Incident Prevention Magazine

Incident Prevention is on a mission to be a major player in the reduction of job related accidents within utilities and telecommunications. The publication, our iP Safety Conferences and this site are dedicated to providing utility safety and operations professionals the resources to build safety programs and implement processes that lead to reduce...d work-related incidents.
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Bob McCall

How to Build a High-Performing Team

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I’m really excited to be writing this article for my utility family. I enjoyed all 33 of my years working in the industry. Now, as a leadership consultant, I have the privilege of using my knowledge, experience and passion to help the utility industry improve. My goal is to provide you with proven tools that will enable you to lead your team to their highest level of performance – where each of your team members will be able to consistently perform at their top potential every day, in every task. It is at that level where zero accidents and zero injuries occur on a consistent basis, and that’s what we want and need in our workplaces. It is no secret that our industry is still among the most hazardous. The penalty for making a mistake can be life-threatening. While I was still working in the industry, it was the love I had for my team that made me want to do all I could to protect them. And that love translated into success throughout my career, during which I created a number of high-performing teams. I want to tell you a little more about that in these pages.

“Treat a person the way that you want them to be and you will make them great” is wisdom that John Maxwell – a best-selling author on the topic of leadership – states in his book “Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others.” College football analyst and retired coach Lou Holtz has said, “If you get people to believe in themselves, they will set higher goals.” I’ve long respected both John and Lou as leaders, so during my working years at utilities, I absorbed what they said and tried putting it into action. As I mentioned earlier, all of my success in my previous industry career was the result of investing and believing in people. In total, I was able to build high-performing teams eight times throughout that career. The process is complex, but it starts with one brief question: Why build a high-performing team? The answer is, because a high-performing team will do everything at an exceptional level. They will meet or exceed all of their goals. They will perform excellent pre-job briefings. They will be highly attentive and participatory. They will have a strong ability to recognize and mitigate hazards. They will follow each job plan with the understanding that if anyone on the team sees something wrong or senses that something is wrong, they can stop the job and ask a question without upsetting other team members. A high-performing team uses the safest work methods, and its members reflect great leadership combined with a culture that supports an error-free workplace.

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Debbie Dickinson

Using Task-Based Work Assignments to Create Proficient Crews

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Preventing accidents in utility work, where safety is paramount, starts with establishing protocols for personnel and equipment. Creating task-based and specific work assignments is an affordable way to establish realistic parameters for work to be performed. Using this method enables crew leaders to develop consistency and reliability in assigning tasks by distinguishing between trainees and qualified personnel. Work is assigned based on skill proficiency, which in turn leads to risk mitigation and accident prevention.

The concept of grouping teams of workers by specific work assignment is nothing new. Success stories outside of the utility industry include military and police forces trained to respond to emergencies, trauma surgery teams, astronauts in space, NASCAR pit crews and the University of Alabama football team. Whether you are an Alabama fan or not, Coach Nick Saban’s formula for a championship team involves drilling and honing skills of individual players. The result is a team that works together cohesively for outstanding performance.

In the same way, utility workers with the same job title and general responsibilities – lineworkers – come to the job with different years of experience, types of training and skills. Supervisors who recognize these differences can create outstanding crews by establishing parameters for skills that each person on the crew must have in common, as well as knowing who possesses task-specific talent.

To create a proficient team that performs as a cohesive unit, it’s critical to first determine the skill, knowledge and ability of each individual crew member. These measurements define a baseline of strengths, weaknesses and gaps to fill. Not everyone on the crew needs to have the exact same skill level, but the crew’s collective ability should instill confidence that the crew can work under pressure in adverse conditions without injury. If there are gaps in the collective ability, then you must plan to train and practice so that skills, techniques and technology meet your previously established protocols.

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Rob D. Adams, CLCP, CUSP, and Pete Prast, P.E.

Enhancing Safety for Line Patrol Technicians

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Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is a generation and transmission cooperative located in Western Kansas. We have approximately 2,600 miles of overhead transmission lines, which we patrol annually using vehicles. While you may have heard stories about Kansas being flat as a pancake, they are not true. Several areas of our service territory feature deep ravines, water crossings, washouts and rock outcroppings that make line patrols challenging and hazardous. In the past, patrol vehicles used by our line technicians were either pickup trucks or standard-equipped side-by-side all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). After enduring a few ATV-related accidents that caused damage to both workers and equipment, we knew it was time to evaluate our line patrol program to see what we could do to make it safer.

Our most recent injury, which occurred in 2016, resulted in facial injuries that required reconstructive surgery after an employee hit his face on the steering wheel of the side-by-side ATV he was operating. Following is a summary of the accident.

A line technician was patrolling by himself and came upon an area of grass that was close to 4 feet tall. He did not see the depression in the ground in front of him and dropped the front end of the ATV he was driving into a washed-out area that was approximately 4 feet deep and 6 feet wide. Upon entering the depression, the ATV came to an abrupt stop and the line technician’s face made contact with the steering wheel. This caused multiple fractures of his nose. The line technician was wearing the standard seat belt, which consisted of a lap belt and shoulder strap, but it didn’t lock up fast enough on impact to prevent injury. Fortunately, the technician was able to get himself out of the ATV and walk approximately one-eighth of a mile back to the main road, where his pickup was parked. He then called other crew members for assistance; they transported him to the local hospital, where he was treated for his injuries. Unfortunately, the technician had to have follow-up surgery to repair his broken nose.

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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Rubber Insulating Sleeves and Arc Flash Protection

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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 glove and does not extend up a rubber insulating sleeve.

Many lineworkers wear short-sleeved, arc-rated (AR) T-shirts under rubber insulating sleeves, and a concern was raised in the industry that the insulating sleeves are not arc-rated. As a result, Iowa OSHA issued a letter of interpretation that since rubber sleeves are not arc-rated, long-sleeved AR shirts are required, in their opinion, to meet the letter of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269. Federal OSHA has not issued an interpretation.

Since there is currently no standard that covers arc flash testing of rubber insulated products, ArcWear – an independent, third-party testing laboratory – studied several sleeves to assess arm protection and ignition withstand. That’s because although, per Iowa OSHA, workers are required to wear arc-rated, long-sleeved shirts under the rubber sleeve for arc flash protection, they may unnecessarily contribute to heat stress, and there was no evidence one way or another that this requirement would add to the end users’ protection levels. The configuration of wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt tucked into a rubber insulating glove may be more comfortable to a worker while providing complete coverage, but the question remained, would it provide enough protection in case of an arc flash?

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Are Those Tools and Equipment Approved?

We provide tools and equipment for our crews. Sometimes they are special tools, and sometimes they are generic tools necessary to support routine crew work. Sometimes they are accessories for trucks and equipment, and sometimes they are simply extra tools or equipment to make things easier on the people in the field. The question then is, are these tools approved?

The following is going to aggravate some readers, so let’s start with a reminder: I attempt to clarify and simplify compliance with this series. This is about making compliance easier and sometimes less expensive. So, here is an example.

About 20 years ago I was organizing a training school for a community college in Florida. I was recruiting utilities as clients. A visiting utility safety director saw that we had 40-foot-length retractables at the tops of the training poles. He said, “You are going to get into trouble with those yo-yos. They have to be mounted on approved davits.” My first question – and what should be your first question, too – was, approved by who? Without skipping a beat, the safety director responded, “OSHA.” We then went to his office where he had a similar device for which they had paid a little over $2,000. And just like he said, right there on the box was clearly printed “OSHA approved.” It only took me a few minutes on OSHA’s website to show him reference after reference and interpretation after interpretation in which OSHA stated to employers and manufacturers that it does not approve equipment. If an employer writes to OSHA and asks if they approve of having the employer’s employees in a specific type of exposure, and the employer intends to use a specific tool and equipment in a particular configuration, OSHA will respond that the agency does not approve equipment. The agency will then go on to state that in the situation described, using the equipment as described, OSHA believes the employer’s solution would – or would not – meet OSHA’s requirements.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Why Do Accidents Keep Happening?

2018 is turning out to be a devastating year in our industry. The frequency of energized contacts, flashes, severe injuries and fatalities continues to increase. Why – in a professional trade that requires such an extensive amount of apprenticeship time – do lineworkers have such high incident and accident rates?

In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I want to review two accidents I am familiar with so that we can dive into why they happened, and how you can prevent them from happening on your job sites.

The First Accident
In the first accident, a journeyman lineman lost his right arm to the shoulder. The immediate cause was a 7.2-kV electrical contact phase to ground.

The day of the accident, the journeyman was running a little late, so he drove his personal vehicle to the job site to avoid losing more time. An apprentice lineman had driven a bucket truck to the job site for the journeyman to use. All employees gathered to discuss the job plan. The job, which had been in progress for several days, was reconductoring approximately 5,000 feet of an existing three-phase 12.4-kV line from #2 ACSR to 397 MCM. New poles were set, and old conductors were spread on layout arms. The new conductors had been pulled in and sagged to tension the day before. The day the accident occurred, there was discussion during the job briefing about moving the new conductors from roller blocks and tying them in on the new insulators with preform ties. The structure where the incident occurred was a 45-foot Class 3 with a 10-foot wood arm. Insulated layout arms were mounted on the ends of arms. The middle and field-side phases were set to the field side of the arm. The existing energized road-side phase was on a short arm set to the road side of the pole. All three of the old phases were still energized. The new conductors had system safety grounds installed on each end, as required by standards.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

October-November 2018 Q&A

Q: We were recently sticking distribution for a small utility when the utilities inspector stopped us for not having safety latches on our hot hoist. We have now been told that OSHA requires safety latches, but we can’t find a rule for that in the OSHA 1910.269 standard. What are we missing?

A: This answer will surprise and confuse some safety folks, so we want to remind you that we are not necessarily advocating the information we provide – we are educating readers on the rules and best practices. In response to your question, you are not missing anything; there is no OSHA rule for our industry that requires safety latches on hooks. Latches make sense. With a latch, connections do not unexpectedly separate. However, hooks under strain do not unexpectedly separate either. Most hooks for hoists have a tab for installing a latch. Many come with latches, and many do not. In hot-sticking applications, it often is difficult to open a latch and remove a hook from a sling. OSHA does, however, have safety latch requirements for some vertical standards that have no effect on utilities.

Q: When does OSHA consider a pole hole an excavation requiring a barricade?

A: It depends on whether or how long the pole hole is open and/or unattended. The preamble has a discussion on pole holes in which OSHA, in a fit of practicality, agreed that if the hole is bored and the pole is set within a reasonable time – being tens of minutes – there is very little practical reason to install fall protection. However, if the hole is large enough that a worker could fall in even with the pole in place, then some measures should be taken. As a contractor, we would ensure spoils were stable and lay 6 to 8 feet of 12-inch scaffold board across the holes between pole and spoils to ensure stable footing and no void large enough that a person could fall through. The other issue is, a hole for what pole? Distribution is not an issue. Transmission starts to need activities for protection like the above. Some transmission holes are 50 inches for a pole that’s only 36 inches to allow for concrete ballast. Those are excavations. We know many contractors that have used half of a round hay-bale feeder from Tractor Supply Co. as a guardrail.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Five: “Why” Works

Frequently I am asked about the qualifications of a safety professional, what makes a good leader and what it takes to work safely. My answer to each question is the same – you must get really good at asking and understanding “why.” At a minimum, you must ask and understand why rules, procedures and work methods are in place; why performance, behavior and results are occurring; and why past events, incidents and errors happened.

If you become really good at asking and understanding “why” in those areas, you will be able to employ human performance (HP) principle five, which states that events can be avoided through an understanding of the reasons why mistakes occur and application of lessons learned from past events or errors. This principle reminds me of an adage most of us have heard before: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It also reminds me of a definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I like to summarize HP principle five by saying simply, “‘Why’ works.”

Not long ago, my son was trying to park a golf cart in the cart shed. He got upset because he was in a repeated cycle of turning too early, almost hitting the shed, backing up and trying again. I let him go through that cycle of repeating the same mistake a few times and then calmly said, “Try again, but do something different this time.” He tried again and still turned too early but improved. The next time he turned too late. After a few more tries, he finally got the cart in the shed without hitting anything.

He got the cart in the shed because, without knowing it, he used HP principle five. He shifted from expecting a different outcome with the same behavior to understanding why the situation was occurring and trying something different until he achieved his desired outcome. Now, he applies the lessons he learned and usually parks the cart successfully on his first try.

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Carl Cormier

Are You Driving on Autopilot?

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Vehicles have been evolving and manufacturers have been adding safety features to them since the first combustion-engine automobiles were manufactured in the late 1800s. By 1968, all vehicles were required by law to have seat belts, and since 1995, all passengers – adults and minors – have been required to wear them. Anti-lock braking systems became widespread in the 1970s, and the advent of airbags occurred in the 1980s.

Today, technology continues to constantly shape and change our world. It is integrated into our daily lives at work and in our homes, from personal electronic devices such as smartphones to features in our vehicles that are truly remarkable. In fact, we continue to see new and dedicated areas for testing and improvement in the automobile industry, including utility fleets. In addition, universities are devoting time and resources to studying and developing technology with the hope of educating drivers and ultimately providing safer vehicles.

The auto industry is now producing, testing and using semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles at a rapid pace. The mining industry is currently using autonomous vehicles in Australia. Even construction machinery and equipment companies have developed and are using autonomous vehicles with high rates of success. The desire for self-driving vehicles has been underwritten by the hope that they will save lives by reducing accidents, resulting in fewer injuries and deaths than human-driven vehicles and ultimately improving overall safety.

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Joe Cisneros

When Insulating Booms Fail Dielectric Testing

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Insulating boom aerial devices and insulating boom digger derricks are designed to provide secondary protection to help prevent workers from being electrocuted. Maintenance and dielectric testing are critical and required by law to verify that the insulating portion of the machine is functioning as designed.

A new boom is dielectrically tested at the factory following ANSI requirements for a qualification test to verify the insulating rating. Additional tests are performed to confirm the insulating value after units are finished and operational. Once insulating equipment is placed in service, maintenance tests are required to be performed for a variety of reasons. Periodic testing in accordance with the ANSI A92.2 or A10.31 standard is required. If the equipment has not had a dielectric test performed within the last 12 months, as required by ANSI and OSHA, it cannot be considered insulating. Dielectric testing also should take place after repairs or replacement of components in the insulating sections, when a problem is suspected or after incidents of contact with energized power lines.

Environmental factors can affect the results of a dielectric test. The environment of use, exposure to sunlight, surface condition, damage, and cleanliness of the boom and internal components could lead to dielectric test failure. Following are some of the procedures a boom test technician performs when booms don’t pass a periodic test. Periodic testing usually is conducted annually, but many owners perform tests more frequently when weather or harsh conditions warrant them.

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Bart Castle

Microlearning: Another Critical Piece of the Employee Training Puzzle

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Few people involved in helping others learn new skills suggest that doing so is easy. In the electric utility industry – or any industry, for that matter – training typically ranges from the informal, on-the-job variety to more formal classroom-type training. The results from each continue to be mixed.

In the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve also seen training evolve to include computer-based education. And over just the past several years, another type of training – referred to as “microlearning” – has started to take off. So, what is microlearning? And why should you bother educating yourself about it? Those are both great questions. Let’s consider them and the relevance of microlearning to the electric utility industry.

What is Microlearning?
Just as the word sounds, microlearning is an approach to training that involves smaller-than-usual educational units. Yikes – that’s a bad thing, right, especially in electric utility line work, where the information needed to understand and carry out the work can be dense and somewhat complicated? Not so fast. In reality, microlearning is the process of intentionally taking large blocks of mission-critical content and breaking them down into bite-sized chunks, so that individuals can use that information at the point of greatest impact. Thus, microlearning is not about shrinking the amount of information; rather, the information is distilled to its critical elements so that it can be readily accessed by those who require the knowledge in order to safely and accurately perform specific activities.

When used effectively, microlearning is a powerful performance support tool that can be accessed by a leader or team member at a point of critical need to increase the likelihood that decisions made or actions taken will be those needed to accomplish specified goals. The microlearning might involve two sentences of a critical policy. It might involve an interactive decision tree on responding to a lights-out ticket. It might involve a 30- to 90-second video clip on effective job setup. Or, it could involve parts of all three.

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Trisha Bilyeu

Live Safely: The OG&E Way

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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 IIF training. One of the most meaningful parts of this training is “the letter.” Imagine getting a letter from your loved one stating that he or she has been in an accident and this is goodbye. Every employee is asked to write this type of letter to their family. It’s a gut-wrenching exercise that really drives home the critical importance of safety.

To further the culture, every company meeting begins with a safety moment. It can be anything from a driving tip to a personal experience. Our employees also carry safety coins every day as a reminder to always live safely and to protect themselves and others from injury through constant engagement.

Since OG&E started its IIF journey in 2008, the company has continued to see a decrease in incidents and injuries.

“We put a stake in the ground, so to speak, by standing up and saying our employees deserve to work in the safest environment in the industry,” said Jean Leger, vice president of utility operations at OG&E. “Employees live and work safely not out of motivation to be in compliance or to avoid punishment, but instead because not doing so would violate a deep internal value. It’s our steadfast determination to achieve a goal – even in the face of obstacles and setbacks.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: The Value of a Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan

If you follow OSHA’s guidelines, you train your workers to perform hazard analysis. You probably have a tailboard process as well, although your company might have a different name for it. Tailboards and crew hazard analysis are fundamental leading indicators of a good safety program. But hazard analysis and tailboards are only two elements of what really makes a difference in a safe approach to work. A health and safety site-specific plan (HASSSP) and the HASSSP process bring with them innumerable benefits – not just prevention of unwanted incidents.

When I was a contractor safety manager, I wrote a site-specific plan for every project. I started doing so about 15 years ago, after a series of preventable incidents and conditions that wouldn’t have occurred if I had provided prevention information to the supervisor and crew prior to the events. It occurred to me that for all the planning our company did, we missed some pretty big issues – issues that cost us pain and treasure.

A health and safety site-specific plan is not just a contractor tool. Many utility projects will benefit from a HASSSP since the level of detail for the plan itself is relative to the type and complexity of the work. Contractor HASSSPs typically are more detailed and developed if the local area is new to the company and particularly if the contractor is hiring new personnel for the duration of the project. The HASSSP is the product of prework research and analysis of the worksite and conditions that can or will affect crew performance or success.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

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 that result in property damage, injuries or fatalities. OSHA also obligates employers to report any accident that requires medical attention beyond first aid, if the accident is work-related. And risk management professionals and certified loss control professionals are required to investigate property damage involving employees for insurance purposes. Loss control can be difficult to track because damage is not always immediate, and the cost of damages may not be directly attributable to failure to use proper training. In addition, a bad underground splice or a failed connection on primary or secondary that results in property damage may or may not be recorded by an employer as a failure to use proper training.

I understand that we are human beings, and because we are human, we make mistakes. And yet, I would like for all of us to think about the possibility of following all rules and regulations all the time – in short, I want all of us to strive to operate excellently. By adhering to what we learn in our training and using the correct procedures to perform our work, we can protect lives and prevent property damage.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

August-September 2018 Q&A

Q: I am brand new to the safety side of contracting and need guidance on finding information about heat stress. There are lots of guides on assessing heat illness as it occurs, but what about industry practices to prevent heat stress? What do successful heat-stress prevention plans look like?

A: We have three recommendations for you. First, some state plan safety and health agencies – such as California’s – have mandatory program requirements that include trigger temperatures. When a worksite reaches such a temperature, certain site practices for heat stress must be employed. Section III, Chapter 4 of the federal OSHA Technical Manual (see www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_4.html) also has detailed information about heat hazard assessments and programs.  

Second, call your local hospital or favorite occupational medicine specialist and review your heat-stress prevention plan with them. In the past, I have offered to pay a fee to have a doctor visit a safety meeting to talk about prevention, although doctors usually will come to speak for free.

Third, do just as you have done: Ask questions, and share information with individuals and companies that have good, effective programs.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Four: People Influence Each Other

“That night in the city, when you thought I was the Special, and you said I was talented, and important … That was the first time anyone had ever really told me that, and it made me want do everything I could to be the guy that you were talking about.” -Emmet in “The LEGO Movie”

When Emmet made this statement to Lord Business in 2014’s “The LEGO Movie,” he nailed human performance (HP) principle four – that people influence each other – and taught viewers of the movie some valuable lessons about how safety should be led. In this installment of “Frontline Fundamentals,” I’m going to present some of those key safety leadership points, along with expected outcomes when HP principle four is properly applied.

Key Safety Leadership Points

  • HP principle four: People achieve high levels of performance based on encouragement and reinforcement given to them by leaders, peers and subordinates.
  • Encourage others: Believe in yourself and others; provide feedback, coach and mentor with the goal of achieving excellence; and have a positive attitude.
  • Reinforce desired behaviors: Don’t assume because behavior is good that people will know it’s good and repeat it; tell them it’s good, why it’s good and how it will benefit them to repeat it.
  • Minimize negative consequences: Punishment will generally get you compliance, but it’s likely that compliance will only occur when someone is watching.
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Steve Andreas

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

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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, which led to the development of a new vehicle category: the all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Over time, the ATV label – which originally applied to Jeeps – became synonymous with four-wheelers, or quads. As even more time passed, ATVs eventually became useful not only as recreational vehicles but as staples of off-road transportation for industrial uses as well.

While ATVs were first produced specifically for utility use in the early 1980s, the utility task vehicle (UTV) – also known as a side-by-side – was initially launched by Kawasaki in 1988 as the MULE, an acronym for multi-use light equipment. The UTV provides features that cater better to industrial applications, such as more seating and cargo capacity. ATV-type vehicles existed long before the 1980s, but they were designed and used almost exclusively by the recreational market. Since utility use of ATVs and UTVs did not exist before the 1980s and became more commonplace in the 1990s, the market and technology are still relatively new from a regulatory standpoint. However, due to significant advancements in the functionality and reliability of these vehicles, industrial use has grown dramatically in recent years. That has prompted an increase in the need to identify proper use of these machines as transportation to access job sites or as tools to aid workers in performing tasks.

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Andrea M. Guadarrama, MBA, STS

Solving the Safety Culture Puzzle

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Have you ever thought about the similarities between solving a puzzle and transforming a safety culture? For one thing, the challenges of solving a puzzle – no matter if it’s a jigsaw puzzle, a Rubik’s Cube, a riddle or a maze – range from simple to difficult, just as the challenges of a safety culture transformation do. And second, people approach solving puzzles and creating cultural transformations in myriad ways.  

Whether you’re trying to solve a puzzle or transform the way your organization handles safety, two things are for certain: to be successful in your mission, you must have all the necessary pieces before you get started, and you must then fit them into their proper places. In the safety world, those pieces include a clear vision, commitment, a positive attitude, accountability, clear communication and leadership support. As you fit each piece into its appropriate spot, you take one step closer to your goal – a strong safety culture. But a piece placed in the wrong spot, or one that’s missing altogether, can lead you in the wrong direction.

So, how do you begin to transform your organization’s safety culture if it is missing pieces, has interdependencies and can be approached in more than one way?

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Peter P. Greaney, M.D.

Empowering Employees to Take Care of Themselves

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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 encounter is recordable and results in a workers’ compensation claim.

Now, let’s consider an alternative scenario. Sergio and his supervisor call or use a smartphone application to contact an injury management triage center. Sergio describes his symptoms to an occupational health nurse or physician who offers reassurance and care guidance. He is given the option of a clinic visit, but with instructions from the clinician, Sergio instead voluntarily agrees to self-administer first aid.

After applying a cold pack to his back and taking a nonprescription anti-inflammatory medication approved for use at the worksite, Sergio resumes work and is able to safely finish his shift. A claim is not filed and there is no case to record.

In the first scenario, a routine complaint of low-back discomfort diverges onto a path with the potential for high medical costs, productivity loss, delayed recovery and litigation. In the second scenario, Sergio is given choices that include using work – an activity “prescription” – as therapy during recovery. Sergio is empowered to successfully manage his condition without worrying about making it worse or potentially missing work.

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Edward Morson and Mark Green

Innovative Fire Suppression Solutions for System and Worker Safety

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For over 100 years, PECO – a Pennsylvania utility and member of the Exelon utility family – has been supplying electricity and natural gas to customers across southeastern Pennsylvania, including those in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. PECO has hundreds of miles of utility poles and thousands of circuit miles of medium-voltage distribution cables installed in conduit and manhole systems.

With all this infrastructure, it is only natural that wear and tear will occur, which can have an impact on the distribution system. Over the decades, PECO has experienced numerous failures of distribution system components, some of which developed into fires that were difficult to combat due to poor weather conditions. Unfortunately, local volunteer fire departments typically are not equipped to deal with these types of fires, and even city fire departments, whose workers receive training on electrical fires, sometimes have a difficult time extinguishing them.

Regulations and Extinguishing Agents
Another issue PECO employees have had to deal with is the type of fire extinguishers available in their work vehicles. For utilities that have service fleets and operate under federal guidelines, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires those fleet vehicles to carry fire extinguishers. Per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 393.95, “Emergency equipment on all power units,” each extinguisher must have a gauge to indicate if the extinguisher is fully charged and a label that displays its UL rating. Extinguishers also must be securely mounted and readily available and accessible for use at all times. In addition, a vehicle transporting hazardous materials must be equipped with an extinguisher with a UL rating of 10 B:C or more. If the vehicle is not transporting hazardous materials, it must carry one extinguisher with a rating of at least 5 B:C, or two extinguishers, each with a rating of 4 B:C or more.

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