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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...

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 reduced work-related incidents.

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Steve Nash

Fire Extinguisher Use and Safety for Utility Workers

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Officer George Brentar, a 22-year veteran of the Euclid, Ohio, police force, died October 10, 2007, when his car skidded into a pole and caught fire on an entrance ramp to Interstate 90. Officer Brentar had spotted a speeding motorist and was attempting to catch up to the vehicle when his car hydroplaned. The right rear end hit a pole and the car immediately burst into flames, with Officer Brentar trapped inside.

If your job has you on the road much of the time, as it sometimes does in the utility industry, there always exists the possibility that you may come upon such a horrific accident. And if you are like me, you hope to be well-prepared and properly equipped to help ensure a more favorable outcome. A trained person with a fire extinguisher and seat-belt cutter could have made a difference in Officer Brentar’s life that day.

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Rating Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

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Employees who interact with electrical equipment and electrical installations may be exposed to electrical shock and arc flash hazards. A previous two-part article titled “Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities” (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities and https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities-part-ii) discussed the electrical hazard identification and risk assessment. If the employer has taken steps to reduce the risk of injury or death from electrical hazards but is unable to eliminate the hazard, then OSHA requires the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). For electrical hazards, both dielectric (insulating) and arc-rated (thermal) PPE is required. This article discusses some of the ASTM International and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for arc flash-related PPE. Many ASTM standards have equivalent International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. These standards reference the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, and so forth. While no one standard may claim superiority over another, it is a best practice to ensure that products meet the local performance specifications. Nearly all North American labs that work with arc-rated (AR) PPE are geared toward performing both local and international testing.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Why are Job Briefings and Risk Assessments Important?

When you hear the term “job briefing,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a meeting, a form to fill out or maybe even a complete waste of time? How we perceive job briefings has a huge impact on how we complete them. Per OSHA, job briefings are required to be completed before each job; however, for us to perform them effectively, it is critical that we understand the intent behind that requirement.

What Needs to be Covered?
A job briefing is intended to be used as part of the planning process to accomplish a job both safely and successfully. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(c)(2) requires that the following topics be covered, at minimum, during a briefing: hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions, energy-source controls and personal protective equipment requirements. All of these elements are essential to safely plan for the work that is to take place. By design, job briefings encourage us to slow down and think about the job we are about to perform. When we take time to think, we begin to identify desired outcomes as well as elements that can contribute to undesired outcomes.

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Lito Wilkins, CUSP

My Shocking Awakening: Lessons Learned From a High-Voltage Contact

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Why is this happening? It hurts! Don't let go!

These are some of the thoughts that ran through my mind on a day in late 2015 when an induction contact surged through and around my body for roughly 30 seconds. What was supposed to be a typical workday quickly turned into a fight for my life as I was held captive 130 feet in the air by an insulated optical ground wire (OPGW) charged with inducted voltage off two energized 500,000-volt circuits. Why did it happen? Did I miss the warning signs? Could the incident have been avoided?

The Event
Before we get to those questions, let me describe what happened the day of the event. I started work at 4 a.m. when I arrived at the yard early to inspect new fall protection gear before I issued it to the crew. The project that day was to replace insulators and hardware on two suspension towers on an energized 500-kV circuit using barehand work procedures. The job site was two-and-a-half hours away, and I was to drive the flatbed truck carrying the insulators to the landing zone.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Understanding Radio Frequency Energy Exposure

Are you concerned about cellular antennas? Decades of research on cellphones and cancer have not found a link between the two, but that hasn’t stopped some communities from creating laws and public service campaigns regarding protection of the public from cellular system threats. What these actions have done is created a sense that the risk exists, leading to much concern and confusion for the public. There are risks, and they are not to be ignored, but many of them are misunderstood.

As communications technology continues to develop, its next iteration – 5G – is already here. The idea of 5G is better coverage using smaller, low-power, overlapping range with multiple antennas. This is the same technology used in large offices and hospitals to overcome the cellphone signal shielding caused by buildings. The buildings have numerous low-power, overlapping antennas that ensure cellular signal communications. The communications industry needs more mounting locations, and utility poles are the obvious answer. 5G is more of a physical hazard than a radio frequency (RF) hazard because it includes a powered cabinet on the pole wired to the antenna above, creating more congestion on the structure for climbers. I receive lots of questions and rightly so because line personnel are finding themselves looking at antenna installations where they have never seen them before. 5G is very low energy compared to other RF emitters but should not be ignored. Most of the 5G hazard is the antenna at the top of the pole, which can be anything from a 30-foot light pole to a 60-foot transmission pole. The obvious precaution, as with any antenna, is to not put yourself in the antenna beam. So, a 360-degree 5G antenna is like any 360-degree antenna: Don’t put your body in the beam.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Sharing My Story: I’m a Male Breast Cancer Survivor

It was a beautiful October day in Captiva Island, Florida, where my family and I were on a short vacation at the end of the summer season. I was in a room of the condo we had rented. Housekeeping had recently damp-mopped the tile floor in the room, and as I walked across it, I slipped and took a fall that resulted in a concussion after my head hit the tile. Thankfully, the concussion was minor, the embarrassment of the fall was short-lived, and my bruises healed quickly.

While assessing my injuries, however, I found a mass on the left side of my chest that seemed odd to me. Thinking it was an internal bruise, I ignored it for a few weeks, but the mass didn’t go away. I started monitoring the area, which was on my left breast on the outside edge of the nipple. After a few weeks of watching it closely, I made an appointment with my family doctor. He examined the area, declared it a fatty mass, and I went on my way. That was in November. Around the first week of December, I asked my wife, Vicki, to examine the mass to see what she thought. She did and immediately suggested I make another appointment to see the family doctor. That visit ended up being different since the doctor was no longer focused on my head injury. He felt the mass several times and eventually told me I needed a mammogram. And thus began my journey of addressing what was suspected to be breast cancer.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

February-March 2021 Q&A

Q: Why do some experts say ground rods won’t work to trip a circuit?

A: The experts say this because they are right depending on the conditions, which we’ll soon discuss. But let’s start with a definition of the idea of “remote ground” as the point at which we connect a protective system to earth. The lower the resistance of that remote ground connection to earth, the more current flows and the faster a fault clears. So, what we should be doing as a rule is using the best available ground to remote earth. The problem is that we often overlook a key element in this debate, which is that the ground source is not what protects the worker. The ground path trips the circuit. Bonding the worker into the ground scheme – the path between the fault and ground – is what provides reliable protection for workers using personal protective grounds. For example, if you ground to a system neutral, you have connected to a very low-resistance path, but you also are connecting to a current-carrying conductor. If workers are not bonded into the ground scheme, they can be exposed to current from the neutral that can result in voltage rises across the ground scheme, especially if a fault current rises on the neutral from some remote event on the system. If you are on a delta primary system at a transformer bank, that neutral on the secondary side is derived from the ground rod at the foot of the pole. Nobody would take their truck ground up to the neutral bushing of a 300-kVA 277/480 bank, but that’s no different than connecting to the ground rod bonding that 480-VAC neutral to earth. That is why delta system workers use ground rods, and to good effect if the conditions are right.

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

Hazards Do Not Discriminate – Nor Should We

Hazards do not discriminate – nor should we. We do not necessarily have to like each other to work safely, but we do have to maintain professional working relationships based on mutual appreciation, caring, respect and trust.

Picture this: It’s January 25, 2021. At 9:15 a.m., Curtis, who is working his second day on the job, expresses concern that the outriggers on a crane are not properly cribbed. Carla, the site supervisor, tells Rich, the certified operator, to exit the crane and join her, Curtis and Becky, a signalwoman, for a discussion about the concern. At 9:20 a.m., the crane overturns, and the boom lands where Carla and Becky had been standing just moments before. The crane is a total loss, and there’s no chance of the job being profitable or completed on time.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

What are OSHA’s Training Requirements?

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In our first article in this series (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/when-osha-electric-power-safety-standards-apply), we discussed how to apply OSHA’s electric power standards. This article will review OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V training requirements relating to qualified and unqualified employees.

To determine training requirements, you must first ask the question, are my employees exposed to electric power system hazards? If so, the training portion of the OSHA electric power standards should apply.

OSHA requires all employees to be trained in the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and emergency procedures that pertain to their job assignments. This includes employees performing covered work, as discussed in the first article of this series, and employees who access areas restricted to qualified employees in order to perform nonelectrical work.

Examples of employees who access restricted areas include an employee spraying herbicide around underground enclosures, a warehouseman delivering substation equipment inside an energized substation, and a maintenance employee replacing “Danger” signs inside an energized substation. Each of these nonelectrical employees has potential electrical hazards and risks associated with their job tasks that must be identified. Unfortunately, nonelectrical employees are many times exposed to unknown electrical hazards, such as step and touch potentials they do not know exist, which emphasizes the importance of effective training.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

A Lineworker’s Three Safety Superpowers

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Workplace safety requires each of us to do our part to keep ourselves and our co-workers free from injury and illness. To meet this goal, we must understand the tools we have and know how to use them. Let’s look at a lineman’s life, for example. He can climb poles, float through the air in a bucket, safely touch energized conductors, balance poles and transformers, and construct all of these items into a working system. The skills needed to accurately accomplish these tasks are a result of training and repetitive practice, but these skills are only partially responsible for the lineman’s success because the lineman is part of and works in a team. True success occurs when the team members who perform the dance are connected to each other.

How do team members connect with one another? You may not know it, but human beings have superhero powers that have evolved over thousands of years. And when we understand how to successfully tap into them, we can improve our connections with others and change outcomes. This article will identify three of your superpowers – reading minds, reasoning and looking into the future – and how to tap into them to improve safety on the job.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

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

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As we discovered in the first part of this two-part series (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/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 equals easy.

In the previous article, we discovered that if we have confident trust in our people, it leads to hope, which allows us to keep our current reality in proper perspective and stay future-focused – not yesterday-paralyzed. And with faith in our people solidified in our minds, we’re now free to focus on hope and tough love.

So, without further ado, let’s jump into the first part of the hope mindset.

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Michael Stremel, CUSP

Are You Using Your Five Senses to Stay Safe?

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All of us have experienced mishaps in our daily lives, both at home and at work. An accident typically is defined as an unwanted incident occurring unexpectedly and unintentionally, usually resulting in damage or injury.

In our work lives, proper training develops our mindset as well as our knowledge. Increasing our knowledge allows us to identify known hazards and to recognize unknown hazards. Training value is understood and incorporated into workplace law. OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to furnish to each of their employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In addition, each employee shall comply with OSHA rules, regulations and orders that are applicable to their own actions and conduct. We assure employees can follow the law by training them with the necessary knowledge and intangible tools to make them more effective.

The job hazard analysis or job briefing is an effective tool for identifying hazards. A job briefing is required by OSHA rules that employers and employees must abide by (see 29 CFR 1910.269(c) for general industry and 1926.952 for construction). The briefing is an intangible tool that uses recognition and reasoning through knowledge and experience. Here is where the human brain is leveraged to be successful. Guidance from OSHA requires that a job briefing discuss hazards associated with the job; the work procedures involved; special precautions; energy-source controls; and personal protective equipment requirements.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Trailers, Brakes and Common Usage Errors

I perform audits of both utilities and contractors. When I work with them to do those audits, we include trucks and trailers. The trailers I’m talking about here are not the box vans behind tractors, but the general-duty trailers used to haul trenchers, backhoes, wire reels and padmount transformers. It’s no surprise that the trailer issues we discover are in keeping with the types and frequencies of violations that enforcement officials find on the roadways: those involving lights, load securement and brakes. Auditors also get a lot of questions about trailer safety, or more specifically, trailer rules, which are in place for trailer safety. I almost always receive those questions after an enforcement action has occurred.

Many enforcement actions have come about due to the efforts of states that have noticed trends in trailer-related incidents. The incidents didn’t involve semi-trailers pulled by tractors; they involved smaller trailers used in commercial environments where enforcement had not spent much focus. Without that focus, there was a lack of accountability, and now it’s caught up with us. States are enhancing their observations of commercial trailering, making stops and taking trailers out of service for numerous issues, most often related to brakes.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Lone Worker Limitations

Over the years, I’ve received numerous questions about which duties lone workers can safely and legally perform, and which ones require more than one qualified worker to complete.

Tasks that require at least two qualified employees are defined in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(2)(i), which states the following: “Except as provided in paragraph (l)(2)(ii) of this section, at least two employees shall be present while any employees perform the following types of work: installation, removal, or repair of lines energized at more than 600 volts; installation, removal, or repair of deenergized lines if an employee is exposed to contact with other parts energized at more than 600 volts; installation, removal, or repair of equipment, such as transformers, capacitors, and regulators, if an employee is exposed to contact with parts energized at more than 600 volts; work involving the use of mechanical equipment, other than insulated aerial lifts, near parts energized at more than 600 volts; and other work that exposes an employee to electrical hazards greater than, or equal to, the electrical hazards posed by operations listed specifically in paragraphs (l)(2)(i)(A) through (l)(2)(i)(D) of this section.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

December 2020-January 2021 Q&A

Q: We don’t provide self-rescue equipment for lone workers, but we recently heard that OSHA is requiring self-rescue equipment as part of the General Duty Clause. Are you familiar with this?

A: This is a complex question, part of which might border on legal arguments. Incident Prevention relates legal opinions to our readers from case outcomes that we are familiar with, but in practice avoids rendering advice or opinions that may border on legal terms.

The rescue requirements in the OSHA rules do not address self-rescue. Many employers address self-rescue in part based on their interpretation of the training requirements found in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(i)(B) because of the language that states, “… including applicable emergency procedures (such as pole-top and manhole rescue), that are not specifically addressed by this section but that are related to his or her work and are necessary for his or her safety.” However, the OSHA rules regarding rescue are crew-based rescue requirements and similar to those found in most provincial Canadian health and safety standards. OSHA has several rules regarding lone workers, but those references lack any requirements for self-rescue. It certainly could be that such language would be hard to address considering the numerous instances and types of work in which workers are alone across all industries.

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

Assessments: Highlights and Implementation

If you have seen the movie “Kung Fu Panda,” you probably remember the powerful and inspiring moment when Po comes to the realization that there is no secret ingredient – it’s just him. He was all but unbeatable after that. Sometimes I also think about the secret sauce Michael Jordan gave his team at halftime in the movie “Space Jam,” so they could come back and defeat the Monstars.

But while we long for secret ingredients, magic sauces and silver bullets, the reality is that our jobs and lives are complex, with ever-changing roles and no exact road maps. Perhaps, in addition to Po’s wisdom, we should heed the words of Stephen R. Covey, who told us in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”

And that’s exactly what assessments are for, improving ourselves.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

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

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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 with an idea about how we can become the best division in this company?”

And then there were crickets, only to be interrupted by moments of meaningless, self-protective chatter.

Does this scenario sound familiar? I hope not. The problem is, however, that people are fallible, lessons sometimes 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. Regardless of how close this scenario hits to home, what we’re going to discuss in this two-part article will enable you to find greater success today and learn what you need to improve tomorrow.

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Frank Brinkley

Creating a Culture of Safety Through Elite Leadership

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Leaders play a pivotal role in creating a safe work environment that brings out the best in their people and produces quality results. And this doesn’t just mean leaders at the top but at every level of the organization. Leadership isn’t a difference maker – it is the difference maker.

The pathway to better safety performance in an organization or on a team begins with understanding the physics of performance. Leaders create the culture, the culture drives and supports behavior, and behavior produces results. Nothing impacts safety behavior and performance more powerfully than culture, and nothing impacts culture more powerfully than leadership. Simply put, if you get your culture right, you will win at safety; get it wrong and you will struggle with safety. Now, let’s take a deeper dive into the physics of performance.

Behavior, Culture and Leadership
The ability of people to apply their job-specific knowledge in a safe and productive manner is largely dependent on their behavioral skills, including how they communicate, make decisions, manage their attitudes, deal with stress and interact with others. Task-specific knowledge and technical skill are essential, but behavior-related issues are the biggest drains on safety performance in most organizations. Behavior is the one thing that affects everything, and culture is what drives and supports how people behave. 

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R. Scott Young, CUSP

Line and Substation Insulator Refresher

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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. It took a full day to get the system back to normal, during which all of us learned a great deal about insulation. One crew in particular will probably always remember that day. While they were getting ready to switch out a section of 230-kV bus in a substation, electricity tracked down the insulator right above their heads. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was a lot of high stepping and gravel flying.

Nearly everyone reading this has worked with insulators of various sizes and shapes. For me, it was in substations. You learn to trust the equipment with your life. What prompted this article was a website discussion I read about best practices for maintaining and cleaning insulators and bushings for testing. There were some interesting suggestions. The question is, how do we know where to get the correct information to help us in our work? Safety is our primary guide. Our second guide should be manufacturer guidelines. In the early years of our industry, we were instructed to “go do it” and not given much direction or specifics about how to perform the tasks we were assigned. So, we used a variety of methods and materials to clean and install insulators. Some were good, others not so much. But today we have the world at our fingertips: websites, phone numbers and access to almost any kind of information from a variety of sources. The problem remains, however – we must know how to determine if we have and are using the correct information.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

When OSHA Electric Power Safety Standards Apply

Welcome to the first part of what will be a six-part series focused on OSHA’s electric power standards. We will start this series with a discussion about when the standards apply. Future articles will cover what is in the standards plus provide you with some practical ways to apply them.

If you have tried to read OSHA’s electric power standards, you may find them difficult to interpret and apply. Always keep in mind that each part of the standard was written to address a specific hazard that must be controlled. The standards outline the minimum controls you are required to put in place, so that is why OSHA standards are considered minimum performance standards. If you always begin by identifying the hazard, you may find that the application of the standard becomes somewhat simplified.

Why Does OSHA Have Electric Power Standards?
Employees who work on and around electric power installations face unique electrical system hazards with potentially high risks. OSHA estimates their electric power standards will prevent approximately 20 additional fatalities and 118 additional serious injuries annually. Each portion of OSHA’s electric power standards is designed to address electric power system hazards that workers are exposed to when performing covered work that falls under general industry or construction. 

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