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.

Jeremy Verrillo, ATC, CEAS III, CWcHP, CMMSS

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


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


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


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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Understanding, Selecting and Caring for FR/AR Clothing


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 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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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Manufacturer Warnings and OSHA-Compliant Safety Performance

Over the past few weeks I have received several inquiries regarding horizontal directional drilling (HDD). It’s not unusual in our industry for questions to make the rounds of utilities and contractors, generating interest and often controversy. I also have recently received several inquiries regarding OSHA allegedly canceling the digger derrick exemption in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes & Derricks in Construction.” OSHA hasn’t done that, but somebody said they did, and folks started asking around. Soon after, I received calls for clarification on the matter. In the digger derrick case, there was nothing to it; OSHA has not changed anything about the exemption. However, concerning HDD, there is an issue that raises an interesting question for those who administer compliance.

The point of the rest of this article is not to recommend or criticize any safety procedure associated with HDD. The point is to examine the role of manufacturer warnings and OSHA-compliant safety performance in the workplace. There is no doubt that I will get emails from HDD machine manufacturers and adherents of overshoe use, as well as overshoe sales or manufacturing representatives. I invite your response. To be clear, both Incident Prevention magazine and I are solely interested in providing an opportunity for perspective and analysis of a process that will help individuals learn how to deal with challenges in the workplace.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: What Do New Employees Need to Know?

As I’ve recently traveled around the U.S. speaking to different utilities, contractors and municipals, I’ve found that attrition is greatly affecting the workforce. And as more and more workers retire, the industry will need to hire new workers to fill those vacated roles – new workers who will need the appropriate training to safely and effectively perform their jobs.

I’ve written about the value of training in the past, specifically about how the quality of training and performance management has a direct effect on the safety of employees and the productive abilities of the workforce. In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I want to take the opportunity to review some of the basic skills a lineworker should possess in order to help ensure quality construction for the employer and decrease safety issues for everyone working in field.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2019 Q&A

Q: We experienced an event that has caused some confusion among crew and supervisors about what we thought we knew about grounding. We were working midspan on a de-energized 345-kV circuit. We drove a ground rod, grounded our trucks to it and grounded the phases to it. Almost immediately, we smelled hot rubber, and then tires started to smoke. Can you help us understand why this happened?

A: That was likely much more serious than hot tires. For the benefit of readers, we spoke with you on the phone, got details and shared opinions. Here is what happened: Your crew was in a right-of-way with very high induction. The ground rod you drove was very high resistance. When you connected your trucks, essentially you made a radial connection from phase to truck through the ground rod connection. In doing so, you loaded very high induction current onto the truck, which passed into the earth across the tires and outriggers. Many utilities by procedure use ground rods at midspans, and often it goes without problems. This is why we stress learning the principles of current flow in grounded systems. If you can ground phases to the very low-resistance static, the induction load is handled without much risk to workers on the ground. If you do have to ground your truck, and there is high induction, a well-driven rod isolated from the phase grounds might be a good choice. If grounding to the same ground electrode as the phases can energize the truck, as happened in your case, dangerous gradients can occur around the truck, and touch potentials between earth and truck can be deadly.

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Frontline Fundamentals: Valuing Your Team and Developing Relationships

Developing relationships is a huge topic, especially in today’s world of generational differences, cultural sensitivities, political divisions, and a general us-versus-them attitude between organizations, leadership, and frontline workers. It starts with how you onboard new employees and encompasses everything from conflict resolution to codes of conduct. While relationships often are overlooked or ignored, they may be the most influencing factor in the success of your team.

Let me tell you about an experience I had that infuriated me. It’s probably the angriest I have been in my professional life. A trainer was about to go into a crane certification preparation course. Right before he walked into the room, he looked at me and said, “None of these guys are going to pass. They’re all too stupid to do the math.” I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that quite a few of them passed. What’s important is how this exemplifies the value – or lack thereof – that leaders place on their teams.

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Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP, MBA

Five Essentials of Successful Safety Programs


Recently my teammates and I were given the opportunity to evaluate the safety programs of a cross-section of contractors conducting potentially hazardous work for a large utility. It was our goal to help those contractors identify the vulnerabilities of their safety strategies and to help them become even more reliable partners to the utilities they serve.

In my line of work, I am often asked what commonalities I see among the most effective safety programs. The temptation is to think that bigger is better, or that world-class safety requires an enormous investment of resources. I wrote this article to dispel some of those notions, and to let smaller contractors know that they, too, can have highly reliable safety programs without huge investments.

Following are five principles my teammates and I have observed in every effective safety program we have evaluated. Please note that none of the following ideas are originally mine. I am indebted to my team and the contractors with whom I have worked. The ideas are theirs, and so the credit must be as well.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Are Compliance Grungs Taking Over Your Organization?


Do you have a safety culture that focuses solely on safety compliance and the use of personal protective equipment? If so, you probably also have the dreaded Compliance Grungs, which can secrete poisons throughout your organizational safety culture.

What exactly are Compliance Grungs, and how do deadly creatures relate to anything associated with safety? Deadly creatures kill, destroy, and cause suffering and pain. They wreak havoc and generate a great deal of harm. Individuals who work for organizations that promote safety only as a rule or compliance issue may experience similar phenomena without understanding why their safety culture is suffering.

To put it simply, Compliance Grungs are rules, policies or procedures that are considered more important than their application. They destroy a culture by promoting safety as a rule instead of a personal value, thereby strongly devaluing the importance of safety. Statements like “They don’t care about me,” “Management only wants to cover their own behinds” and “That rule is so dumb – they don’t know anything about our work” are sure indicators that you are suffering from an invasion of Compliance Grungs.

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David Clark

Using Simulators to Standardize Utility Operator Training


The Missouri Valley Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training Program has supplied a steady stream of qualified workers to the electrical industry of the American Midwest since the mid-1960s.

Operating out of seven locations in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, Missouri Valley Line Constructors has approximately 600 apprentices enrolled in the lineman, traffic signal technician and substation technician programs at any given time.

“We offer a four-year, 7,000-hour apprenticeship program for the power-line industry,” said Robbie Foxen, executive director for the Missouri Valley Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training Program. “We start from scratch, teaching apprentices how to climb poles, work on transformers, build high-voltage power lines and maintain electrical grids.”

The training center owns two digger derrick trucks, a bucket truck, a skid-steer loader and a boom truck. In the past, with dozens of apprentices vying for time on the machines, scheduling was difficult. “We just hoped they got some hours on the equipment,” Foxen said.

So, to standardize equipment operator training, as well as expand seat time for apprentices, Missouri Valley Line Constructors decided to turn to simulation-based training.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CET, CUSP

Overcoming Conflict on the Right-of-Way


A news helicopter circled overhead as the two ambulances left the job site. The deputy sheriff looked at the superintendent and said, “Tell me again, how did this happen?” The superintendent removed his safety glasses with a sigh as he surveyed the devastation left behind by the 345-kV contact. “Well, we had to set up for work directly under these lines because some local environmentalists wanted the wildflowers protected,” he said. “So, we did what we were asked. If you notice over there, those flowers are still looking beautiful, but it seems that the now-deceased landowner still didn’t like us being here, so he ran onto the right-of-way and tried to climb up onto the boom truck to stop our work. This must have caught our groundhand off guard, because instead of just stopping the work and notifying his supervisor, he attempted to intercept the man. All this commotion distracted the operator, causing him to contact the line. Once that happened, 345 kilovolts of electricity killed the landowner instantly, and our ground worker was severely shocked by what we call step potential.”

Although the preceding paragraph is an extreme worst-case example of how right-of-way (ROW) distractions and conflicts can impact our job sites, it’s not unrealistic. In this article, we will look at how members of the public and our own workers can create distractions and conflicts that jeopardize our ability to do our jobs well, and we will also consider safe ways to handle these types of distractions and conflict.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Root Cause Analysis, Training and Lessons Learned

I’m not sure how I became an analyst. I don’t think it’s a career goal you necessarily plan for. My understanding of the analyst role is that it’s an individual who studies the elements of an event or occurrence. Analysts break down the elements of an event to learn how those elements are related. The purpose of analysis is to understand the nature of the event being studied. Through effective analysis, we ultimately create or assure desired outcomes and prevent or minimize the likelihood of undesired outcomes.

Over the past 10 years I have analyzed a half-dozen training accidents that occurred in apprentice training yards. Recently I also have seen a couple of videos of incidents involving apprentices in which no one was hurt; they were actually kind of funny to watch. But to an analyst, those videos have a lot more to offer than the lighthearted “been there” sympathy. Lineworkers often learn the hard way how not to do things. It’s that hard way that I want to eliminate because sometimes the hard way becomes the final act to what might have been a great life.

I was once engaged to write an opinion on a root cause analysis (RCA) that OSHA and a utility performed based on an incident that hospitalized three apprentices in a single event. OSHA only performs RCAs to identify where the employer may be at fault, but in this situation, the RCA listed all kinds of physical conditions and procedural mistakes that caused the incident. All of those items were causally related, but none were the real root cause. Before we move ahead in this edition of “Train the Trainer 101,” readers need to understand RCAs and how they fit into the lessons learned from training accidents.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Clearing Up Confusion About OSHA Record-Keeping Requirements

Those of us in the industry tasked with record-keeping sometimes struggle with all of the different reporting scenarios. OSHA 29 CFR 1904, “Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness,” gives us guidelines, but even the most thorough research of compliance requirements can still lead to questions and confusion.

For example, workers’ compensation cases may not be recordable as OSHA cases due to exceptions in the agency’s record-keeping rules. Workers’ compensation is mandated by each state, while OSHA 1904 is a federal record-keeping standard.

Further, OSHA’s record-keeping standard was updated in 2002, at which time many changes were made, including some that made the standard easier to understand but others that made it more difficult. Additional changes were made effective January 1, 2015. While basic reporting has essentially remained the same over the years, it’s important to be aware of the 2015 change found at 1904.39(a)(2), which states, “Within twenty-four (24) hours after the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees or an employee's amputation or an employee's loss of an eye, as a result of a work-related incident, you must report the in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye to OSHA.” These requirements were added to provide OSHA insight on less serious injuries in certain industries that typically have a higher incident/DART rate.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

April-May 2019 Q&A

Q: OSHA’s digger derrick exception – found at 29 CFR 1926.1400(c)(4) – includes digger derricks when they are used for augering holes for poles carrying electric or telecommunication lines, for placing and removing the poles, and for handling associated materials for installation on, or removal from, the poles, or when used for any other work subject to 1926 Subpart V. Substations are included in Subpart V, so why do some people say setting steel or regulators is not covered by the exception?

A: You might try to justify substations as being in Subpart V – except for what the substation rules cover in Subpart V. OSHA 1926.966, “Substations,” is not about construction of substations. It is about working in substations. The rule covers minimum approach distances, guarding of live parts, switching and electrical safety. Steel erection, just like concrete work, falls under horizontal standards. 

The logical thinking of very reasonable people regarding this issue often is challenged for sensibility, mostly because of their perspective. For instance, if I can hang a capacitor on a wood pole with a digger derrick, why can’t I hang a beam and capacitor in a substation with a digger derrick? It’s the same thing, it’s a capacitor. The right perspective is that all construction-related lifting of loads by cranes is regulated under 1926.1400, except lifting poles and pole-mounted equipment that are installed using a truck specifically designed for digging and setting poles. 

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Frontline Fundamentals: Stop Telling and Start Communicating

MAY webinar

My son once told me, “Daddy, I’m an excellent listener. You’re a bad talker.” I won’t get into the details of what started that conversation, but I will say this, he was right. He did exactly what I told him to do, which was nowhere near what I wanted him to do. I didn’t communicate effectively. Pause for a moment and think about how often undesired results happen because someone didn’t understand our expectations.

Think about these questions, too: Have you ever agreed with someone just so they would shut up? Have you ever sent a text message to avoid a verbal conversation? Are you guilty of inundation communication, ambush communication, vague-garbage communication or CYA communication? Whoa! It’s not my fault. I sent an email and I have a read receipt.

Speaking of email, your account provides a tremendous amount of insight into communication. When you are the receiver, you have filters that automatically send certain messages into your junk folder because you don’t care about them and don’t have time for them. You manually delete certain messages without reading them simply because you get so many from that sender. When you are the sender, you set levels of importance and decide whether you want read receipts. I can almost guarantee that you have sent an email to the wrong person, and you also have sent an incorrect message because of autocorrect. You probably have a favorites folder for certain people that makes messages important before they are created and sent. Your signature line might include specific instructions and insight into safety that take the form of “Stay safe” or “Take care of each other.” These aren’t bad messages; there just needs to be more.

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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Specifying Arc-Rated and Flame-Resistant Gloves


Until recently, standard specifications and conformity assessments of flame-resistant (FR) gloves fell into no-man’s land. While many end users have requested FR gloves, there has not been a standard in the industry for manufacturers to use to specifically label their gloves as flame resistant. In 2013, ASTM F18 set forth a standard for testing gloves in arc flash exposures to provide an arc rating; ASTM F2675 offered arc ratings for gloves, but F696 protector gloves and D120 rubber insulating gloves were excluded. This did not prevent testing of rubber insulating or protector gloves, but many manufacturers would not label their gloves because of these exclusions. Most arc-rated (AR) gloves on the market are work gloves designed as ground gloves or for low-voltage operations to protect from arc flash, but they have no shock protection. This has created a challenge for manufacturers in the marketplace – they are left to decide on their own how to test and interpret their product to make such claims. To further complicate matters, gloves in the AR and FR PPE industry have become increasingly complex to offer better grip and protection from multiple hazards (e.g., impact, cut and puncture), with designs that include extra components that may ignite under certain conditions. With these changes in the market, how can you be sure you’re specifying what you need when it comes to hand protection?

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Recognizing Our Human Risk Factors


Determining the root cause of an incident or accident gives us the opportunity to share lessons learned to help prevent future duplication of the event. In this article, we’ll identify those inherent human traits that seemingly have little to do with the tasks lineworkers perform but often are the cause of incidents. It’s difficult to mitigate risk if we don’t recognize it, so let’s explore how simply being human can set traps for us.

Inattentional Blindness
Before we go any further, please be interactive here. Log onto your computer and plug in The link will lead you to an awareness test during which you simply count the number of passes one team makes in a 15-second basketball game. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the video yet, don’t read any further until you have.

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Mack Turner, CUSP

Feedback and Accountability in the Disciplinary Process


Disciplining employees is always a tough task to handle, so it’s not surprising that many leaders and employees have a fear of the disciplinary process. However, discipline is a necessary part of business. That’s because sometimes, despite people’s best intentions, course correction must occur. As leaders who are tasked with doling out discipline, we should be careful to focus on the company’s needs in addition to the well-being of our employees throughout the process. We also need to keep in mind that our employees are our most valuable asset and should be treated with respect regardless of circumstances. In the end, although the disciplinary process can cause anxiety, fear and a host of other emotions, it can be a win-win for both sides.

When I started in this industry over 25 years ago, a nickname was bestowed upon me – I became known as “Grunt.” If I did anything that my foreman did not like, descriptive yet not-so-nice words escaped from his mouth, and I was threatened with unemployment. In another incident, I once watched a seasoned journeyman accidentally run a bucket into a phase, after which he was told by the foreman to grab his tool bag and lunch and get off the job. We know now that this kind of discipline and correction would never fly in today’s workplace – and it shouldn’t. Both leaders and employees deserve a disciplinary process that is fair and puts a focus on giving our employees – and the workplace – a chance for a positive forward direction.

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Stacey Simmons

The Hard Hat Celebrates 100 Years


When you think of people who have changed our lives with their inventions, you may think about Thomas Edison and his lightbulb or Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone. Not many of us would think to include Edward W. Bullard on that list, but 100 years ago – in 1919 – he invented the hard hat, which today is one of the most recognized safety products in the world and is responsible for saving thousands of lives over the past century.

To truly trace the heritage of the hard hat, we have to go back even further to 1898, when Edward Dickinson Bullard founded E.D. Bullard Co. in San Francisco. The company originally supplied carbide lamps and other mining equipment to gold and copper miners in California, Nevada and Arizona. Then, when Bullard’s son, Edward W. Bullard, returned from serving in World War I, he went to work for Bullard Co., combining his understanding of customer needs with his experiences with his doughboy army helmet to design protective headgear for miners.

The young Bullard called his protective headgear design the Hard Boiled Hat because of the steam used in its manufacturing process. The original Hard Boiled Hat was made of steamed canvas, glue, a leather brim and black paint. This invention revolutionized mine and construction worker safety. Edward W. Bullard then took his Hard Boiled design one step further by building a suspension device into the hat, and that became the world’s first commercially available industrial head-protection device.

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