 2015 Q&A

Q: Are there any changes to steel-toe boot requirements for lineworkers in the recently revised OSHA 1910.269 standard? A: OSHA still leaves it to employers to decide whether hard-toe or protective footwear is required. As with all other PPE, the decision should be made based on risks and history. Wearing safety footwear is not required by the PPE rule. However, what is required in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.136, “Foot protection,” is a mandatory assessment of the work environment. The rule states that the employer “shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas...

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December 2014 Q&A

Q: In regard to work boots and arc flash protection, what does OSHA mean by “heavy-duty work shoes or boots” in 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(8)(v)(B)? Are boots made of synthetic material acceptable if they are work boots? A: As with all OSHA rules, it is up to the employer to understand the risks and the necessary protections. In many cases the consensus standards give guidance that can be used to satisfy the OSHA standard. Even though NFPA 70E exempts utilities, OSHA has clearly used the NFPA as a source of material to assist utility employers in protecting employees, and the clothing standards in 70E...

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Train the Trainer 101: Stringing in Energized Environments

Stringing wire in any environment can quickly go wrong. Dropped conductors can wreak havoc if precautions are not taken. In an energized environment, the result of losing control or dropping conductors has a greatly magnified risk. Guard structures are the first type of protection conventionally used to prevent contact with energized lines. Ideally, guard structures are positioned so that whether it’s the unexpected loss of stringing tension or something as major as a dropped conductor, the conductor being pulled will not make contact with the energized lines. There are other requirements, too,...

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Train the Trainer 101: Grounding Trucks and Mobile Equipment

A few years ago at a company I worked for, an experienced, highly trained professional lineman, thinking he was lifting a truck ground, inadvertently lifted the ground rod connection for a transmission circuit bracket ground. Induction current instantly killed him as though he had made contact with an energized phase. The genesis of the incident was largely a lack of attention to details as everyone seemed to be aware of the risks and understood the purpose and need for the grounding that was installed. In the past six years, I have personally consulted for 11 different companies that experienced...

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Are Your Temporary Protective Grounds Really Protecting You?

National equipment standards constantly evolve due to near misses and incidents that occur in the field. This evolution results in electric utilities adopting different work methods and procedures, equipment, education and training to keep utility workers and the public safe as every electric utility company builds and maintains the national electric grid. Personal protective grounds are placed between de-energized conductors in case the conductors become accidentally energized. The assembly creates a short circuit, causing the circuit to relay out, and protects a worker from dangerous differences...

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Train the Trainer 101: ASTM F855 Grounding Equipment Specs Made Simple

I define safety as identifying and managing hazards to prevent incidents. That is accomplished using a broad array of tools and rules for the employer and workforce. Good safety professionals and trainers have to go beyond the OSHA and MSHA regulatory text to completely understand the rules. That is where preambles to the standards, interpretations, CPLs and consensus standards are needed. In 29 CFR 1910.269 Appendix E, OSHA lists consensus standards that, as the introduction to Appendix E states, can be helpful in understanding and complying with the requirements of 1910.269. One of the referenced...

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Train the Trainer 101: Understanding Grounding for the Protection of All Employees

I suspect that in the past 20 years the utility industry has grounded more circuits for the protection of employees than were ever grounded in the first 115 years of utility operations. Judging from the number of serious incidents and hazardous conditions created by temporarily grounding systems, it seems that we may not have understood all of the issues. It’s almost intuitive; grounding makes the work safer, but for whom? I once investigated a case in which an apprentice standing in a muddy right-of-way was grounding a truck to a pole bond and received a severe shock. A system fault many...

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4 Rules to Live By

Looking for an alternative to ground-to-ground and cradle-to-cradle? The method suggested here could be your answer. Georgia Power Company (GPC) has developed the 4 Cover-up Rules philosophy to train employees rather than requiring a ground-to-ground or cradle-to-cradle glove and/or sleeve rule. Every fatality in the last 89 years at GPC has been phase-to-ground contact or in-series with line-to-load on either primary or secondary voltages. GPC has not had a fatality on system or source voltages (feedback) since the 4 Rules of Cover-up were developed and implemented after the last fatality in...

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Why Single-Point Grounding Works

The pros and cons of single-point equipotential grounding, as opposed to working between your grounds or bracket grounding, has generated a lot of discussion. As found in IEEE-1048 Guide for Protective Grounding of Power Lines, single-point equipotential grounding is becoming more simply and accurately referred to as worksite grounding. In most cases, those who don’t trust worksite grounding don’t understand how or why it works. In fact, we have always been taught as linemen to “work between your grounds,” and that seemed like good advice. But it may not have been the...

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