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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Jeff Steiner

The Safe Use of Outrigger Pads for Equipment Stability

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An outrigger pad is a safety tool that can be used with any equipment that has outriggers, down jacks or stabilizers. It is a must for stability when a piece of equipment – such as a crane – lifts loads or personnel aloft. This article will provide an overview of outrigger pads, including how to use them safely and what kinds of pads are available on the market today.

The Basics
Outrigger pads are placed on the ground under the equipment’s outrigger, shoe, float or foot. The size and thickness of the outrigger pads to be used should be selected based upon the type of equipment, soil conditions of the work site and type of lift being performed.

When working with outrigger systems, it’s important to understand that the point of contact between an outrigger and the ground is quite small. Because of the pressure of the outrigger, the ground underneath may shift, be displaced or collapse if an outrigger pad is not used. If any of those things happen, there is the potential for the equipment to shift or tip the load, which could lead to the equipment toppling over. In fact, approximately half of crane lifting accidents are caused by improper use of outriggers.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Is a Better Job Brief Possible?

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If you have studied human performance or read Incident Prevention magazine regularly in recent years, you know that human beings are affected by a variety of cognitive biases. And if you’ve been in the electric utility industry for even a short while, you know that the job brief is hailed as a key to a safe workday. Given the variability in the delivery of job briefs around the country, however, it sometimes is difficult to determine how effective they really are. This article will explore issues presented by some current job brief practices as well as identify behaviors to consider that will help make job briefs more effective on your work sites.

In the Beginning
When I was a young lineman, we did not have written job briefs, but there was almost always a plan written out for complicated work. The job usually went well when we had a crew leader with good communication and organizational skills. Assumptions and poor communication typically resulted in poor workflow. Then came the mandatory job brief, which today has become an integral part of our work practice.

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities

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Electrical safety-related work practices are governed by different OSHA regulations for utilities and construction companies. Utilities follow 29 CFR 1910.269 and construction companies follow either 1926 Subpart K or 1926 Subpart V, depending on the job site. It wasn’t until the 1910.269 revisions in 2014 that OSHA used direct wording mandating arc-rated clothing. And while it may seem that five years is enough time to install an organization-wide PPE program, it is not uncommon to find such programs lacking. Recently, a utility’s operational team confirmed that they normally operate a piece of equipment while wearing street clothing. While this practice may not be a problem in certain limited cases, in this instance the garment labels prohibited any energized work based on the high arc flash energy. The problem was, these workers failed to realize that switching off is considered energized work. Serving as independent safety consultants to various construction companies and utilities has offered us a great deal of insight into similar hazardous operating conditions, but at the same time has allowed for testing and implementing what works in these environments. This article, the first in a two-part series, introduces the concepts of arc flash and shock hazards, followed by a discussion about personal protective equipment (PPE) that guards against those hazards. The second article in this series will provide guidance on how to effectively communicate the adequate level of protection to workers.

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Mark Werndorf, CUSP

Emergency Response Training for Electric Utility Workers

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In my 40 years of electric utility experience, I have investigated and documented dozens of work-site incidents that required immediate emergency medical response from a crew. One pattern has become clear after debriefing workers who have rendered assistance at a scene: Workers who responded well to rescuing their co-workers used effective communication and competent delivery of job-site first aid, including CPR. Time and again, nearly all workers involved in successful emergency responses said, “I was just doing what I was trained to do.”

Looking back on the history of the electric utility industry, competent emergency responses have not always occurred. In the late 1970s through the early 1990s, the utility I worked for suffered a series of fatal and serious accidents. Most were electrical contacts, but the list also included arc thermal exposures, falls from poles and traffic accidents. With each incident, we learned about the value of providing appropriate emergency training for the work performed as well as the value of refining our annual emergency response training drills.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Rigor and Discipline

The date was January 28, 1986. The event was the tenth and final flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Seventy-three seconds into flight, the booster rocket that was lifting Challenger into space exploded, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

When events like the Challenger explosion happen, you never forget where you were at the time. You remember the iconic photos and the national days of mourning for those lost. After the Challenger explosion, President Reagan appointed the Rogers Commission to investigate the disaster, and some of you may remember the news commentary on the Rogers Commission Report. If you didn’t study the reports from the incident, you likely aren’t aware of the stunning findings, the changes that were called for and, even more importantly, the effect the changes at NASA have had on industry – including the utility industry. It’s worth taking a look. You can read about lessons learned from the incident at https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/16-891j-space-policy-seminar-spring-2003/readings/challengerlessons.pdf.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Safe and Proper Use of Bucket Trucks

Many industries use bucket trucks to help workers accomplish tasks. In the electric utility industry, we use bucket trucks – often referred to as insulated aerial devices – to help maintain and improve productivity and safety. The trucks are the most reliable when all of the manufacturer’s recommendations are followed and routine maintenance is performed. Manufacturing performance standards for insulated aerial devices can be found at ANSI A92.2 and OSHA 29 CFR 1910.67.

I have performed fields audits for many companies over the years, and I want to share some facts about operational safety and proper use of insulated aerial devices. It’s critical for every company to have documentation that sets expectations for all employees about the safe and proper use of bucket trucks.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

October-November 2019 Q&A

Q: Are utilities required to have a written fall protection program that follows a written hazard analysis?

A: It’s not a bad idea because the process assures a fairly complete assessment of fall risks that makes training and protection of workers more effective. We know the source of your confusion because it’s a question we get often, and we’ve looked into it. It takes some deciphering, but here is how the confusion starts. We often hear of power and telcom companies reading OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, “Walking-Working Surfaces”; seeing 1910.28, “Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection”; and begin writing complex compliance programs following the Walking-Working Surfaces rule. There is nothing wrong with a robust hazard analysis program that drives training, but if you are doing it to comply with a standard, you may not need to. If you read closely, you will find an exception for both telcom (see 1910.28(a)(2)(vi)) and electric power transmission and distribution (see 1910.28(a)(2)(vii)). The T&D exception relies on compliance with 1910.269(g)(2)(i).

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

Frontline Fundamentals: Leadership Styles and the Art of Flexecution

This series of articles began with “Developing a Complete Definition of Leadership” (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/frontline-fundamentals-developing-a-complete-definition), in which I defined leadership as influence and discussed how the measure of a leader is the performance of their team. We also talked about the fact that many leaders in our industry came up through the ranks in a culture of autocratic leadership and that many people in leadership positions never received any leadership training. That has led to leadership being incompletely defined as telling people what to do and threatening them with consequences if they don’t comply.

That bears repeating: It is an incomplete definition of leadership – not an incorrect definition.

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Art Liggio

Breaking Down Barriers: Using Data as a Tool in the Driver Safety Communication Process

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Utility fleets today have access to a wide variety of valuable data from sources including telematics systems, motor vehicle records and crash statistics, all of which track drivers’ actions behind the wheel. With the vast amount of information available and the efficiency technology offers, it can be tempting to believe instilling safe driving behaviors in your organization’s drivers can be turned into an automated process.

The truth is that you can robotize behavioral change to a certain extent, but if you are using only automated processes, don’t expect them to make any true, long-lasting change. At best you will achieve the most basic level of driver compliance because in this scenario, the driver is not integral to the process but rather just the object of it. And as soon as you pull the plug on any technological monitoring of drivers, expect that evidence of risky driving habits will likely resurface in your next round of risk management reports.

The growing lure to rely almost exclusively on data inputs for managing safety – without including personal and direct involvement from the very drivers you expect to influence – creates a barrier to meaningful progress. It’s one that essentially positions drivers on one side as a problem to be controlled and management on the other side commanding that the drivers comply with the rules. This impersonal approach could lead to more severe incidents and higher crash rates in the future, which could mean increased injuries, fatalities, and revenue loss resulting from payouts and repair costs.

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Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CHST, CET

Establishing and Evaluating a Value-Driven Safety Culture

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“Safety” is a word many of use daily in our line of work. Within our organizations, we have safety manuals, safety procedures, safety meetings and even entire safety departments. But I often wonder how many times workers have truly considered the question, “What does safety mean to me?”

Safety is “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury or loss,” as defined by Merriam-Webster. If you were to come up with your own definition of safety, what would it be? Some common responses I’ve heard include having the ability to go home at the end of each day, not getting injured and following all of the rules.

Whatever their definition of safety happens to be, most people don’t head to work each day planning to get hurt – but it does happen. And the reasons why often reflect the safety culture of the workplace. Relatedly, how an organization’s leadership team defines safety has an enormous impact on the company safety culture.

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Chip Darius, CUSP, OHST, CET, CSHO

Investigating and Documenting Slips, Trips and Falls

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People are affected by gravity at every moment of their existence. There is an ongoing struggle between this planet, which never stops trying to pull things to its center, and humans who are trying not to be overcome by the pull. In the battle against gravity, humans rely on balance, coordination, traction and decision-making. In work environments, employers are responsible for managing hazards; reducing or eliminating hazards that could cause slips, trips and falls; training employees; and investigating incidents to prevent recurrence. The remainder of this article will focus on the investigation and documentation of slips, trips and falls in the utility work environment.

Terminology and Goal
Clear definitions help guide us to clear outcomes, improved safety and reduced risk. People may refer to “slipstripsandfalls” as a single thing, but they are each distinctly different. Slips, trips and falls can occur alone or in combination.

The employer’s goal is to reduce risk of injuries and incidents by maintaining clean, dry, well-lit workplace walking surfaces with appropriate traction that matches the user’s expectations; managing footwear; eliminating trip hazards; avoiding slippery contamination; and training workers. 

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Skylar Ely

Building and Delivering Effective Safety Courses

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At some point, you most likely have heard a co-worker say, “Alright, it’s time for the safety meeting.” Immediately after that, you typically have heard grumbling from other co-workers who were not looking forward to a meeting they believed would be slow and painful. If you’re a safety trainer, you’re probably somewhat familiar with this response and routinely wonder, “What can I do to make my safety training sessions both informative and enjoyable?”

While there is no magical solution or formula, there are a few strategies that trainers can use that will allow trainings to become valuable events that engage trainees and deliver meaningful content.  

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: OSHA, Training and Certification

The occupational safety and health industry and civil authorities require that employers provide training to employees. In the U.S., OSHA mandates safety training related to tasks assigned to employees. The agency often also requires the employer to certify that the training has been completed. In fact, if you have an incident requiring OSHA notification, the first question that will be asked is, “Was the employee trained for the task?” The second inquiry will be a request for documentation of the training, usually followed by an enforceable subpoena for those training records.

Training and certification of training are important for two reasons. The first is that training has clearly been demonstrated to reduce incidents and injuries to workers. Second, OSHA will hold employers accountable for the training they conduct. The penalties for willful violation of training requirements are rarely discussed, and I hesitate to do it here, but the record shows that if an employer does not train, and OSHA can show the employer knew training was required, the penalties are based on willful violation. Penalties for willful violations that result in fatalities can include jail time for the employer. In addition, if OSHA wins a willful violation case, the employer can expect charges of negligence under both civil and criminal liability standards. Don’t take this training responsibility lightly. I, like OSHA, would prefer employers be compliant for the welfare of the workforce because they are ethical and care about their employees. But if the threat of prosecution works, we still accomplish the desired outcome: a safer workplace.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Saved by the Bond

In this edition of “Voice of Experience,” we’re going to examine a recent incident that helps to illustrate the point that when workers follow the rules of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(n), “Grounding for the protection of employees,” it can save lives.

Background Information
A transmission crew was assigned the task of transferring conductor and guys on the inside phase of a 115-kV three-pole angle. The pole had been set by another crew and was ready for the transfer; the three-pole-angle structure was sitting in a swampy area not accessible by trucks that day. The crew went in on a Marsh Master with tools to work on the structure.

A clearance had been arranged by the crew leader to de-energize and ground the 115-kV line. The switching order was reviewed and dispatched by a system operator at the origination point of the 115-kV line, about 25 miles west of the work location. There was a three-way GOAB switch approximately 25 miles east of the work location. The system operator was to initiate the switching order at the power plant. A crew person was assigned to open the GOAB switch. Two bucket trucks were assigned to ground on either side of the three-pole-angle midspan when the line was de-energized.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

August-September 2019 Q&A

Q: What is considered a forklift? We use wheel loaders equipped with accessory forks on our rights-of-way to unload and move poles and pole sections. We were told by our client’s safety inspector that the loader operators have to be certified as forklift operators because the loaders are equipped with forks. We have always used loaders and loader operators and never had an issue. Where do I find the information to resolve this issue?

A: OSHA refers to forklifts as powered industrial trucks or PITs, while the industry commonly calls them forklifts. OSHA’s construction standard has a section on material-handling equipment. The very last rule is 1926.602(d), “Powered industrial truck operator training.” The rule consists of a single note that states, “The requirements applicable to construction work under this paragraph are identical to those set forth at §1910.178(l) of this chapter.”

I have had people tell me that this rule means that operators of construction equipment using forks, like a loader, are required to be licensed or certified as a PIT operator. That is not the case. The PIT standard that contains forklift operation and training rules is found in the general industry rules. The second sentence of paragraph 1910.178(a)(1) states the following: “This section does not apply to compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas-operated industrial trucks, nor to farm vehicles, nor to vehicles intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road hauling.” Wheel loaders are designed to move earth. They are not PITs even if they are equipped with forks.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: Coaching and Feedback that Maximize Performance

When I think of the truly great leaders I have had in my life and career, there is one common characteristic they share: the ability to effectively provide coaching and feedback with the primary goal of improving performance and the secondary goal of making me and the team better. Coaching and providing feedback are essential skills you must possess as a leader. They are critical to the success of your team and probably two of the best ways to gain influence and demonstrate C5 leadership (for a refresher on C5 leadership, visit https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/frontline-fundamentals-developing-a-complete-definition).

Demonstrating C5 Leadership
My son and I got involved with the Pinewood Derby when he was in Cub Scouts. Luckily for me, I have a friend whose son never lost a heat during his tenure as a Cub Scout. So, every year when it was time to make the derby car, I would call my friend and ask for advice on how I could help my son build his car (we all know the scouts do most of the work in Pinewood Derby construction). We would also seek his feedback during the construction process.

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Jeremy Verrillo, ATC, CEAS III, CWcHP, CMMSS

Strength and Conditioning Strategies to Prepare the Next-Generation Utility Worker

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Apprenticeships in the utility and construction fields often serve as a transition point for individuals from sedentary or light work to heavy or very heavy jobs. As more individuals seek jobs in the trades, many may have little to no experience with regular physical activity. Injury-free performance of heavy or very heavy job tasks strongly corresponds to an individual’s physical abilities and health habits. While the electrical utility industry strives to engineer the risk out of jobs, many tasks still require a minimum amount of strength, endurance and flexibility.

Strength and conditioning principles have long been used in sports to ensure that would-be players achieve the specific demands of their desired position while also optimizing performance. Similarly, hiring managers, training specialists and safety professionals can implement these same principles into apprenticeships to enable new employees to achieve the physical ability needed to perform their work safely. This creates a win-win scenario that helps to prevent workplace injuries and increase the health and wellness of employees.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Exploring Human Judgment and Its Impact on Safety

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As a human being, you depend on your own good judgment and the good judgment of others in everything you do. For example, in order to avoid an accident, you depend on your good judgment and driving skill as well as those of the driver in the car approaching you. To create and maintain a safe working environment, you rely on the good judgment of all crew members – including yourself – to carry out tasks with skill and precision.

In part, every individual’s safety depends on the safe decisions of others. When things go well, it often is assumed that everyone involved made good decisions. And when something goes wrong, it sometimes is said that the person at fault used bad judgment. But what exactly drives human judgment? Are there ways that human beings can strengthen their ability to make wise, safe decisions? In the remainder of this article, we will explore the topic of human judgment, including insight on the human brain and some tips to help you improve your decision-making abilities in the future.

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Michael Kleinpeter, M.Eng., CUSP, CHST

Organizational Safety Roles and Responsibilities

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Safety personnel are not the only individuals responsible for safety in an organization. Executive management, operations management and workers also have roles to play in establishing and maintaining a safe working environment.

However, specific roles and responsibilities for each of these groups are not always understood, and they may never have been introduced. This means there may be employees in an organization who do not realize how vital their influence can be on safety – for better or for worse.

The four groups listed below typically comprise a safety team; your organization’s team may vary somewhat. Each group has a specific role and responsibilities for safety in their workplace, as well as some common responsibilities that they share as part of the safety team.

  1. Executive management are owners, presidents, CEOs and the like. They are the final decision-makers.
  2. Operations management are operations managers, project managers, supervisors and foremen. These individuals usually are overseers of an organization’s projects, jobs, crews and/or workers.
  3. Workers are those directly involved in the day-to-day work of the company.
  4. Safety personnel are those employees dedicated to providing safety support.
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Derek Sang, QSSP, IASHEP, NASP

Understanding, Selecting and Caring for FR/AR Clothing

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When the original version of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard was published in the 1990s, flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing weren’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known at the time, but the standard only required that an employer not allow an employee to wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury sustained by the employee. This eliminated use of garments constructed with synthetic materials – such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate – so the default was for employees to wear clothing made of 100% cotton. The problem was that non-FR cotton, once exposed to thermal energies beyond its ignition point, will ignite and continue to burn, thus adding to the employee’s injury.

It has now been a little over five years since FR/AR clothing requirements were incorporated into the 1910.269 standard. The 2014 final rule (see www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2014-04-11/pdf/2013-29579.pdf) states the following: “The new provisions for protection from electric arcs include new requirements for the employer to: Assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flames or from electric arcs, make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed, ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by employees is flame resistant under certain conditions, and generally ensure that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.”

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