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.
Free Subscription
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.

Continue reading
  113 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  176 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  159 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  369 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  109 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  144 Hits
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. 

Continue reading
  103 Hits

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.

Continue reading
  78 Hits
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?

Continue reading
  875 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  1229 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  859 Hits
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.

Continue reading
  1239 Hits
Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Telcom Workers Don’t Need FR – Or Do They?

The question that is the title of this installment of “Train the Trainer 101” originally came to me from a client during safety training for the company’s distribution employees. The client is a T&D contractor with a telecommunications (telcom) division. And yes, the question was regarding arc flash, which is not the same thing as FR. To utility workers, FR formerly meant “flash resistant.” The acronym FR was stolen from the utility industry by the road construction industry for traffic safety vests and now has come to stand for “flame resistant.” Flame resistance is the quality of a material designed for protection from exposure to fire or flame, not electrical arcs. OSHA, which does not use “FR” in the standards, requires that arc flash protective clothing also must be flame resistant to ensure clothing does not continue to burn after exposure to an electrical arc. In addition, flame resistance is required for the outer layer of clothing worn by an electrical worker who could be exposed to a heat source that could ignite that outer layer. There has been confusion, so it is important to recognize that use of the term “FR” on a traffic vest label does not mean the vest is arc protective; it is only flame resistant, meaning it has resistance to burning and will not continue to burn if the flame exposure is removed. It’s a habit to use the term FR when referring to arc flash protective gear, but we all need to understand the difference in labeling.

Now, back to the initial question. My first thought upon hearing it was that telcom workers are not required to use FR. After all, telcom is regulated by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.268, and 1910.268 does not require arc protective clothing like the 1910.269 standard does. But the answer doesn’t end there. So, if you are in the telcom business, don’t stop reading here. This is a lesson on interpretation of the standards as much as it is an answer to the question, who is required to wear arc flash protection?

Continue reading
  495 Hits
Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Planning for a Storm Restoration Effort

The electric utility industry is experiencing more major catastrophic storms than ever. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and snow and ice storms are taking their toll on both systems and employees. It was just several months ago that we were dealing with back-to-back hurricanes – Florence and Michael – and now we’re well into a winter that has dealt large swaths of the country plenty of snow and record-breaking low temperatures. 

At some point I stopped counting the number of storms I have worked during my 51 years in the industry. What I do know is that each storm has been a learning experience for me. One thing I’ve noticed over time – in addition to the increase in the number and severity of natural disasters – is that mutual assistance from other utilities and contractors has become a significant resource for host utilities that have suffered damage from these events. In light of that, I want to share some information that may help things go more smoothly for you and your crews during future restoration efforts.

Continue reading
  295 Hits
Jim Vaughn, CUSP

February-March 2019 Q&A

Q: We have crews working under a clearance on a de-energized circuit jointly controlled by two different utilities (employers). The concern is that the other employer’s personnel, wishing to bundle maintenance opportunities during the outage, are taking protective relays out of service on their end of the circuit. If a switch were inadvertently closed on their end, taking their relays out means no tripping protection since the other end of the circuit is open, too. Such an action could delay if not eliminate relay protection and raise current on the grounds protecting our workers. Is there an obligation between utilities to manage an outage under common rules?

A: There is an OSHA-based solution that comes in two parts. And even though your question is about grounding and tripping during inadvertent re-energizing, the solution to the issue actually lies ahead of grounding.

As you are aware, OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(m) contains the rules for de-energizing lines and equipment for the protection of employees. That rule section is the pre-eminent means of ensuring no switch is ever closed without the permission of the employee in charge of the equipment or lines that have been de-energized and placed under their control. As you noted in your inquiry, we ground a circuit after the clearance process to ensure against any possibility of re-energizing. The grounding is based on an evaluation of relay trip settings to assure effective tripping to protect the crew under the clearance. Any change to the values or trip settings puts the crew at risk.

Continue reading
  602 Hits

Frontline Fundamentals: Developing a Complete Definition of Leadership

March2019 webinar

Our industry is under a lot of pressure. There is the ever-increasing pressure to keep the lights on and rates down by performing work efficiently and safely. To do more with less. Adding to the pressure is an aging workforce, high levels of turnover, and changes in workforce demographics – such as generational differences – that make it difficult to recruit and retain qualified employees.

What that means is leadership is more challenging and more important than ever. As the industry evolves and changes, so must its leaders. For that reason, leadership will be the focus of our 2019 Frontline Fundamentals columns and webinars. I highly encourage you to read the articles; send us your questions, concerns and experiences; and actively participate in the free webinars. Most importantly, take these opportunities to evaluate and improve yourself as a leader. Remember, leadership is a skill that can be improved.

In the remainder of this article, we are going to discuss two things that keep leaders in our industry from reaching their full potential: fear and an incomplete definition of leadership. We also will define leadership, how it is measured and outcomes produced by successful leaders. Lastly, we will address critical characteristics that effective leaders possess.

Continue reading
  368 Hits
Chip Darius, CUSP, OHST, CET, CSHO

Controlling Struck-By Hazards in Utility Work Zones


Struck-by hazards are one of the greatest threats to workers employed in the utility and construction industries, and thus are hazards every utility and construction company should be focused on mitigating. Typical examples of struck-by hazards include traffic passing through a work zone; vehicle and equipment movement within a work zone or construction area; rotating or swinging equipment, such as an excavator; and falling loads and tools.

Worker fatalities in work zones dropped due to the last recession, hovering around 100 fatalities per year from 2007 to 2013, but numbers are rising again as the economy strengthens and roadway work projects increase. More than 140 worker fatalities in work zones were recorded in 2016.

OSHA is the Minimum
OSHA standards establish minimum legal standards for safety programs, and many employers rely on OSHA when creating company safety plans and policies. In this particular area, it is essential to emphasize the word “minimum” because OSHA standards lag far behind current consensus standards and recognized industry safety practices. Employers committed to protecting workers from struck-by hazards must set their sights higher than the OSHA minimums, looking to ANSI consensus standards and industry practices for guidance. This article explains the current federal OSHA and industry safety practices.

Continue reading
  1371 Hits
Lee Marchessault, CUSP

Are Your Substations Safe?


Electrical power is a critical service that profoundly affects our daily lives. Without it, we would lose cellphone service, safety on city streets would be compromised because lights would not work, and the quality of life as we know it would diminish significantly. We would have to close schools and hospitals, and most jobs would be eliminated. Much of our food supply also would be critically impacted.

To continue living the life we are accustomed to – and have come to expect – we must have a reliable source of electricity, which starts with generation. Outside the generation station, power typically is stepped up to a higher voltage and usually ends up at a transmission system voltage (i.e., 115 to 550 kV). Transmission substations provide a means to transmit and protect the high-voltage transmission systems throughout the U.S. To distribute the power to homes and businesses, the transmission voltage is stepped down to lower voltages in distribution substations. Both transmission and distribution substations have breakers and fuses to provide system protection, along with many other parts and pieces that provide protection for equipment, personnel and the public, as well as reliability.

To ensure that power is always available, utilities must be diligent – engaging in regular inspections and National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) audits – in identifying conditions that may impact reliability and safety. The NESC has been around for approximately 100 years. Initially created as a guide to help electrical professionals understand safe design and work practices for generation, transmission and distribution systems, it is a culmination of many other standards, some of which will be referenced in this writing. Substations – or “supply stations,” as they are referred to in the NESC – are an integral part of our transmission and distribution infrastructure and have inherent hazards that must be considered.

Continue reading
  1230 Hits
Chris Court, CSP

Why Employees are Silent When Near Misses Occur


What is a near miss? For those of you who are new to occupational safety, it’s typically defined as an event in which no workers were injured and no equipment or other property was damaged, but – had things gone just a little differently – injury or damage could have occurred.

Let me give you an example. A group of employees were digging a trench with an excavator so they could install some underground piping. At one point, the bucket came in contact with an old, abandoned 480-volt temporary power line that was not supposed to be in the area. Fortunately, the line was not energized, so no employees were injured, nor was the line damaged. Because the trench was already deep enough to set the pipe, the crew chose to re-cover the 480 line and continue working. This event should be considered a near miss, but it also is exactly the type of event that some workers may choose not to report to their company. The fact that the circuit was not energized in this case is not the most important issue. The crew did not know the circuit was there and did not identify it in the utility locates that should have preceded the excavation. Those issues indicate defects in the planning process, records and archives, and execution of the project. A near-miss report has the value of helping to ensure those defects are identified and corrected. Just because this line wasn’t energized doesn’t mean the next one won’t be.

The topic of near misses and the lack of employee reporting has been an interest of mine since I started working in the industrial sector. At first, I thought employees perhaps didn’t know what a near miss was and that reporting would increase if they were properly trained on the subject. I learned that wasn’t the case after I invested a good deal of time in training as well as talking to employees about what defines a near miss. After making those efforts, I only witnessed a slight increase in employee reporting that eventually slowed to a stop. I did find that lack of knowledge about near misses was true for newer employees, but that didn’t explain why older, seasoned employees were still keeping quiet. I also learned that the lack of near-miss reporting happens just about everywhere, whether it’s an established chemical plant with tenured employees, a new construction site with a diverse workforce, or even a remote oil and gas site.

Continue reading
  2390 Hits
David Spooner

How Hawaii Electric Light Co. Protected Employees During a Lava Flow


On May 3, 2018, Hawaii Electric Light Co., the company I work for, discovered we had a problem. Lava flows were popping up in the middle of a residential neighborhood in our service territory. This wasn’t the first time Hawaii Electric Light had experienced a volcanic eruption, but it was the first time one had begun in the middle of a densely populated area. We wondered, how would we keep our employees safe during this event? How would we keep the lights on in the affected area? These were the questions that had to be answered very quickly given the circumstances.

Hawaii Electric Light is the electric utility that serves the island of Hawaii, the biggest of all the Hawaiian Islands. Of the five volcanoes on the island, the three that are considered active are Hualalai, which last erupted in 1801; Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984; and Kilauea, which has been continuously erupting since 1983 and was the volcano that erupted in May.

In the Hawaiian culture, Kilauea is the home to Madame Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes. As the legend goes, from her home in Halema’uma’u Crater at the summit of Kilauea, Madame Pele determines when and where the lava flows. She is the goddess who shapes the sacred land. Hawaiians say that she has a reputation for being as fickle as she is fervent. She proved many times during the May 2018 eruption that she was indeed in charge.

Continue reading
  1103 Hits


Incident Prevention is produced by Utility Business Media, Inc.

360 Memorial Drive, Suite 10, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 | 815.459.1796 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
© 2004 - 2019 Incident Prevention. All Rights Reserved.