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Tag: Safety Management

The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture

I began writing my new book – “The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture” – in 2004 while working as a civilian contractor for Kellogg Brown & Root in Iraq. I was the area HSE manager for a large portion of the Logistical Civilian Augmentation Program #3 Project. Our contract required us to hire a certain percentage of local national employees (Iraqis) to help build bases for the U.S. military and coalition forces. This was to help the local economy and to teach the Iraqi people new skills that they could use once we were gone. In theory, this was a great idea; in reality, however,...

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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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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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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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Increasing Worker Confidence and Competence

When allowed to be immersed in their desired craft, our workers become proficient, experienced and competent. Adept lineworkers, for example, will interact with thousands of poles and pieces of hardware in their careers. They have a deep understanding of strain, depth, condition and loading after only moments of viewing a pole they are about to work on. But does the industry recognize and treat our workers like they are the experts? This article is not meant to tell you what you should do, but I am going to provide information for you to discuss, interpret and decide how to implement. If the...

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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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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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Electrical Arc Flash and Shock Hazards for Fall Protection Using ASTM F887

Electrical Arc Flash and Shock Hazards for Fall Protection Using ASTM F887 The standard helps to ensure equipment safety in multihazard environments. Arc-rated personal protective equipment (PPE) provides thermal protection against burns to a worker’s body. Fall protective systems, although categorized as PPE, do not have the same primary purpose. A fall protective system’s primary performance requirement is fall protection. In applications where both the exposure to thermal hazards from an electric arc or flame and the prevention of falls must be considered, the fall protective system must...

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Managing Risk Through Cognitive Impairment Testing

Editor’s Note: Incident Prevention does not condone, promote or recommend manufacturers’ products mentioned in technical articles. The magazine’s editorial advisory board will make exceptions for devices, technology or equipment that is unique in its design or application. The board has found that AlertMeter, mentioned in this article, meets the exception as their research could not find a competitor that offered a similar device. Incident Prevention believes the information provided in this article to be an evolving application in risk prevention and therefore of interest to readers. Incident...

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Are Your Lessons Learned Making Your Workers Safer?

Reports of the incident travel like lightning through the company. There are no real details yet, just a statement that at 10 a.m. today, an employee of The Big City Project was seriously injured on the job. The event soon becomes the subject of coffee break conversations. “We’ve had a lot of serious incidents lately” seems to be the consensus. This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2021

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Lagging Indicators, Leading Indicators … Let’s Start Over

What do indicators really mean? Occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals continue to debate this issue. Can indicators really measure performance of an OSH program? On one side are lagging indicators, which include common markers such as total recordable incident rate (TRIR); days away, restricted and transfer rate; and experience modification rate. This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series APRIL-MAY 2021

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The Biological Basis of Complacency

The adverse effects of complacency in the workplace have long been an ongoing source of concern in the safety community. What is not agreed upon is the reason for this problem. In my own experience, I have noticed that safety professionals use the term “complacency” in different ways to refer to different kinds of events.

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Leading Change Through Faith, Hope and Tough Love: Part II

As we discovered in the first part of this two-part series (see https://incident-prevention.com/blog/leading-change-through-faith-hope-and-tough-love-part-i), people are fallible, sometimes lessons aren’t learned, and improvements aren’t always made. This can leave leaders and team members feeling frustrated or apathetic because they don’t know how to right the ship. The simple truth is that your team should be able to succeed today and learn what they need to improve tomorrow. The simple solution is to speak from vision through faith and hope, and lead with tough love. However, simple rarely...

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Leading Change Through Faith, Hope and Tough Love: Part I

The operations director stood before his direct reports, boiling over with anger. “Here we are again!” he said. “Still plagued with the same production, quality and safety issues – problems that we’ve cussed, discussed and created improvement plans for over and over again. I don’t know what’s wrong with you and your people, but we’re going to get to the bottom of this right now. To be brutally honest, I’m not sure that everyone in this room will still have a job next month if you don’t start implementing the changes that will get us different results. So, who wants to kick off this meeting...

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Line and Substation Insulator Refresher

Years ago, a rare event happened in the service area of the company I was working for at the time. Sea fog had rolled in and blanketed most of the system along the coastline where the generation was located. It contaminated the insulators and tripped major circuits everywhere. All of the substation and line crews worked hard to clean the insulators and get the system restored. This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2020

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Safe Transportation of Leaking Transformers

“Back in the day, we put leaking pots in a trash bag, and we were good to go!” For hundreds of Incident Prevention readers, that remark isn’t totally unheard of. And in reality, it’s not far off from what some do when leaking transformers are transported or stored prior to reclamation or disposal. However, that will not save a utility from the fines and reclamation actions it could face if transportation or environmental regulatory authorities get involved. Utilities fall under numerous environmental regulations, including the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Since the 1970s, public demand...

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The Hierarchy of Incidents and Learning: Part II

The contractor’s executive team sat across the table from the client’s construction leadership. It was the client’s director who spoke first. “Let’s ensure everyone is on the same page,” he said. “Over the past six months, you’ve had numerous quality, production and schedule issues, an environmental noncompliance, two injuries and a utility contact that caused a 3,500-customer outage for over six hours. All of this has almost crippled three projects that we trusted you with, and we need to know how all this happened and what you are going to do about it.” The contractor’s president looked up...

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The Hierarchy of Incidents and Learning: Part I

You just want to do the job right and go home unharmed today, but things don’t always go as planned, incidents happen, and the lessons your team learns don’t always change the way you’ll do the job tomorrow. This can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless to improve the things that keep your team from reaching its full potential. You deserve a framework that allows you to continuously improve your operations and team morale. In this two-part article, we’ll use the hierarchy of incidents and learning to identify and rank the different parts of an incident. As we work through all six levels...

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Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities: Part II

This article concludes a two-part discussion of protection strategies against arc flash and shock hazards. Here you will read about two topics: (1) arc flash and shock hazard labeling for industrial, commercial and generation facility electrical exposures, and (2) methods used to determine the level of PPE required. The previous article (see https://incident-prevention.com/blog/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities) mentioned that utilities follow OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and construction companies follow either 1926 Subpart K or 1926 Subpart V, depending on the job site....

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The Field Observation: A Proactive Safety Methodology

Electrical utilities are among the most hazardous industries in which to work. And since the early days of power distribution, utilities have investigated and analyzed fatalities and other incidents in an effort to prevent recurrences. One proven way to help verify and measure the effectiveness of an organization’s safety efforts is to conduct field personnel observations – or, in OSHA terminology, “inspections” – on a consistent basis. Conducting these observations enables the organization to take a firsthand look at what is going on in the field, as well as document employees’ demonstration...

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Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities

Electrical safety-related work practices are governed by different OSHA regulations for utilities and construction companies. Utilities follow 29 CFR 1910.269 and construction companies follow either 1926 Subpart K or 1926 Subpart V, depending on the job site. It wasn’t until the 1910.269 revisions in 2014 that OSHA used direct wording mandating arc-rated clothing. And while it may seem that five years is enough time to install an organization-wide PPE program, it is not uncommon to find such programs lacking. Recently, a utility’s operational team confirmed that they normally operate a piece...

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Breaking Down Barriers: Using Data as a Tool in the Driver Safety Communication Process

Utility fleets today have access to a wide variety of valuable data from sources including telematics systems, motor vehicle records and crash statistics, all of which track drivers’ actions behind the wheel. With the vast amount of information available and the efficiency technology offers, it can be tempting to believe instilling safe driving behaviors in your organization’s drivers can be turned into an automated process. The truth is that you can robotize behavioral change to a certain extent, but if you are using only automated processes, don’t expect them to make any true, long-lasting...

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Establishing and Evaluating a Value-Driven Safety Culture

“Safety” is a word many of use daily in our line of work. Within our organizations, we have safety manuals, safety procedures, safety meetings and even entire safety departments. But I often wonder how many times workers have truly considered the question, “What does safety mean to me?” Safety is “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury or loss,” as defined by Merriam-Webster. If you were to come up with your own definition of safety, what would it be? Some common responses I’ve heard include having the ability to go home at the end of each day, not getting injured...

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Organizational Safety Roles and Responsibilities

Safety personnel are not the only individuals responsible for safety in an organization. Executive management, operations management and workers also have roles to play in establishing and maintaining a safe working environment. However, specific roles and responsibilities for each of these groups are not always understood, and they may never have been introduced. This means there may be employees in an organization who do not realize how vital their influence can be on safety – for better or for worse. The four groups listed below typically comprise a safety team; your organization’s team...

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Understanding, Selecting and Caring for FR/AR Clothing

When the original version of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard was published in the 1990s, flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing weren’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known at the time, but the standard only required that an employer not allow an employee to wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury sustained by the employee. This eliminated use of garments constructed with synthetic materials – such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate – so the default was for employees to wear clothing made...

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Five Essentials of Successful Safety Programs

Recently my teammates and I were given the opportunity to evaluate the safety programs of a cross-section of contractors conducting potentially hazardous work for a large utility. It was our goal to help those contractors identify the vulnerabilities of their safety strategies and to help them become even more reliable partners to the utilities they serve. In my line of work, I am often asked what commonalities I see among the most effective safety programs. The temptation is to think that bigger is better, or that world-class safety requires an enormous investment of resources. I wrote this...

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Are Compliance Grungs Taking Over Your Organization?

Do you have a safety culture that focuses solely on safety compliance and the use of personal protective equipment? If so, you probably also have the dreaded Compliance Grungs, which can secrete poisons throughout your organizational safety culture. What exactly are Compliance Grungs, and how do deadly creatures relate to anything associated with safety? Deadly creatures kill, destroy, and cause suffering and pain. They wreak havoc and generate a great deal of harm. Individuals who work for organizations that promote safety only as a rule or compliance issue may experience similar phenomena...

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Specifying Arc-Rated and Flame-Resistant Gloves

Until recently, standard specifications and conformity assessments of flame-resistant (FR) gloves fell into no-man’s land. While many end users have requested FR gloves, there has not been a standard in the industry for manufacturers to use to specifically label their gloves as flame resistant. In 2013, ASTM F18 set forth a standard for testing gloves in arc flash exposures to provide an arc rating; ASTM F2675 offered arc ratings for gloves, but F696 protector gloves and D120 rubber insulating gloves were excluded. This did not prevent testing of rubber insulating or protector gloves, but many...

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Recognizing Our Human Risk Factors

Determining the root cause of an incident or accident gives us the opportunity to share lessons learned to help prevent future duplication of the event. In this article, we’ll identify those inherent human traits that seemingly have little to do with the tasks lineworkers perform but often are the cause of incidents. It’s difficult to mitigate risk if we don’t recognize it, so let’s explore how simply being human can set traps for us. Inattentional BlindnessBefore we go any further, please be interactive here. Log onto your computer and plug in https://youtu.be/KB_lTKZm1Ts. The link will lead...

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Controlling Struck-By Hazards in Utility Work Zones

Struck-by hazards are one of the greatest threats to workers employed in the utility and construction industries, and thus are hazards every utility and construction company should be focused on mitigating. Typical examples of struck-by hazards include traffic passing through a work zone; vehicle and equipment movement within a work zone or construction area; rotating or swinging equipment, such as an excavator; and falling loads and tools. Worker fatalities in work zones dropped due to the last recession, hovering around 100 fatalities per year from 2007 to 2013, but numbers are rising again...

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Are Your Substations Safe?

Electrical power is a critical service that profoundly affects our daily lives. Without it, we would lose cellphone service, safety on city streets would be compromised because lights would not work, and the quality of life as we know it would diminish significantly. We would have to close schools and hospitals, and most jobs would be eliminated. Much of our food supply also would be critically impacted. To continue living the life we are accustomed to – and have come to expect – we must have a reliable source of electricity, which starts with generation. Outside the generation station, power...

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Why Employees are Silent When Near Misses Occur

What is a near miss? For those of you who are new to occupational safety, it’s typically defined as an event in which no workers were injured and no equipment or other property was damaged, but – had things gone just a little differently – injury or damage could have occurred. Let me give you an example. A group of employees were digging a trench with an excavator so they could install some underground piping. At one point, the bucket came in contact with an old, abandoned 480-volt temporary power line that was not supposed to be in the area. Fortunately, the line was not energized, so no employees...

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Rubber Insulating Sleeves and Arc Flash Protection

Rubber insulating sleeves are commonly worn with dielectric gloves in high-voltage applications to provide added insulation from electrical contact for those working on energized equipment. The rubber insulating gloves and rubber insulating sleeves are worn for shock protection; sleeves typically are worn with rubber insulating gloves when the arm can cross the minimum approach distance or the restricted approach boundary. A protector glove typically is used for arc flash protection and for mechanical protection of the rubber insulating glove, but this over-glove does not protect the entire...

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Live Safely: The OG&E Way

Safety is more than a priority at OG&E – it’s a value. Priorities can change daily, but values stay the same and define what OG&E is as a company. Formed in 1902, OG&E is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest investor-owned utility, and over time it has built a culture around being incident- and injury-free (IIF), with the companywide belief that one incident is too many. In everything OG&E employees do, they are intentional about safety and committed to living safely, whether it’s at work, at home, at play or behind the wheel. All OG&E employees receive rigorous and personalized...

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Voice of Experience: The Value of Worker Training

Many recent articles I have read in other magazines and via social media emphasize the importance of worker training. I couldn’t agree more. It is both important and valuable that employers invest in training for new employees entering the industry as well as current employees. While the return on investment cannot always be accurately measured and calculated, the ROI does exist nonetheless – just imagine what injury and fatality statistics would look like if we did not train our workers. One of an employer’s training-related responsibilities is to investigate cases of failure to follow training...

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When Utilities Leave the Pavement: Off-Road Driving Safety Challenges

The need to safely access hard-to-reach areas continues to be a struggle in numerous industries, including utilities. Historically, people have pushed the limits of machinery and designed better tools in attempts to access such areas. In the early days of automobiles, for instance, enthusiasts modified and improved the designs of their vehicles, enabling them to travel farther across terrain on which the vehicles were never originally designed to travel. As technology and industry continued to progress, manufacturers began to design vehicles specifically intended for off-road applications,...

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Empowering Employees to Take Care of Themselves

Sergio is repairing equipment at a power station when he feels a twinge of discomfort in his lower back. Per company policy, he informs his supervisor. What happens next is likely to have a critical impact on the outcome for Sergio and his employer. Let’s assume the supervisor instructs Sergio to stop working and visit a clinic for evaluation. At the clinic, the treating provider conducts a physical exam, orders some diagnostic tests and writes a prescription for medication to relieve pain and inflammation. Sergio takes the afternoon off and returns to work the next day with restrictions. The...

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Voice of Experience: Understanding Induced Voltage

It has taken the electric utility industry many years to understand induced voltage. When I started working in the 1960s, it was explained to me that voltage remaining on de-energized lines was static voltage that had to be bled off or else it could be deadly. Now, when I speak to groups about temporary system grounding for the protection of employees, I occasionally still hear the term “static voltage” being used to describe what really is induced voltage from a nearby energized line. Even today, not everyone in the industry completely understands induced voltage. So, what exactly is induced...

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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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Rethinking Utility Security

The names Nathan Baker, Zackary Randalls, Alex Boschert and William Froelich may not be familiar to you, but their stories are tragically important for utility workers. Nathan worked for East Mississippi Electric Power Association in Clarke County, Mississippi. Zackary was employed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in Fresno, California. And Alex and William worked for Laclede Gas Co. (LGC) near St. Louis. Except for Alex and William, who were employed by the same company, there is no evidence that these men knew each other or their paths ever crossed, so what thread binds them together?...

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Scenario-Based Fall Protection Solutions

At least once in their career, nearly every safety worker in the utility business has been – or will be – faced with the need to use fall protection in an area where there is no place to tie off. In my role as a safety technician, I work with personnel in both generation and transmission business units; fall protection is needed in this line of work, but I have found that anchorage points can sometimes be few and far between. It’s a problem that clearly needs to be solved, and in this article I will share what my company has done to provide scenario-based solutions. Scenario OneDuring an outage...

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Three Overlooked Processes for Increasing Safe Work Practice

Have you ever seen or heard a restaurant, vehicle dealership or retailer claim, “We care little about service”? On the contrary, don’t many of these businesses – if not most – make bold claims about the quality of their services? How many, though, take the time needed to do the work, pay attention to the details, and become known for meeting or exceeding their claims? Now, think for a moment. Have you ever seen or heard an electric utility organization of any variety claim, “We care some about safety performance”? I doubt it. If you look at 100 electric utility website landing pages, it’s likely...

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How to Develop a Contractor Safety Management Standard

Have you ever questioned whether a contractor or subcontractor was qualified to perform electric power work? If so, you should consider developing a contractor safety management standard. This type of standard defines minimum safety requirements that contractors must adhere to when they perform work for your company. Years ago, many electric power organizations used contractual language and a hands-off approach to establish contractor safety responsibilities. In fact, organizations hired contractors to perform work they felt was unsafe because they knew the contractor would do whatever it took...

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Using Arc Protective Blankets as an Engineering Control Method

While engineering controls are preferred over personal protective equipment for worker protection, many engineering controls, such as arc-resistant switchgear, require the purchase of new electrical equipment in order to fully implement them. When replacing equipment, this type of installation makes total sense, but it rarely can be the only company policy to mitigate arc flash in all facilities. OSHA always prefers that organizations use the highest option possible on the hierarchy of controls. This is clear in the preamble to 29 CFR 1910.269, in which OSHA states the following: “NFPA 70E-2004...

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Chris Grajek Honored at 2017 USOLN Safety Award Ceremony

On October 2, the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network (www.usoln.org) held its annual award ceremony at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Louisville, Ky. During the event, USOLN board members presented the John McRae Safety Leadership Award to Chris Grajek, CRSP, CUSP. Grajek currently serves as safety and work methods director for Allteck Line Contractors based in Burnaby, British Columbia.   The John McRae Safety Leadership Award was created to honor McRae, a fourth-generation lineman who enjoyed a 42-year career before passing away July 27, 2010. He was active in...

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What Changes When You Put a Face on Safety?

As an experienced lineman, Gary Norland was typical of many workers: big and strong, physically tough, unafraid of any challenge. That was before he came into contact with a 12,500-volt line. That’s when everything changed. He is not alone, as many others also have experienced serious electrical contacts on the job. The well-known fact is electrical line work can be hazardous and potentially deadly. Based on high fatal work injury rates, the U.S. Department of Labor puts it in the top 10 high-risk occupations. In the industry, there is continuous lineworker safety training, a heavy focus on...

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Secondary FR Garments: Practical Solutions for Protection

Cleanup of potentially hazardous materials and flammable contaminants can sometimes be a part of an electrical job. When workers arrive on a scene, they cannot always be sure of the exposures or contaminants they will face. In electrical work, it could be oil that contains a small number of PCBs. This oil, and other contaminants, is flammable and can affect the flame-resistant properties of garments until it is washed from the garments. Working around flammable contaminants, as well as flame and thermal hazards like arc flash potentials and flash fire potentials, often requires a PPE safety...

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Safety Concerns When Working In and Around Manholes and Vaults

Some utilities – including electric, cable and communications providers – have had both underground and overhead applications for many years. However, more and more of these utilities now are either primarily installing their services underground or relocating overhead services underground, for a variety of reasons. These include reliability and protection from weather conditions, as well as minimizing exposure to equipment, vehicular traffic and farming operations. In addition to these safety concerns, utilities are installing services underground due to customer requests to improve the general...

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Train the Trainer 101: Practical Aviation for Power-Line Applications

It was a little over 40 years ago that a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot in Florida made the first live-line contact with a live transmission circuit, bringing a quantum leap for power-line applications using helicopter methods. The FAA regulates what they call “rotorcraft” work with specific qualifications for pilots, flight crews and the airships and auxiliary equipment used. Many utilities and contractors think helicopters – or HCs, in flyers’ lingo – are for use on difficult projects because of the expense. But I have been working with contractors for the last 15 years who recognize the...

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Voice of Experience: Distribution Cover-Up: Why Wouldn’t You Use It?

Over the next few installments of “Voice of Experience,” I’ll be reviewing some accidents that have taken place in the electric utility industry. I’ve had many requests for information about incident investigations and would like to share some details in hopes of preventing similar accidents in the future. Distribution cover-up will be the focus for this issue’s column. Approximately half – or even more – of accidents that result in flashes and electrical contacts are the result of poor cover-up or total lack of rated protective cover. Why would a lineworker not take the time to install protective...

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Rope Access Work in Today’s Line Trade

Rope has always been at the core of many operations and is the principal means of removing an injured person from a structure or manhole. In recent years, labor laws have revised and expanded expectations, particularly for worker fall protection on towers. The quest for methods to accommodate these rules has created opportunities for new applications of rope techniques, introducing wider use of rope access and rope descent technologies into the line industry. Rope access describes rope-use techniques that have evolved from centuries-old rope applications incorporating maritime, construction...

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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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Making Sense of Protection Requirements for Open-Air Arc Flash Hazards

Electric utility workers face complex, high-risk electrical hazards nearly every day. Information about shock hazards – which may come from impressed voltage, residual energy, induction, objectionable current flow in a grounding system or stored energy – has been taught to many of us for quite some time, as have the methods of assessing them. On the other hand, arc flash hazard assessments are still relatively new to us. In the past, most of us knew that an arc flash could potentially occur during the course of performing our tasks, but the level of the flash and the PPE requirements...

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Injury Risks Associated with Climbing in the Wind Energy Generation Industry

The growth of the wind energy generation industry in the U.S. has been phenomenal. According to the American Wind Energy Association, at the end of 2016 there were over 52,000 utility-grade wind turbines operational in more than 40 states, with a total capacity of 83,000 megawatts. The Global Wind Energy Council’s latest report shows that the U.S. has the second-largest wind power capacity, after China, with 16.9 percent of the world total, and employs over 100,000 people directly or indirectly. As the number of wind turbine towers grows, so does the number of people involved in their...

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Train the Trainer 101: Training and Verification Requirements for the Safety of Electric Utility Workers

A number of years ago I investigated a pole-top flash that took place during a transfer. The flash occurred when an improperly installed blanket left a dead-end flange exposed on the backside of the metal pole-top. During untying, the tie-wire contacted the exposed flange. No one was hurt. The issue was the lineman’s selection and installation of the blanket. The foreman assumed the lineman was experienced and competent to perform the three-phase transfer with minimal instruction. The problem was the lineman had spent the last several years on a service truck, had little transfer experience...

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Voice of Experience: Qualified and Task-Specific Electrical Worker Training

The revised OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard has now been in place for three years. In making the revisions, OSHA replaced older, passive language that left much to be understood with more objective language that clarifies the meaning and intent of the regulation. The standard is now easier to understand and sets the expectations for employers and employees. There were some major changes made to the standard, as we all know. Several more subtle changes also were included and have been discussed much less, but they still have had a significant impact on the regulation. In this installment of “Voice...

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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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Confined Space Training: It Has to Be Done Right the First Time

Entering and working in confined spaces is serious business. In the years I’ve been a safety professional, I’ve been involved with several hundred confined space entries, including overseeing entries into most of the confined space examples listed in the scope of OSHA’s “Confined Spaces in Construction” standard. A number of times I’ve been called to the scene of a confined space entry where the entrants had been evacuated because of alarms from direct-reading portable gas monitors. Some of these alarms were caused by degradation of atmospheric conditions, while others were due to operator...

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Shining a Light on Ventilation Systems and Surveys in the Electric Power Industry

It takes a wide variety of activities – some obvious and others not so obvious – to keep electric utility operations humming along. With maintenance facilities and power plants in particular, there are sometimes unidentified exposures that grow as the facilities grow. In other scenarios, our understanding of exposures or emerging regulations requires the need for a professional hygienist to assess and remediate exposures. Ventilation surveys, which can detect ventilation system failures, are a critical but often overlooked tool that should be used to maintain safe, healthy operations, whether...

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Marking a Safety Milestone at Silicon Valley Power

Clear minds, focused on the task at hand. Strict attention to details and checklists critical to the job. Precise and continual communication among the field, management and control teams. Ongoing training and safety manual review. Looking out for one another. Trust in the workforce’s skills with no micromanagement and with the boss’ door always open. Such are the written – and unwritten – rules governing the field forces of Silicon Valley Power, the City of Santa Clara, Calif.’s municipal electric utility that recently marked a company milestone: 1,000 days without a lost day of work due to...

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Using Thermography for Underground Worker Safety

For more than 100 years, Commonwealth Edison – commonly known as ComEd – has been powering the lives of customers across Northern Illinois, including those in Chicago, a city that has thousands of circuit miles of medium-voltage distribution cables installed in conduit and manhole systems. Over the decades, ComEd’s underground cable splicers have experienced failures of distribution cable system components, including cables, joints and terminations, while employees were working in manholes and vaults. A large number of cable system failures occurred at cable joints in underground manholes....

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Train the Trainer 101: Addressing Common Fall Protection Questions and Concerns

To begin this article, I want to offer a disclaimer. One of the reasons the “Train the Trainer 101” series was created is to examine the practical aspects of compliance as they relate to the utility industry. We do that by reading the statutes, looking at how OSHA interprets and enforces the rules, reviewing what the consensus standards state and then determining practical ways the employer can manage and comply with the rules. Sometimes I raise an eyebrow, but in working with the group of professionals who review every article published in Incident Prevention’s pages, we endeavor to ensure...

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Voice of Experience: OSHA Record-Keeping Requirements

OSHA record-keeping has long been an administrative challenge to businesses required to keep OSHA logs. In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I’ll cover some changes that have occurred over the years as well as some essentials that all employers and employees must understand in order to maintain compliance with OSHA requirements. When the change from the OSHA 200 log to electronic record-keeping was made in 2002, it was a relief to many. At that time, all issues involving first aid were resolved; a list of first aid treatments was identified and took any doubt out of the requirement...

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April 2017 Q&A

Q: Our plant safety committee has a longtime rule requiring electrical hazard safety shoes for our electricians. We were recently told by an auditor that we have to pay for those shoes if we require employees to wear them. We found the OSHA rule requiring payment, but now we wonder if we are really required to use the shoes. Can you help us figure it out? A: Sure, we can help. But first, please note that Incident Prevention and the consultants who have reviewed this Q&A are not criticizing a rule or recommending a rule change for any employer. What we do in these pages is explain background,...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Risk Tolerance

A fundamental premise of working safely is that hazards must be identified and then controlled. Too many incidents occur because hazards are not identified, or worse, they are identified but ignored or tolerated. One of my favorite ways to introduce the concept of risk tolerance is to ask a Frontline class this simple question: “What are some things you might hear someone say before something really bad happens?” It always amazes me – and scares me – how open participants are when I ask this question. Typical responses I have heard include:• “We’ve done this a thousand times and no one has ever...

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The Silent Secret About Successful Safety Communication

It’s a chilly morning, and the crew is eager to make progress on the substation upgrade before tomorrow’s snow. A shiny pickup truck pulls up to the job site, the driver’s door opens and out walks a good-looking guy in neatly pressed khakis, a white button-down shirt and highly polished lace-up shoes. He stops a couple yards away from the crew, looks at everyone, breaks into a cheesy smile and makes a joke about his golf game. Nobody laughs or even snickers. After an awkward pause, “Joe Office” tells the crew that fall protection is the day’s safety discussion topic. He points to one of the...

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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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Understanding and Preventing Lower Back Pain in the Electric Utility Industry

“I don’t know what I did to cause this injury, Doc. I’ve had lower back pain on and off for the past five years, but it’s never been like this before. All I did was reach under the boom for a roll of cable on the truck when I felt something give in my back and then felt shooting pain down both legs. What the heck happened?” This is not an unusual story. When I used to practice as a chiropractic orthopedist, I heard similar accounts on a daily basis. Lower back pain affects utility workers in epidemic proportions. In 2004, my company surveyed 224 employees of a public electric utility, and the...

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Maximizing Your Arc-Rated Gear

When designing your PPE program, how do you know which option will work best for your application? How can you get the most for your money? How can you get no-cheating compliance from your workers? With so many arc-rated (AR) and flame-resistant (FR) PPE products on the market, it can be difficult for a utility or utility contractor to make a sound decision. To start, complete an analysis to determine hazard levels, as well as the workers who will be exposed. Application, comfort and cost should be considered when deciding on the best product to purchase. In this article, we will help you see...

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Train the Trainer 101: The New Walking-Working Surfaces Final Rule

OSHA’s final rule on 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, “Walking-Working Surfaces,” is finally here. It’s 26 pages of nine-point font equaling 21,675 words, and I read them all. It’s big, and if you include the preamble in your analysis, it is also complicated. It was just as hard to write about as it was to read. I guess that shouldn’t be unexpected for a final rule that has been in the works since 1983. The original 1910 Subpart D was published in 1971. The first update was proposed in 1983, but it was never ratified. Proposals were again considered in either the Construction standard or the General Industry...

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Voice of Experience: Inspection, Maintenance and Fall Protection Guidance for Bucket Truck Use

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.67 is the performance-based standard that covers requirements when using vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platforms, including the bucket trucks we use in the electric utility industry. There are many types of buckets, and the task to be performed will determine what type of bucket is required. This standard even covers noninsulated work platforms, sometimes referred to as JLGs, used in civil construction. For clarification, a mobile platform covered under 1910.68, “Manlifts,” is not covered under the 1910.67 standard. Mobile platforms are considered mobile scaffolding...

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February 2017 Q&A

Q: We are a small, distribution-only municipal utility that has been looking into human performance. We are having some trouble understanding it all and how it could benefit us. Most of the training resources are pretty expensive. Can you help us sort it out? A: We can. Human performance management (HPM) has been around in various forms and focuses since before the 1950s. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, it seems the focus was on companies performing functional analysis and correcting issues that created losses, thereby promoting more efficient and error-resistant operations. In the ’60s and ’70s,...

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Frontline Fundamentals: Controlling Hazards

“Get us a bucket truck, a rock and a hard hat. The rest of the class and I will meet you outside in 10 minutes.” Those were my instructions to a participant who, during a recent Frontline program session, challenged me as I was teaching the hierarchy of controls and explaining why PPE should be considered the last line of defense. The participant was adamant that he had always been trained that PPE is your primary protection and that if you are wearing it, you are protected and can work as you want. The rest of the group validated that was how they understood their training. This put us at...

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New Updates to the National Electrical Safety Code

The National Electrical Safety Code is a referenced standard to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269. A referenced standard means it is a voluntary consensus standard that OSHA recognizes as a means to help the employer meet the requirements of the OSHA rules. OSHA will not cite an employer on the basis of an NESC provision, but the agency may use the NESC as evidence the employer knew a hazard existed and may have been prevented using the provisions of the NESC. The 2017 edition of the NESC was released earlier this year. It has been reorganized for easier use and includes a number of changes and exceptions...

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Creating a Safe Driving Culture

At ComEd, as with any other electric utility, keeping the lights on is important. However, no job is so important that it cannot be done safely, and that includes driving to and from the job site. Over the past few years, ComEd – a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp. and the largest electric utility in Illinois – has worked diligently to educate its drivers about safe driving practices, help them develop skills and learn techniques to avoid accidents, and raise awareness about the many distractions that can occur on the road today. Drivers are encouraged to “treat driving with the respect it...

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Emergency Preparedness for Remote Winter Work Locations

When utility employees travel to remote backcountry job sites, things can turn bad quickly if they are not prepared to deal with hazards. And a bad situation can become exponentially worse during the winter months, when over-the-snow travel may be involved and additional factors – such as limited or failed communications, difficult terrain, winter storms, avalanche hazards and the potential for cold weather injuries – can potentially wreak havoc. If employees are to understand how to safely handle these types of emergency situations, employers must diligently train and equip employees well...

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Rope Access for Live-Line Work

As a third-generation lineman in the high-voltage utility industry, I can say based on experience that the industry has changed slowly at certain times and radically at others. And yet one thing that has not changed much over the years is the process of performing live-line work on extra-high-voltage (EHV) transmission lines. It still requires the use of live-line tools; it still requires linemen to maintain minimum approach distances; it still requires that linemen possess the knowledge and ability to use tools properly depending on the application, whether it be steel or wood construction;...

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Train the Trainer 101: Understanding Canine Behavior for the Protection of Utility Workers: Part Two

In the last installment of “Train the Trainer 101” (see http://incident-prevention.com/blog/train-the-trainer-101-understanding-canine-behavior-for-the-protection-of-utility-workers), I provided information to help utility personnel understand, in part, why dogs do what they do. In particular, I addressed the pack mentality, dominant and submissive behaviors, and when and why a dog may feel threatened and try to attack. In the conclusion to this two-part article, I will explain how best to respond to unfamiliar dogs and what to do if you are attacked, as well as discuss breeds that are more...

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Voice of Experience: Switching and Working on UD Systems

I was recently asked to provide information about the challenges and opportunities found when working on direct-buried underground distribution (UD) systems. In light of that request, I’ll address those topics in this installment of “Voice of Experience.” My first opportunity to work on UD systems was as a truck driver operating a trencher in the late 1960s. UD systems were fairly new at the time; lineworkers were learning new techniques, using different types of tools to terminate cables and installing switchable elbows. In that day, some elbows were non-load-break. Back then the work was all...

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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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Assimilating Short-Service Employees Into Your Safety Culture

Culture is one of the most significant drivers of an organization’s safety performance. It can take time to build a safety culture, and it also takes time for employees to assimilate into an existing culture after beginning work for an organization. This poses a serious challenge for organizations that regularly scale to meet project demands. An influx of short-service employees (SSEs) often coincides with an increase in incidents. While there are a number of reasons for this – such as poor hazard recognition – one significant reason is that SSEs have not yet assimilated into the existing culture’s...

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Does Your Company Have an Effective Safety Management System?

Your safety program can have fully developed rules and procedures, a top-notch training program and the best safety equipment and tools money can buy – and there is still the possibility that it may not be successful. Although these things are extremely important and necessary, safety success will not occur until your safety program becomes a fully functional safety management system. This means that everyone in the organization is actively pursuing the same safety goals and working together in a synchronized manner to achieve those goals. A fully developed and well-executed safety management...

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Underground Electrical Vaults: Safety Concerns and Controls

There are hundreds of thousands of man-accessible vaults in North America, with potentially tens of thousands of utility worker entries into those vaults each year. And it’s likely that every worker who enters a vault appreciates the safety procedures that govern the work. The combination of high-voltage electrical cables and aging infrastructure can exponentially complicate even the most routine vault-related task. In addition, many utilities across North America continue to report electrical vault failures, some of which lead to violent explosions. For the most part, utility owners have a...

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Train the Trainer 101: Understanding Canine Behavior for the Protection of Utility Workers

Utility personnel are going to find themselves in confrontations with dogs. It is the nature of our work. How a worker responds during that type of engagement will have consequences that can be good or bad. The best consequence is when the parties go their separate ways and no one is left bleeding. Frankly, bleeding is not the worst outcome of these situations. People sometimes die as a result of confrontations with dogs, and the dogs can be hurt or killed, too. As a dog person, I would choose to see everyone walk away if at all possible. While there is no magic formula that can be used to prevent...

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Voice of Experience: OSHA’s MAD Changes and a Missed Opportunity

In the 2014 OSHA update to 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, major changes were made regarding apparel and minimum approach distance (MAD) calculations. And yet I believe the agency missed an opportunity related to distribution voltages and gloving of energized conductors and equipment. For all intents and purposes, other than the MAD updates, few changes occurred in 29 CFR 1910.269(l) regarding working position. A new requirement removed any implied obligation that an employer is accountable for ensuring employees do not approach or take any conductive objects within the MADs found in tables...

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October 2016 Q&A

Q: What is meant by the phrase “circulating current” as it pertains to transmission towers? Does it have something to do with the fact that there is no neutral? A: We’re glad you asked the question because it gives us an opportunity to discuss one of the basic principles of the hazard of induction. More and more trainers are teaching with a focus on principles instead of procedures, and we often overlook some of these basic definitions. The concept of circulation is associated with what happens in any interconnected electrical system. Refer to the basic definition for parallel paths: Current...

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Optimizing Your Safety Observation Program

World-class organizations do not achieve sustained safety excellence without a process in place that identifies risk exposure well before an incident or injury occurs. Yet countless companies have established observation programs without measurable success. In the paragraphs that follow, my goal is twofold: to provide readers with a greater understanding of the importance of employing a proactive safety observation strategy in the workplace, and to offer a step-by-step guide to ensure its effectiveness. Broken WindowsTo begin, I want to provide two examples of a topic that has significant influence...

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The Causes and Prevention of Shoulder Injuries in the Electric Distribution Field

It’s 3 a.m. Once again the dull ache stirs you from sleep. The first time was at midnight. Now the ache in your shoulder is telling you it’s time to roll onto your other side. Hopefully this will be the last time this happens tonight. For far too many lineworkers, this has become a nightly ritual. In 2004, Business Health Resources conducted a symptom survey of 224 overhead electric employees who worked for one public utility, and it revealed that 56 percent of them experienced shoulder pain a couple times a week or more often. Many experienced shoulder pain on a daily basis. Because shoulder...

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The Road to an Innovative, Award-Winning Safety Program

Monday mornings at Coutts Bros. – an electrical line construction and maintenance contractor – begin the same way they have for more than 50 years. The crew meets on the old Coutts family property in Randolph, Maine, before 6 a.m., coffee and lunchboxes in hand, wearing shirts and hats that sport a variety of company logos from the last few decades. Conversations are lighthearted; depending on the season, discussions range from the weekend’s Red Sox, Bruins or Patriots game to embellished fishing and hunting stories, complete with cellphone pictures to prove the tales are mostly true. This...

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Tricks of the Trade to Improve the Trenching Environment

This is the final installment in a four-part series on trenching and excavation. “Trenching by the Numbers” (http://incident-prevention.com/blog/trenching-by-the-numbers), the first article in the series, presented a simple method for recalling OSHA’s trenching and excavation requirements. The second article focused on soil mechanics (http://incident-prevention.com/blog/soil-mechanics-in-the-excavation-environment), taking an in-depth look at the behavior and characteristics of different soil types and their relationships with water and air. In the June 2016 issue of Incident Prevention, I...

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Train the Trainer 101: Practical Personal Grounding in Underground Work

Incident Prevention has been covering personal protective grounding (PPG) for many years. Most of the emphasis has been on overhead applications for transmission and distribution. Lately, however, iP and many consultants associated with the publication have been receiving more and more inquiries from utilities seeking to understand the issues related to PPG applications in underground. Part of the issue with PPG is that, as I mentioned, most training and rules seem to coalesce around overhead applications. The majority of the written standards – both OSHA and consensus – are found in sections...

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Voice of Experience: OSHA Requirements for Step Potential Protection

When OSHA updated 29 CFR 1910.269 and merged almost all of its requirements with 1926 Subpart V, the requirement to protect employees from step potential was enhanced. In the months following the publication of the final rule, this change was rarely mentioned in the major webinars conducted by several prominent utility industry groups, so I want to take this opportunity to cover what you need to know. First, let’s talk a bit about the basic fundamentals of Ohm’s law and Kirchoff’s law of current division in order to ensure you understand the seriousness of step potential hazards. Ohm’s law states...

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August 2016 Q&A

Q: We have heard that OSHA can cite an employer for violation of their own safety rules. How does that work? A: OSHA’s charge under the Occupational Safety and Health Act is the protection of employees in the workplace. The agency’s methodology has always assumed the employer knows – or should know – the hazards associated with the work being performed in the employer’s workplace because that work is the specialty of the employer. OSHA’s legal authority to use the employer’s own safety rules as a reason to cite the employer is found in CPL 02-00-159, the Field Operations Manual (FOM), which...

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