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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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Roger Crom and Jim Olson, P.E.

Best Practices for Using Your Aerial Device Jib to Handle Transformers

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When it comes to lifting transformers, aerial devices equipped with jibs are one of the handiest tools available to lineworkers. Compared to old methods for transformer replacement – which required workers to climb the pole and use a pulley to manually lift the transformer – using a jib is safer, easier and more productive.

Most aerial devices sold to companies in the utility industry are equipped with jibs. However, not all jibs are the same, and the user should evaluate the type of work to be done when choosing the equipment for the job. Consider whether the tasks are construction or maintenance work on distribution or transmission lines. Before dispatching to the job, workers should know how the lines are situated relative to where the vehicle can be located. In addition, the weight of the load will determine the capacity of the aerial device and jib needed.

In the remainder of this article, we will provide an overview of the four key areas that inform good practice for using jibs: knowing your equipment, inspecting your equipment, knowing the load and understanding proper setup.

Know Your Equipment
There are many different styles of jibs with varying capacities available on different boom and platform configurations, including side mount, underslung, end mount and jibs that rotate with the platform. There also are fixed-length jibs, jibs that can be manually re-pinned to provide various extensions, and jibs with one or more sections that are hydraulically extendable. Some units are designed with the load line above the jib boom and some are below. Other jibs are equipped with sheaves that allow only non-overcenter lifting, while some can do either overcenter or non-overcenter lifting.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

The Hierarchy of Incidents and Learning: Part II

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The contractor’s executive team sat across the table from the client’s construction leadership. It was the client’s director who spoke first.

“Let’s ensure everyone is on the same page,” he said. “Over the past six months, you’ve had numerous quality, production and schedule issues, an environmental noncompliance, two injuries and a utility contact that caused a 3,500-customer outage for over six hours. All of this has almost crippled three projects that we trusted you with, and we need to know how all this happened and what you are going to do about it.”

The contractor’s president looked up and humbly replied, “First, I want to apologize for breaking your trust. As for the ‘how’ question, there was no single cause. We missed a lot of good catches and close calls because we weren’t using those indicators on our operational and safety scoreboards, but things are different now. We have a new way of measuring success. What we’ve learned over the past few months is that our workers’ thoughts, attitudes and mindsets affect how much they respect the conditions and situations they face, and that level of respect becomes apparent in their behavior. We’ve been learning about and addressing these issues for the past month, and we’re beginning to see greater operational and safety success. However, we also have to change 52 years of culture, and that’s taking more time and effort than we would like. While I accept the fact that this change will be an ongoing, forever endeavor, I can confidently tell you that if we had begun this earlier, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”

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Derek Sang, CSHEP, QSSP

Mother Nature vs. FR/AR Clothing

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The company I work for receives a lot of questions about flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing, including inquiries about what should be worn on extremely hot summer days and very cold winter days. We’re always happy to answer those questions because it’s our business and – in the electric utility industry – donning FR/AR apparel often is necessary for workers’ personal safety.

The fact is, extreme weather doesn’t appear to be stabilizing anytime soon. Both NASA and the American Meteorological Society have predicted that we can expect both more intense and more frequent heat and cold events across the country in the coming decades, with implications for both indoor and outdoor workers.

Given that information, it’s important that workers know what heat stress and cold stress are and what those types of stress can do to their bodies. So, let’s discuss some definitions of heat and cold stress, what can contribute to them, and what employers and workers can do to address them – including participating in a strong FR/AR clothing program. 

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Arc Flash and Face Masks

Recently I have received numerous emails and phone calls regarding respiratory air-filtering masks rated for arc flash. I’m sure everyone reading this, no matter what country you’re in, is aware why that’s the case: the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are a regular reader, you know it is my methodology to address topics by first citing the related safety standards in effect and then discussing the issue from a practical perspective typically related to the utility industry. This time is no different – for the most part.

Initially, the use of masks during the pandemic was limited as effective respiratory protection and still is for the public per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As far as OSHA was concerned regarding workplaces, the only approved mask was the NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirator (FFR). The N95 rating means that the mask meets the criteria for effective filtering of airborne particulates and moisture at 95%. The rating system also was established by NIOSH. It is important to understand that the N95 rating is based on the assumption that the masks are utilized by trained users meeting the OSHA respiratory protection worker training and fit-testing standard, which also can require a medical evaluation of the user.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Opinion: Looking to the Future During an Unprecedented Time

As I sit and write this article, I’m also gazing into my crystal ball, so to speak. I realize that life as we knew it just a few short months ago has changed. COVID-19 has made its way around the world and we are now working during an unprecedented time. Utilities have been designated as essential services, requiring employees to continue working as normally as possible, but with the pandemic in the background each day, I think it’s safe to say we are establishing a new normal. Back in the 1990s, I worked with an executive who once said, “Normal will never come back.” He was referring to competitive rates and regulations, but the coronavirus pandemic, too, will forever change the way utilities do business. And that means that, as we continue to move forward, we will need to put an equal amount of emphasis on both employee health and safe work practices.

So, what are some of the things we should currently be aware of regarding COVID-19 and utilities? And what should we be thinking about for the future?

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2020 Q&A

Q: Should we worry about beards in relation to arc flash? At our company, we think hair generally protects the body against extremes. Do you know of any evidence to the contrary?

A: Here is what we know: Human hair is protein fiber. It will burn when exposed to a flame but stop burning when the heat source is removed. Human hair does not melt; it becomes a fragile ash that turns to powder when crushed. This property is known as self-extinguishing. Hair is pretty much like cotton – it burns away. As such, it is not a hazard related to arc flash and actually provides some protection. OSHA does not address exposed hair any differently than the exposed body. It is up to the employer to decide if exposed hair increases employee risk as it pertains to arc flash hazards. If you were to analyze it from a practical perspective, you likely would agree with most of the safety experts we asked about it; they indicated that hair has a heat-insulating property and will not increase a burn hazard to the face provided workers abide by the appropriate arc flash standards of protection established by OSHA. However, there is an issue with some grooming products that may change the hair’s natural resistance to burning, which could be a problem for those lineworkers who use them.

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

Motivators: To Improve Performance, Understand What Drives Your Behavior

So far in this six-part series, we’ve talked about learning styles and the DISC assessment. In this third installment, we’re going to dive into motivators, including an assessment you can take to determine your own personal motivators.

Greater self-awareness typically leads to greater personal and professional success. Self-aware people understand what their motivators are and recognize, among other things, that their motivators influence their behaviors and actions. People who understand their motivators are more likely to pursue the right opportunities for the right reasons and use their motivators to drive behaviors aligned with their desired outcomes, both of which make them more successful.

Below is a brief overview of seven dimensions of motivation based on the work of psychologists Eduard Spranger and Gordon Allport. Knowledge of these dimensions will help you identify your motivators and understand your unique behavioral drivers. After you read the overview, we also will take a look at how you can best apply your motivators – once you’ve established what they are – to achieve greater success. Keep in mind that most people are motivated in part by each of the seven dimensions, but every individual is unique as to how much or how little they are motivated by each one.

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Eric M. Fell

Working in Switchgear Cubicles Just Got Safer

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All of us who work with electricity know how hazardous it can be. During a stint with my previous employer, a co-worker and good friend was electrocuted and killed when he made contact with energized switchgear components. Another co-worker at the company also was seriously injured. Safety is always a part of our job; it’s something we talk about and practice every day, but given what happened to my two former co-workers, I felt that more needed to be done to establish a zero-accident workplace – more than just job briefings, using human performance tools and “living safely.” When it came to working with switchgear, it was necessary to develop a tangible safety device that could be paired with work practice improvements.

Several years later, after starting my current employment at Con Edison – a regulated utility that provides electric, gas and steam service to customers in New York City and suburban Westchester County – a simple request to pursue a solution prompted an effort to reform switchgear work practices. The result has made those practices both safer and more efficient – not just at Con Edison, but potentially for the industry.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

The Hierarchy of Incidents and Learning: Part I

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You just want to do the job right and go home unharmed today, but things don’t always go as planned, incidents happen, and the lessons your team learns don’t always change the way you’ll do the job tomorrow. This can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless to improve the things that keep your team from reaching its full potential.

You deserve a framework that allows you to continuously improve your operations and team morale. In this two-part article, we’ll use the hierarchy of incidents and learning to identify and rank the different parts of an incident. As we work through all six levels of the hierarchy – the first three in this article and the next three in the follow-up article – we’ll discuss things you and your team members can do to support a continuous growth mindset. The ultimate goal of all this is to learn and improve so that we can identify and mitigate the potential for error as soon as possible and reduce the impact of incidents on our people, projects, company and customers. 

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Jim Martin, CRSP, CUSP, CCPE

Human Error and Organizational Resilience

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From 1980 through 2010, safety performance emphasis was on accident prevention through the application of controls. We learned about the hierarchy of controls (elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment) and the multiple barrier principle (use several controls in case one or two fail so there will always be something to protect you). The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations has defined “defense in depth” as “the overlapping capacity of various defenses to protect personnel and equipment from human error. If a failure occurs with one defense, another will compensate for that failure, thereby preventing harm. The four lines of defense – engineered, administrative, cultural, and oversight controls – should work together to anticipate, prevent, or catch active errors before suffering a significant event.” This thinking took us a long way in improving safety, and most companies experienced significant reductions in incident rates, severe accidents and fatalities.

During that period of time, and due to that success, most utility companies started to target zero injuries as part of their safety performance improvement programs. This led to an almost exclusive focus on a single number: the all injury rate or the total recordable injury rate. The result was that companies were able to achieve rates of less than 1.0 (one injury per 200,000 hours worked), which, in turn, led to the belief that they were ultra-safe organizations where nothing really bad could happen. But history has demonstrated that, even in those high-performing organizations, disasters and fatalities can and do still occur. As James Reason taught us in the 1990s through his Swiss cheese model, even multiple barriers can fail under the wrong circumstances, leading to accidents and loss.

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Luis Ortega, CUSP

Take Your Time and Follow the Rules – Or Pay the Price

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The last time we met Bob the foreman and his crew, they saved the day when a vehicle hit a utility pole on a busy roadway in Safety County, New York (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/safety-concerns-when-setting-wooden-utility-poles).

These days, Bob and his crew are still in action, working for Sunshine Electric Co. At Sunshine, following company safety rules and industry best practices is as normal as breathing air. On this particular day, we find Bob prioritizing the unending string of planned field work assigned to his crew. His first priority for Sunshine’s customers is the list of new services and reliability jobs. As a supervisor, he also has priorities for the safety of his crew. But that’s not all. Because of his training, he knows that safety compliance to protect his employer is another one of his responsibilities as a supervisor. That is a lot of responsibility, but Bob and his crew were safely trained by Sunshine, and Bob has communicated his expectations to the crew for their safety.

Bob selects a job from the list that involves installing a new transformer on a replacement pole. The existing pole is too short to accommodate the additional facilities that must be attached, including the new transformer to feed a customer’s premises. A new, taller pole must be installed. Bob gathers his crew and explains what the job is all about. He then releases the paperwork so that the linemen can gather the new pole and all the other materials necessary for the job. He will meet them on-site in a little bit.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: The ABCs of Grounding Mobile Equipment

Across our industry, I have found all kinds of policies for grounding trucks. I also have found that in many cases, employers’ rules for grounding trucks are not based on OSHA requirements and – even more concerning – are not based on sound principles of protection. I believe the grounding policies are well intentioned, but they fail to achieve two important goals: (1) meeting the OSHA standard and (2) protecting workers where electrical contact hazards exist. So, let’s take an ABCs approach to the issue because even though some detailed explanation is required, it really is that simple.

A Defensible Plan
You must be able to defend your plan or policy. This is the case for every plan or policy. Defense is built around establishing and accomplishing a goal, understanding the hazard, understanding the mitigation of the hazard, training at-risk employees, and conducting periodic audits to ensure the plan or policy is properly employed.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Need for Seasoned Industry Trainers

Providing accurate, effective training to workers is one of the electric utility industry’s most pressing challenges. From my perspective, there are not enough appropriately qualified trainers to fill the open jobs available. As our industry’s attrition rate continues to increase, will we be able to provide the right training to new and existing employees? Each day, there are lineworkers being given work to do for which they are not adequately trained, endangering them and their co-workers. We need trainers to help correct this problem so that fewer lineworkers are hurt on the job.

I mentioned that our industry has a shortage of “appropriately qualified” trainers. There certainly are a number of individuals working for utilities and contractors who hold positions that have the word “training” or “trainer” in the title. But some of those individuals are newer lineworkers with limited experience working with crews. That can be a problem for their trainees, who need and rely on the guidance of trainers with real-life experience about how to plan and execute specific job tasks. Too many of these trainers lack a basic understanding of system grounding, distribution cover-up, and switching and tagging for employee protection. OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.269 standard was updated in 2014, and our industry’s trainers must know and train students in accordance with those regulations.  

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

April-May 2020 Q&A

Q: Recently we had an employee reference OSHA 29 CFR 1926.960(f) and 1910.269(l)(7), “Conductive articles.” The question is, can an employee work in an energized area while wearing jewelry, and earrings in particular? The rules discuss conductive articles such as watches, bands, rings and chains, but I do not see where it mentions earrings. 

A: When it comes to interpretation, it is good to confine a rule to the language used, but sometimes you also have to address the intent. The concern that drove the creation of this rule was whether jewelry, which is conductive, increases electrical contact risk. Those risks are twofold: (1) Does the jewelry make an electrical shock more likely, and (2) does the jewelry increase the damage or level of injury from an electrical contact? This rule does not fit well in the utility industry because its origin is the indoor electrical industry. Electricians rarely employ rubber gloves and were sticking their bare hands in energized panels in close quarters. Still, we can’t ignore the rule, but we can easily address it. As far as electric utilities are concerned, hands in close quarters to uncover bus or wire could cause a flash where jewelry goes to ground. You would get shocked anyway, but the jewelry could cause an arc flash, which increases injury levels with burned skin. That doesn’t really apply where we work unless your uncovered hands are in a meter can. The answer for either 1926 Subpart V or 1910.269 is in the wording of the rule, so look closely: “When an employee performs work within reaching distance of exposed energized parts of equipment, the employer shall ensure that the employee removes or renders nonconductive all exposed conductive articles, such as keychains or watch chains, rings, or wrist watches or bands, unless such articles do not increase the hazards associated with contact with the energized parts.”

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

Behavioral Profiles: Use DISC to Predict and Adapt

Over the years, I have taught or sat through training sessions with thousands of people. Based on my experiences, I can unequivocally state that personality and leadership styles are the training topics that generate the most excitement and discussion among trainees, and the ones that inspire the most aha moments. Relatedly, the DISC profile is the single tool that I get the most positive feedback about – and the one that has had the most positive impact on people’s lives and careers.

This article, which is based on the DISC assessment that is offered through the Incident Prevention Institute (https://ip-institute.com), will explain the value of the assessment, what is involved in undergoing the assessment, what you will receive after completing the assessment, and how to use the assessment as a personal and professional development tool. It is worth noting that there are many useful leadership, personality and behavioral assessments available that are similar to our DISC assessment. I highly encourage you to research them and take at least one.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Are You Taxing the Variables?

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Planning is a critical part of our work in the electric utility industry. Inevitably there will be unknowns in each plan we put together; the more variables there are, the less control you have over your intended outcomes. So, it’s worth spending the time to identify and address those unknowns. In the remainder of this article, we will cover how to identify the critical elements and variables in your projects as well as how to weigh the consequences of those variables to help ensure the best possible outcomes for your plans.

A friend of mine who is a psychologist once shared a story from her childhood with me. She said that whenever she had a plan for something that appeared overly complicated, her father would say, “Be careful – you are taxing the variables!”

What did my friend’s father mean by that? To put it simply, taxing the variables occurs when there are too many variables that depend upon the success of other parts of your plan. Let’s say you have to check in for a flight at the airport. The flight leaves at 7:30 a.m. Boarding begins at 6:30 a.m. You live two hours from the airport and want to arrive two hours before departure. Leaving your house at 3:30 a.m. should get you there at 5:30 a.m., so you set the alarm on your cellphone for 2:30 a.m. That plan sounds simple enough, right? But what are some of the unknowns in the situation, those variables that may arise and interfere with your plan? For starters, the battery in your car has been a bit weak lately and it’s going to get very cold later today. Will your car start when you need to leave for the airport? You set the alarm on your cellphone for 2:30 a.m., but did you remember to put the phone on the charger, too, so that the battery doesn’t die? Oh, you just remembered it’s also a holiday weekend. Is two hours still sufficient to make it to the airport, or should you factor in extra driving time because of traffic concerns?

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John Adkisson

Collaborating for Safety

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One of the most vital responsibilities a utility fleet has to its customers – which typically include operators, field management and corporate management – is to provide vehicles and equipment that meet operational and corporate objectives. Those objectives also must be met without compromising the safety of the operators, other workers or the general public.

So, how does fleet uphold safety as a core value while managing all of the other objectives that the department and its customers have – particularly when those other objectives appear to, at times, directly conflict with the safety objective?

The fact is that if only fleet itself attempts that task, it will not only be daunting but nearly impossible to execute. However, success in the area of fleet safety is not only possible but attainable when fleet works with its customers and business partners to understand their needs and challenges. So, let’s review three areas – communication, data analytics and customer buy-in – in which fleet and other work groups can collaborate to help assure safety on the job.

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities: Part II

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This article concludes a two-part discussion of protection strategies against arc flash and shock hazards. Here you will read about two topics: (1) arc flash and shock hazard labeling for industrial, commercial and generation facility electrical exposures, and (2) methods used to determine the level of PPE required.

The previous article (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities) mentioned that utilities follow OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and construction companies follow either 1926 Subpart K or 1926 Subpart V, depending on the job site. It discussed arc flash and shock hazards as a basis for selecting appropriate PPE to protect against each hazard. It also reviewed the consideration and provision of daily workwear and flash suits as well as voltage-rated gloves for low- and high-voltage work. Part II will explain the methods used to determine the level of PPE required through an arc flash incident energy analysis or engineering study. Equipment-specific labeling is the most widely used method to communicate the level of protection to workers. Arc flash and shock labeling will be presented using examples and serve as a backdrop to the introduction of key terminology used in electrical safety.

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Eric Lumberg

Aerial Equipment Innovations Aim to Protect Your Workers

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Aerial devices have improved exponentially over the last 20 years. Many purchasers and users of the devices, however, are not fully aware of the options now available to them. Technology and innovation – driven by ANSI standards and user collaboration with manufacturers – have resulted in aerial equipment that provides greater functionality and improved safety mechanisms for utilities and operators.

In the U.S. and Canadian utility industries, aerial equipment must meet the requirements found in ANSI/SAIA A92.2, “American National Standard for Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices.” The most recent version of the standard was published in 2015. For their part, manufacturers work hard to design and produce aerial equipment that meets utilities’ needs and adheres to or exceeds the A92.2 requirements.

In this article, we will review some of the aerial equipment technology and innovations now available in the market. We’ll also discuss pertinent ANSI safety standards for aerial equipment used in the utility industry.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: FMCSR Awareness

When analysts look at utilities, and to some extent utility contractors, they often see what’s referred to as “mission creep.” That occurs when the expertise of the utility should be focused on quality and continuity of service but begins to be compromised by focus on too many other areas. The opposite of mission creep is when business elements that are critical to successful progress toward the goal get overlooked because of focus on the goal. One business element that gets less attention than it deserves are big trucks and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). Granted, 75% or more of the FMCSR do not apply to utilities, and many parts that do apply are difficult to implement. Implementation is tough because, even as employers with drivers and big trucks, we are not carriers, which is the target audience of the rules, but we still are regulated by those carrier-related standards. The key areas of compliance for utilities are driver qualification, record of duty status (RODS), safety equipment and load securement. There also are a couple of new initiatives that we should keep an eye on.

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