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 time lunch is over, if the morning has gone well, we are on the downhill side of the job with a focus on completing it.
Near the end of the day, complacency and fatigue may set in. The more complex elements of the job may be behind us and our focus can turn to “getting the heck out of here.” We might start thinking about what’s for dinner or our children’s afterschool sports. Maybe you start thinking about getting home to your baby, whether that’s an actual baby, a dog or a Harley-Davidson Road King. Regardless, attention is likely beginning to shift away from what remains to be done on the job.
Distractions can creep further and further into our minds as quitting time draws nearer. The last phase is tied in, the cutout is closed in, and suddenly we change gears and hurriedly start breaking down the job. But let’s pump the brakes and look at the remaining hazards crew members may be facing:
- Lifting and carrying. These tasks are responsible for one in three workplace accidents. Picking up equipment and work debris may seem like the simplest task of the day, but it can easily exchange a dinner with family or a warm summer evening at the ballfield for an evening sitting in an emergency room. Improper lifting can strain muscles. Sharp edges on scrap wire and equipment can seriously cut you.
- Traffic. We aren’t the only ones fixated on getting home after a hard day at work. The drivers of many vehicles passing your work site have the same idea and distractions of their own. All that, at a time when you’re trying to move vehicles and equipment out of the work site and back onto the road.
- “One last thing.” Perhaps the greatest end-of-the-day risk is that one last thing, an oversight or a last-minute problem. You know, that last transformer that won’t click back on, or the serial number on the transformer you forgot to record, or that last piece of line hose you left on the neutral. This is where frustration and rushing can come into play at a time when your head may no longer be in the game.
So, how do we control these hazards? How do we get home to those activities we work so hard to make possible? How do we get to that cold refreshment waiting in the fridge after a long, hot summer day in the gloves and sleeves? We control these hazards the same way we got this far in the day: through planning, communication and focus. Let’s take a look.
First, the tailboard is not a one-and-done deal. At any point during the day, the situation and/or plan can change. When this happens, a quick reconvening of the tailboard can help the crew to avoid problems and injuries. Take advantage of an after-lunch tailboard to recap the progress of the morning and remind everyone of the hazards that remain. This is also a good time for the crew leader to acknowledge good effort and maybe provide some constructive criticism. When the job is complete at the end of the day, get the crew together to celebrate the day’s accomplishments with a cold drink of water. Talk about what went well and what didn’t. Lastly, lay out a plan for the orderly demobilization of the job site with specific assignments. Assign enough people to provide for team lifting or to act as spotters for moving equipment. Offer an exit strategy for safely getting back out into traffic and identify a safe route to head back to the barn – avoiding U-turns and other traffic hazards, such as road construction and low clearances.
Second, plan for the unexpected. How many times have problems arisen right at the end of the job, and usually on a Friday afternoon, right? When this happens, we need to huddle the crew and slow everyone down. Thoroughly discuss the problem that has arisen and how it will be handled. Verify that any necessary hazard controls are in place. Will the circuit need to be put back in non-reclosing or will cover-up need to be reinstalled? Are enough crew members on-site to safely complete the task? Finally, ask yourself, will this one last thing delay me from getting home to my plans, or will it be the last thing I ever do?
By consistently maintaining our focus throughout the workday, we have now safely backed the truck into the bay and can go home to what we enjoy. But remember, just like you do with your lunch bag, take safety home with you and bring it back in the morning.
About the Author: Bob Dunderdale, CUSP, serves as a line foreman for Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. in New York. He has 38 years of experience in various utility roles.