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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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Ty Fenton and Chuck Kevwitch

Building an ATV/UTV Training Program for Utilities and Contractors

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Utility task vehicles (UTVs) and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are quickly becoming the preferred motorized equipment for lineworkers to use to access difficult terrain for necessary inspection and repair of infrastructure. And although they are exceptionally capable, these vehicles – identifiable by their large off-road tires, relatively small size and light weight – pose certain challenges for both utilities and contractors who wish to use them on job sites. For starters, some workers use these types of vehicles in their personal lives for various outdoor recreational activities. However, when they are deployed in a professional setting, many of the rider’s habits and rules of operation must change.

Safety One Training, the company we work for, was recently tasked with implementing an industrial training program for a West Coast contractor that complied with a utility company’s training requirements. From the outside, it appears that ATV/UTV training can be complex and challenging to implement, but based on our experience, there are typically three broad categories that need to be addressed before these vehicles can be used on the job site: when to choose these machines, operator training requirements, and machine capabilities and limitations.

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Pam Walaski, CSP

Lagging Indicators, Leading Indicators … Let’s Start Over

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What do indicators really mean? Occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals continue to debate this issue. Can indicators really measure performance of an OSH program? On one side are lagging indicators, which include common markers such as total recordable incident rate (TRIR); days away, restricted and transfer rate; and experience modification rate. These are lagging indicators because they measure after-the-fact occurrences. Data measured after the fact may be a lens into an OSH program’s failings and offer opportunities for improvement. For many years, organizations and OSH professionals have believed that these indicators tell the whole story – that low lagging indicators mean the OSH program is effective and employees are working safely, and high ones mean the opposite, leading to a heavy focus on decreasing the numbers or striving for zero.

But multiple studies reveal that there is no connection between low incident rates and a safe workplace. Organizations with long track records of no OSHA recordable injuries often experience multiple fatal incidents or catastrophes (e.g., BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion). Rates can be the result of luck, poor reporting, the randomness of incidents and many other factors.

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Derek Sang and Scott Margolin

FR/AR Clothing Considerations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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In 29 CFR 1910.132, OSHA clearly states that personal protective equipment and appropriate training are required for individuals working in utilities, electrical petroleum, oil and gas exploration, and other industries where there is a danger of being injured by arc flash or flash fire. What’s not so clear to safety professionals is how things have changed with regard to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the information that has been disseminated over the past year or so is incomplete, misleading or just flat-out wrong.

So, what do you need to know and what questions should you be asking your FR/AR clothing and other PPE providers? That’s what we intend to help you with in this article, and please feel free to reach out to us if you have other questions or concerns that aren’t addressed here.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Writing an ATV/UTV Operating Safety Policy

This installment of “Train the Trainer 101” is a little bit different than usual in that we are going to write an operating safety policy. There are two goals here: to help you learn to develop policies that make a difference, and to prevent wrecked all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) on your job sites.

Over the last few decades, ATVs and UTVs have taken on a significant role in remote site access and large yard transportation. What have also occurred over the last few decades are serious and occasionally fatal injuries from the operation of ATVs and UTVs. In my own experience as a former transmission line contractor, we only had a few incidents with UTVs, but it was on every job where we used them. In my time since, I have received calls every year regarding incidents related to UTVs. They are probably involved more often because ATVs are not as useful on rights-of-way as they are in yards where managers employ them to get around more efficiently. In this article, we are going to discuss the elements of an ATV/UTV policy designed to address the most common issues related to ATV/UTV wrecks and how they can be prevented.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Overhead Line Work, Then and Now

Overhead line work requires much planning beforehand and total attention when it is being performed. Recently I’ve had several requests to discuss this kind of work, so I’m going to take you back to the days when I was a lineman and, later, a crew supervisor to aid in this discussion of overhead jobs.

When I first became a lineman in 1972, I was hired as a helper on a line crew. The job was trial by fire in those days. There was so much material to learn, but there wasn’t much in the way of training schools back then – almost all of my training was of the on-the-job variety. Lineworkers would put a “newbie” in a bucket, raise the bucket, and then have the new guy put their hands on 4 kV and 7.2 kV, for example. If you were that newbie, you also might have been made a winch truck operator long before you became an apprentice. And if you did not like the feeling of energized conductors in your hands, you were usually directed to the meter shop or another department. Lineworkers during that time found out quickly who might not make it in this kind of work. By the time I became an apprentice lineman – after attending a two-week apprentice school – I was being moved from apprentice to bottom journeyman about half the time, especially on callouts and trouble work. Many of the lineworkers at that time did not want to work nights or weekends.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2021 Q&A

Q: We have received some pushback from clients when setting up transmission pulling on EPZ mats that are constructed over crane mats, covered with galvanized cattle panels, overlapped, stapled down and bonded together. We follow a model passed down through our parent company’s safety research committee. Our clients have asked if the installation is certified. We did some research, found ASTM F2715 and are now wondering if that is what we should be doing. Can you help?

A: ASTM F2715, “Standard Specification for Temporary Protective Equipotential Bond Mat to be Used on De-Energized Equipment,” was established to standardize manufacturing methods for portable EPZ mats so that a purchaser can be assured of what they are purchasing. Your mat, constructed to meet proven electrical principles, is not covered by ASTM. In fact, there is no standard for constructing mats as you describe. What you are describing is a method of creating a wide area of protection for large and small operations that has been in use for decades.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM

The Safety Paradox: My Day at the Safety Conference

Here’s a hypothetical and exaggerated scenario about a day I spent attending a safety conference (the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo, of course!). It begins with me watching a safety glove demonstration. I watch a person put on a glove, crush a wine glass, stab themselves in the hand with a needle and run a sharp knife across their fingers, all without getting hurt. Their hands are invincible, and once I get my hands in those gloves, mine will be, too! Skinning wire with my knife just got a lot safer.

Then my phone rings. It’s my wife. There is a slight chance of snow tonight at home, and she and I need a plan to get our son to school if there is a delay. The expected low temperature is 34 degrees Fahrenheit, so that shouldn’t be an issue. But wait! My phone rings again; this time it’s the school. They have already made the decision to make tomorrow a remote learning day. Isn’t it great that teenagers won’t have to drive in the winter weather? They can just stay home.

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Marilyn M. Velez, MPH

Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.

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Members of the OSHA Georgia Struck-By Alliance and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia Inc. (AGC Georgia) will join thousands of employers and workers during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which takes place April 26-30. This year’s theme is “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. Everyone plays a role in work zone safety.”

NWZAW is an annual campaign sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to raise public awareness about the need to drive safely in work zones. The campaign is held at the start of the highway construction season and draws attention to the safety of road workers as well as motorists.

The Georgia Struck-By Alliance encourages participants to recognize NWZAW by conducting safety stand-downs at their job sites. During a safety stand-down, all work is stopped for 30 minutes to one hour and a focused safety meeting on one specific topic is provided. AGC Georgia explained that “these types of meetings provide effective communication of safety policies, goals and expectations through all levels of a team.” They recommend that participants conduct toolbox talks, perform safety equipment inspections, develop rescue plans or discuss job-specific hazards during their safety stand-downs.

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Mack Turner, CUSP

Overcome ‘Burnt Toast Syndrome’ to Improve Safety and Training Results

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I have a beautiful and caring better half. She is always there for me. One of the things she does for me is make breakfast. Now, I am an old country boy, so any old breakfast won’t do. I want meat, eggs, potatoes and toast, and she is happy to prepare them for me.

One morning as I sat down for the breakfast she had prepared, I looked at my plate and right on top was the toast … and it was burnt. Now, I do not like my toast burnt. How dare she, after all these years, try to feed me burnt toast? So, what did I do? I grabbed the jam and smiled, I thanked my better half for my breakfast, and I ate the burnt toast.

After breakfast that day, I got up from the table and left for work. While I was driving, I could not help but think that my burnt toast was somewhat symbolic of our employee safety programs and the behavior and culture of our employees.

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Sharon Lipinski

The Biological Basis of Complacency

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The adverse effects of complacency in the workplace have long been an ongoing source of concern in the safety community. What is not agreed upon is the reason for this problem. In my own experience, I have noticed that safety professionals use the term “complacency” in different ways to refer to different kinds of events.

The ability to address and solve a problem is greatly increased when the problem is properly understood, so I embarked upon a research effort to better understand this hazard. As a result, I produced a paper that explores a previously undiscussed component of complacency: basic brain design. Given how the human brain has evolved to operate, I argue that complacency is an unavoidable risk factor that can be managed but not eliminated. With this scientifically based understanding of complacency, safety professionals can more effectively prevent complacency from posing a risk to their employees’ safety.

The Symptoms of Complacency
Complacency is not an easily observable condition, and objective criteria can be elusive. Based on interviews with safety professionals, I compiled a list of anecdotal clues these professionals use to gauge the presence of complacency:

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

Minimum Approach Distances: What’s Required?

Let’s kick off this article with a definition of what “MAD” means in the utility sector – and it does not mean that we’re upset with you. The word is actually an acronym that stands for minimum approach distance, which is the calculated safe working distance that provides worker protection when working on or in the vicinity of energized lines and equipment.

As with other articles in this series, we must begin with the hazard. Remember, if you always begin by identifying the hazard, then the application of the OSHA standard becomes somewhat simplified. The hazard here is electricity that could result in electric shock or electrocution. Considering the consequences of the hazard, de-energization should remain the best safe work practice. When de-energization is not feasible, the hazard must be effectively controlled to provide a safe work environment. MAD has been developed to give workers a calculated safe working distance that will provide personal safety and operational security during energized line maintenance or while working in the vicinity of other energized lines. OSHA refers to MAD as “the closest distance a qualified employee may approach an energized conductor or object.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

A Practical Guide to Using Outrigger Pads

I’ve met a lot of people over the years while working in the utility industry. One of those people is in management with a respected manufacturer of aerial devices. Back when OSHA published 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes and Derricks in Construction,” he and I and a few others were discussing how a utility operation could best comply with some of the standard’s requirements. The OSHA rules were formed with the perspective of typical construction sites in mind. In particular, we discussed the rule’s expectation that the site’s general manager will tell the crane operator about underground obstructions that might collapse and cause a crane to become unstable. It’s obvious that a crane operator setting structures on a right-of-way doesn’t have that luxury, so we were thinking about things we could do. The discussion landed on auxiliary outrigger pads. At the time, my friend from the aerial device company had this to say: “We have occasionally been sued by folks who turned over one of our cranes or aerial devices, but we have never been sued by anyone who had set up on auxiliary pads.”

I don’t know if that’s still the case with that company, but at the time I began to research why auxiliary pads appeared to be an important part of stable setup for aerial devices. Basically, it’s because sometimes even a few square inches of additional pad dimension can increase ground support by tons per square foot. When it comes to the four-point support of an aerial device that weighs in at tons, tons-per-square-foot increases are a good thing.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

System Operations: Who’s in Charge?

System and utility operators are required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(m) to have a procedure to de-energize their systems for protection of the employees working on those systems. The rules in 1910.269(m) do not specifically require a written procedure, but it is hard to imagine how an effective procedure could be maintained if it weren’t written. Unlike lockout/tagout, we refer to these programs as switching and tagging. Switching and tagging apply to transmission and distribution, including substations. The 1910.269 standard has a paragraph (d)(2) on energy control procedures for power plants that is much less rigorous than the traditional lockout/tagout for general industry found in 1910.147, “The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout).” Part 1910.147 specifically exempts “installations under the exclusive control of electric utilities for the purpose of power generation, transmission and distribution …”

Most substation entry and system control centers also have additional rules they must adhere to per the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), including those pertaining to security and reliability of the bulk power systems across the U.S. and Canada.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

April-May 2021 Q&A

Q: I read the article “A Practical Review of the ANSI A92.2 Standard” in the October-November 2020 issue of Incident Prevention magazine (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/a-practical-review-of-the-ansi-a92-2-standard), and I’d like to know, is there a standard for the construction of electrically insulating bucket liners? We have problems with the geometry of a bucket. Because the walls of the bucket and the bucket liner are separated, I need to know the tolerance or maximum distance between the walls of those elements. Can you help?

A: We don’t know of a standard for liners other than the paragraph for buckets with liners in the A92.2 standard. That rule covers the requirements that the liner be rated and capable of passing the appropriate test. The liner also must be supported by the bottom of the bucket, leaving fit in the bucket up to the manufacturer and the buyer of the liner.

Liners are not required if workers are comfortable with that. Many workers have been brought through the industry with liners and believe they are mandatory and safer than buckets without liners. Again, however, liners are an option, and many utilities and contractors use them as a secondary level of protection. If you are gloving from a Category B bucket, the bucket itself is not required to have any primary insulating value because your primary means of protection are gloves, sleeves and cover-up. The bucket and boom are secondary barriers for the protection of the worker. As to the liner, the rule only requires that it be supported by the bottom of the bucket; therefore, it must be tall enough that it is not supported by the lip of the bucket. In the same way, the sides must be narrow enough that they do not support the liner on the sidewalls.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM

How Common is Common Sense?

How did you learn that a stovetop could be hot and burn you? Some would say that’s common sense, that human beings have an innate awareness of hazards, yet I’m guessing many of you learned the hard way – by touching a hot stove.

What about brushing your teeth? Have you ever hurt yourself doing that? When was the last time you locked your keys in your vehicle or slipped on a patch of ice? Have you ever run into a stationary object while driving? If you have common sense, none of these things should ever happen, right? Yet they do.

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Steve Nash

Fire Extinguisher Use and Safety for Utility Workers

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

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

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Rating Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

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

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

Why are Job Briefings and Risk Assessments Important?

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

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

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Lito Wilkins, CUSP

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

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

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

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

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Understanding Radio Frequency Energy Exposure

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

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

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