Tag: Tailgate Topics

Powerful Safety Messages: Spoken and Silent

In September 1994, my career in safety and human performance had yet to begin. At the time, accepting a temporary position in safety was my way to “get out of Dodge,” which was the Customer Information Center at the local gas utility. Having spent four years as a call center representative and another four as a supervisor in that same call center, I distinctly remember the day that the company’s safety and training manager offered me a temporary opportunity to help rebuild their safety program. He barely had the words out of his mouth – “How would you like to …?” – when I emphatically said yes....

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Battling Invisible Distractions

Over the years, the utility industry has spent countless hours and dollars on worker safety efforts. By now, I think just about everyone reading this Tailgate Topic has attended a safety seminar or meeting where a new concept was explained, a new acronym was released or a new form was rolled out. Personally, my bowl is full of alphabet soup and my file cabinet is full of documents with untold revisions. But what have these concepts, acronyms and forms really done for us? Yes, we have fewer accidents today than we did in the early days of line work. There have been major advancements in industry...

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The End of the Day

Safety is an around-the-clock job. However, there are certain times – like the end of the workday – when safety needs to be given extra attention. In the beginning of the workday, worker complacency is typically at its lowest. That’s because we may not yet be familiar with the day’s work, which keeps us on our toes. The job briefing or tailboard will help to focus the crew on the task at hand, the hazards present and the barriers to mitigate those hazards. Hopefully everyone on the crew is well-rested, and if you are like most lineworkers, you are looking forward to tackling the job. By the...

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Watch Your Step

Soft tissue injuries are very painful, and it takes a long time to heal from them. In addition to pain, they also can cause frustration and emotional distress. Big medical bills and a loss of wages may be covered by workers’ compensation, but that doesn’t reduce pain or cover lost overtime, and it certainly doesn’t compensate for lost family time or time away from outdoor pursuits, among other things. If slips and falls happen at home, workers’ compensation doesn’t help at all. Often, these types of injuries are self-inflicted, perhaps the result of rushing or not paying attention. So, it’s...

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Combating Drowsy Driving

Many years ago, a young fellow who I was great friends with was on a run to fix a truck up north. He called his wife on his way back to tell her that he would be home in about four or five hours. Well, it wasn’t long before she got word that he had fallen asleep while driving, gone over an embankment and sustained fatal injuries. Since then, I have heard dozens more drowsy driving stories, not from strangers, but from people I know. I have also been a victim of drowsy driving, waking up a few times in the past to the sound of slinging gravel. Once I actually woke up to the bright lights of a...

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Is Safety a Religion?

In the utility industry, we are often connected by families. By that I mean many lineworkers enter the profession because their father, uncle, mother or other relative worked at an electric utility. As for me, my dad was a Methodist minister. I sat in the pew many Sundays, listening to him speak from the pulpit and hearing the many ways he shared his beliefs. For years, I felt as though I didn’t follow in his footsteps. I mean, I’m in safety and he was a pastor. Then, one day, I realized something: Maybe our two worlds weren’t that far apart because we both wanted the same outcome; that is,...

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Are You Setting a Good Example?

Growing up, I was like most kids. All I cared about was horsing around and having fun. I also, like most kids, had people I looked up to for how they were living their lives. For example, I saw my dad work hard to provide for our family of seven. There also was my grandfather on my mom’s side, who did so much for us grandchildren. He took us hunting and fishing all the time and even was the one who gave me my nickname, “Rip.” Then there was my older brother, Bob, whose every step I watched and tried to imitate, even though he was four years older. Bob was good at everything he did, from schoolwork...

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Web AQI Table

Mitigating the Risk of Wildfire Smoke

Wildfires have become increasingly common in recent years, and many lineworkers have found themselves working around these fires – and their aftermath – as part of their jobs. Because of the hazards that wildfires present, it’s critical that these workers understand how to protect themselves. This month’s Tailgate Topic will address the hazard of wildfire smoke. Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor. The small particles are the primary health concern. The smallest particulate matter – and usually the most harmful – is called PM2.5 (solid particles and liquid droplets...

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How Does McDonald’s Marketing Apply to Your Lineworker Training?

Think of a hamburger. Now, pick a fast-food chain to get that burger from. Chances are you thought of McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s. It’s even more likely that McDonald’s was your first thought – but why? Probably because McDonald’s has been the number one fast-food chain in the world since 1975, only losing the top spot to Subway in 2011. McDonald’s typically spends $500 million to $2 billion a year on advertising. But why advertise if you are already at the top of the heap? The answer is TOMA, which stands for Top Of Mind Awareness. For McDonald’s, TOMA ensures that when someone thinks...

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