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Tag: Safety Management

What OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Means to You

Airborne crystalline silica has long been discussed as a health hazard in the workplace. When inhaled, very small crystalline silica particles referred to as “respirable” particles are known to cause silicosis, a fatal lung disease, as well as other respiratory-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Exposure to respirable particles can occur anytime dust is produced by cutting, grinding, drilling, sanding or crushing materials such as stone, rock, concrete, brick or blocks. It should be understood, however, that being in an area where silica-containing...

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The Power of an Effective Field Observation Program

Electric utilities are among the most hazardous industries in which to work. This was recognized in the early days of electric power distribution when extremely high fatality rates occurred. Since those days, utilities have examined injuries and fatalities to learn how to prevent others. The examination process has included analyzing possible hazards, mitigating the identified hazards to a safe level of acceptable risk, creating policies and procedures, developing and providing protective equipment, and making the workplace as safe as it can be … or has it? Unless we make a conscious effort...

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Voice of Experience: The Globally Harmonized System is Here

Creating one global standard to classify and label hazardous chemicals has been a topic of international negotiations since the process began in Brazil in 1992. Now, the long-awaited and much-discussed Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is beginning to appear in the American workplace. December 1, 2013, was the deadline for the initial required employee training about the changes the GHS will bring to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which is used to ensure chemical safety in the workplace. The GHS will affect current HCS labeling requirements...

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Safety Management During Change

Safety champions Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities companies have created a culture of safety excellence with consistently low injury rates and hundreds of national and international awards to their employees’ credit. A key factor in LG&E and KU’s success has been a top-led, employee-driven approach to safety, which includes a concentrated effort to identify hazards and issues and proactively address them before they become injuries. Safety professionals know that even the most exemplary performance can turn upside down in a split second due to any number of factors. They...

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Transitioning to FR Clothing

Since Tacoma Power’s creation in the 1890s, its employees have worked on or around energized conductors and have been exposed to the hazards of electrical arcs and flames. For most of that time, electrical workers wore natural fiber clothing to reduce the risk of injury if involved in a situation that could result in an arc flash. Injuries from burning clothing can lead to permanent disabilities and death. The utility launched a project in 2009 to transition to protective clothing that would provide an even greater level of protection. Flame-resistant (FR) clothing promised a much higher level...

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Train the Trainer 101: Why You Need More than 1910 and 1926

OSHA, like MSHA, publishes regulations for the employer to follow to promote safety in the workplace. The methodology of the regulations is to establish performance goals. Regulations do not establish procedures according to OSHA, even though they may occasionally require certain actions. One example is requiring barricades and equipotential mats at grounded equipment to protect workers from voltage gradients. When I teach about OSHA, I like to demonstrate the difference between rule and procedure using rule 29 CFR 1910.23(e)(3)(v) regarding guardrails. Where guardrails are required, they must...

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Ergonomics for Lineworkers

I am not an ergonomics expert. I am, however, a former lineman now in my 50s, experiencing aches and pains from many years of working in the field. I became interested in how ergonomics – the field of study that fits the job to the worker rather than the worker to the job – could improve line work after reading an article that explained how We Energies, an electric service provider headquartered in Milwaukee, had conducted a study in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute and Marquette University to determine why their employees were suffering so many hand, shoulder, knee and...

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Train the Trainer 101: Live-Line Tool Maintenance Program

Around 2009, a hot-line crew working in the Southwest had a transmission phase suspended under a hot stick while replacing a suspension string. The observer on the ground was the first to spot it. The crew was warned and looked up to see their rated hot stick smoking, all the more urgent because at the time they had no safe place to land the phase. The day was freezing and windy, not uncommon for that part of the Southwest. The wind was picking up dust and then mixing with sleet. The sleet started to adhere to the stick, creating a path to the steel crane line. Thinking quickly, the crew knocked...

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The Authority to Stop Work

Since its founding in 1984 as an electric utility contractor company, co-founder Steve Standish has always considered Standard Utility Construction an organization concerned about safety. Specifically, Standard responded to a fatality in 2003 by developing formal safety processes and documents. These included assigning employees to full-time safety-related work; increased emphasis and time devoted to safety meetings and incident response; deepened training and even more extensive use of appropriate PPE, often before an item was formally required by regulation; working toward formal OSHA certifications...

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Foundation Drilling Safety: The Aldridge Electric Story of Success

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 4,500 and 5,000 people are killed in the U.S. workforce each year. Approximately 20 percent of those workplace fatalities are in the construction industry. According to OSHA, the four leading hazards that contribute to fatal injuries in construction are falls, electrocution, struck by object and caught-in/between. In construction, especially in drilled shaft foundations, these four hazards are present each and every day. It could be argued that drilled shaft foundations are potentially one of the most hazardous types of construction work...

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Voice of Experience: Training for the Qualified Employee

Training is required by OSHA and all employees should follow proper training, but the unfortunate truth is that doesn’t always happen, resulting in accidents, contacts and fatalities. OSHA is very specific about defining what qualifies employees to work on and near energized conductors and equipment energized at greater than 50 volts. To be qualified to work on systems considered primary voltages greater than 600 volts, the mandated training is markedly more intense because of the requirements for such things as knowledge of component specialization, procedures such as insulate or isolate, and...

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Voice of Experience: The Cost of Business

Sadly, accidents in our industry continually occur even though they are avoidable. I have spent the better part of 46 years teaching safe work practices, rules and regulations in an effort to prevent accidents from happening. However, in all the time I spent on the job, from my start as a helper on a line crew until I was promoted to line crew supervisor, I never really considered the costs of injuries or property damage. Due to the culture of the industry, the costs were seen as just part of doing business. In this article, I want to take a few minutes to share with you the costs of accidents. I...

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Train the Trainer 101: Arc Hazard Protection

You have read and heard about all of the related standards for arc flash protection and you still don’t have a program or even a plan for a program, right? In this installment of “Train the Trainer 101,” I will sift through the rules so you can begin a practical approach to creating an effective and compliant program. Obviously, we want to protect employees and well-developed programs accomplish that, but this article primarily focuses on the administrative side of compliance. The BasicsArc flash is a recognized hazard and as an employer, you must evaluate the risk and respond accordingly...

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Voice of Experience: The Definition of Personal Protective Equipment

I can remember a day when I would ask employees to name the five topics of a job briefing and why personal protective equipment (PPE) is the fifth point on the list of topics. Since the second part of the question was always a greater challenge for everyone to understand, I’d like to take some time to discuss the differences between protective equipment and PPE. Employees sometimes consider PPE to be system safety grounds, cover-up equipment, traffic vests and other equipment. As you can see in the excerpt below, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I defines and identifies PPE as well as the body parts that...

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Are You Prepared for the Next Generation of Lineworkers?

The next generation of lineworkers is beginning to step in to fill the shoes of retiring baby boomers and most utilities haven’t even begun to think about what it’s going to take to train and educate these new apprentices. Is your company prepared for the next generation? This article offers suggestions for the training planner to consider as you prepare your updated training plan. Strategic PlanningYour organization needs a plan that identifies training goals and the steps that will be taken toward accomplishing those goals. Developing the training plan is usually best accomplished using a...

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Voice of Experience: Are You Ready for the Big Storm?

Now that Superstorm Sandy is over, there are fewer news stories about the destruction left in her wake and more media coverage of other topics. That is the nature of the news, but the truth is that Sandy cleanup will take months to complete. Many homeowners now have to cope with the new normal; their lives have been forever changed by the storm. When looking back on Sandy from a utility perspective – when you are scrutinizing what went well, what didn’t and the lessons learned – please consider the following points. Utility systems, neighborhoods and lives take years to build, and they can all...

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Raising the Bar, Lowering the EMR

Today, many contracting companies in the maintenance and construction industries are facing mounting pressure from utility owners to rethink their health, safety and environmental (HSE) cultures and work practices, which in turn can lower their common HSE indicators. Those companies that fail to meet client demands often find themselves excluded from bid lists while they search for a catalyst of cultural change. In this article, we will explore how Supreme Industries – a contracting company that specializes in right-of-way (ROW) clearing, environmental and sedimentation controls, access roads...

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Voice of Experience: FMCSR Compliance: Driver Qualification Files

As I travel around the country to audit driver qualification files, I often find that requirements found in the federal motor carrier safety regulations (FMCSR) are misunderstood by many companies. In this article I will focus solely on driver qualification files and the most common FMCSR compliance failures I see when I audit those files. Regulation 49 CFR 391.11 requires that a person must be qualified before he or she may drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). A CMV as defined in 49 CFR 390.5 is a vehicle, or the combination of a vehicle and towed unit, weighing 10,001 pounds or greater....

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Performance Improvement: Barriers to Events

For anyone who has worked toward improving the safety performance of an organization, you are consistently led back to the fact that people keep making errors. If we could just stop people from making mistakes, we wouldn’t have all these accidents, right? Right. It’s true. If people didn’t make mistakes, we would have far fewer accidents and events. What is also true is that people are fallible, people make mistakes, and people will continue to make mistakes regardless of how much we wring our hands and tell them to be more careful. Without understanding and accepting these truths, there can...

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Safety and Human Performance: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

Safety and human performance professionals have spent a lot of time trying to find that one nugget, that one silver bullet, that one thing that – if we used it – would stop people from getting hurt. I’ve always been a firm believer that safety and productivity can coexist at the same time. The gap between the two is a lack of focus on behavior. Companies hire people, show them how to use personal protective equipment and then teach them how to perform the tasks they were hired to do. They typically do not train employees on ideal work behaviors, those attitudes they want workers to have while...

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Formal vs. On-the-Job Training

I have been doing a lot of training and evaluation work over the past few years, and I have started to notice a trend. The workers who have had a formal in-depth training experience have a better perspective about the theories behind why they are performing certain tasks. Workers that are trained on the job are good at the tasks, but do not really understand why they perform the tasks that way. The Formal Training Process Let’s look at the training process that goes with a formal program. The worker is trained – via both classroom and hands-on training – on theories of electrical functions,...

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How S.A.F.E.T.Y. Brought Bluebonnet Through the Fires

It was Labor Day weekend of 2011, around 2 p.m., when I received a call that there was a fire in my hometown. A big part of Bastrop County, Texas, was burning and thousands of people were being evacuated – friends, co-workers, neighbors and me. Details were scarce, but there were poles and transformers on fire and lines on the ground. My employer at the time, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, believes in working and living its six foundation values: safety, courage, respect, reliability, community and love. Work got under way quickly, responsibly and safely. Bluebonnet’s emergency action plan,...

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Strategic Safety Partners

In 2004, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) entered into the Electrical Transmission & Distribution (ET&D) Strategic Partnership agreement with six electrical contractors: Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Henkels & McCoy, MDU Construction Services Group, MYR Group, Pike Electric and Quanta Services; one union: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); and two trade associations: the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and Edison Electric Institute (EEI). The primary objective of this partnership is to improve worker safety in the high-voltage...

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The Intersect: A Practical Guide to Work-Site Hazard Analysis

A hazard is essentially a condition or activity that, if left uncontrolled, may result in an accident or a serious injury. To effectively identify hazards, the observer must develop a means of recognizing a hazard exposure. What I see repeatedly in the field are hazard lists like “wear PPE, stay out of the bite, watch for cars, cover up well.” What I don’t see is an effective approach to identifying hazards. I had occasion to investigate a 4-kV contact in a metal-clad breaker where the worker brushed his hand against a control power transformer that had not been identified or tested. For three...

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Safety Rules and Work Practices: Why Don’t They Match Up?

What do safety rules mean to the organization? To the worker? Does having a safety rule mean it has to be followed 100 percent of the time, part of the time or not at all? Most employers and employees would say 100 percent of the time. So why do safety rules and actual work practices not match up every single time? Is the rule not known or not understood, does it not fit the application or has it always been done that way? In a recent survey by an electric utility, employees affirmed that there were often violations of safety rules, they did not always believe the safety rules were applicable...

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Hearing Conservation: An Interesting Challenge

Helen Keller has been quoted as saying that blindness separates you from things, but deafness separates you from people. While noise in the workplace usually does not produce the profound deafness that Helen Keller had, it can contribute to permanent hearing loss. As the quality of hearing aids has improved immensely over the years, people with mild to moderate hearing loss can often expect significant benefit from them. However, hearing aids usually do not improve hearing as effectively as glasses correct vision. On two occasions, I have witnessed men breaking into tears after learning that...

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Arc Flash Exposure Revisited: NESC 2012 Part 4 Update

The 2012 edition of the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) hit the streets August 1. The updated code adds a new dimension to electric utility arc flash implementation with the inclusion of voltages from 50-1000V. Previous editions have required employers to assess voltages over 1000V for potential electric arc flash exposure and to provide clothing or a clothing system with an effective arc rating for the anticipated arc energy. Major ChangesNESC 2012 requires employers to assess low voltages, 50-1000V, for electric arc flash exposure. Many utilities are currently using NESC 2007’s exception...

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Safety Circuitry: The Power in the Brain

“What was he thinking?!” This frustrated question of supervisors, managers and safety professionals speaks directly to the future of safety in utilities. What are workers thinking when performing unsafe acts or walking past hazards, if indeed they are thinking at all? For companies to realize their goal of zero incidents, an understanding of thought, attention, motivation and decision-making is a must. They must now enter the realm inhabited by psychologists for decades, the world of the human brain. It has been said that while we are all born with a brain, no one gets an instruction manual....

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What’s Your Seat Belt IQ?

Seat belt use – or the lack of seat belt use – continues to be an issue on the road and on our job sites. It is obvious that some of our employees and even some of our supervisors don’t get it. Seat belt use is a mandatory Department of Transportation safety rule and it does not matter whether the truck is used on a roadway or right-of-way. OSHA 1926.601, which covers vehicles that operate within an off-highway job site, requires seat belts. If the legal argument is not convincing, maybe statistics will be. Not coincidentally, states with the highest crash fatality rates also rate low in seat...

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Competition for a Cause

Every June, a forest of 45-foot power poles suddenly sprouts in scenic Walla Walla Point Park along the Columbia River in central Washington state. It’s a sign that the best power linemen in the Pacific Northwest will soon head to Wenatchee for the annual Andrew York Lineman Rodeo. Entering its eighth year, the rodeo is hosted by the employees of five public utility districts (PUDs) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77. It is held to honor Andrew York, a Chelan County PUD journeyman lineman who died in 2000 after being struck on the job by a drunken driver. Proceeds...

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Employee Training: How Hard Can It Be?

We all know high-quality training must take place to ensure the overall development of employees. Does having a well-trained employee mean the employee only attends a monthly safety meeting to gain training knowledge? Certainly not. Training should provide employees with a continual understanding of job task requirements, task-associated hazards and the appropriate abatement strategies for their safety. A monthly safety meeting may help validate these issues, but it cannot be the sole delivery method for training. Unfortunately, many employees receive no additional training beyond apprenticeship...

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Challenges & Successes

Remember when getting that new customer powered was the main issue? How many weeks out were our construction crews and how to deal with customers wanting power yesterday? Those were the good old days; money was rolling in and yearly budgets were more of a joy than they are today. One thing is for sure, the utility business never stays the same for long and the challenges of today will be the failures or successes of the future. It all depends on making the right decisions to keep us ahead of the curve. Let’s talk about some issues that just might be similar in your operation. The City of Griffin,...

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Behavior Safety: A Safety Program’s Missing Link

Behavior safety is gaining recognition as a significant safety resource in many industrial companies. In recent discussions, however, safety professionals representing traditional and fundamental safety programs have made me aware that acceptance, understanding and the status of behavior safety are still in question. These discussions brought back early challenges, in particular the claim that behavior safety is just good common sense or another flavor of the month. The value of being a behavior safety educator is knowledge, but only if used accurately.  Exploring issues and getting facts...

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Northeast Utilities Takes Safety Off-Road

Nobody likes getting stuck in mud, rock, sand, snow or anything for that matter. As a company that maintains more than 1,600 miles of transmission lines in all kinds of terrain, Northeast Utilities (NU) understands this fact all too well. Environmentally it can be a nightmare, logistically it can affect job completion estimates and from a safety perspective it can put employees in harm’s way. It was these reasons, along with a proactive approach to safety, which led NU to invest part of its safety budget into a 4×4 training and recovery techniques program for its transmission line crews...

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Solid Footing

In a few years I’ll be 60. I’ve been in the business now for 37 years, but no one ever talked to me about how to care for my feet until I finally had to go to a podiatrist a few years ago. When he looked at my X-rays he said, quite confidently, “You are a lineman right?” It seems he had seen the picture several times before. The bones and connecting tissue and ligaments that make up your feet and legs, as it turns out, are fairly malleable. For the first 20 years of my career, I worked in an older city area where just about every distribution pole was in a backyard, so I climbed almost every...

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LOTO vs. Switching and Tagging

Electric utilities have unique issues that are not easily addressed in a traditional LOTO program. Traditional programs typically address equipment and system designs that rarely change. This is certainly not true with electric utility Transmission and Distribution (T&D) programs. LOTO procedures are dynamic, changing from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. So the question arises: What is the difference between traditional LOTO and switching and tagging programs? Several key differences are equipment source and load conditions that constantly change; various types of switches and...

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NESC-2012-Part 4: Summary of Change Proposals

NESC-2012 change proposals have been published and are available for comment through May 1, 2010. Subcommittee 8, Work Rules Sections 40-44, is responsible for the changes to Part 4 of the NESC. The main change proposal includes a requirement for employers to determine potential electric arc exposures for employees who work on or near lines, parts or equipment 50- 1,000 volts. NESC-2007 does not specifically require employers to perform an arc hazard analysis on low-voltage systems so this will be a major change for 2012. According to the 2012 proposals, NESC Subcommittee 8 established a Low...

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Keeping the ‘Fighter Pilots’ of Your Company Safe

A consistent, clear safety message backed by unwavering actions is what is takes to keep your employees flying straight. Most fighter pilots are 25-years-old and full of vinegar. Sure, they’re smart, but most have a lot of velocity, and often very little vector. There’s no way they can keep themselves from harm. Therefore, peacetime training losses are acceptable. This is the way military leadership used to think. Back then (1988), old school commanders honestly believed that if we were going to train (fly) like we were going to fight, a few losses were to be expected and accepted....

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