Incident Prevention Magazine

Carl Cormier

Are You Driving on Autopilot?

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Vehicles have been evolving and manufacturers have been adding safety features to them since the first combustion-engine automobiles were manufactured in the late 1800s. By 1968, all vehicles were required by law to have seat belts, and since 1995, all passengers – adults and minors – have been required to wear them. Anti-lock braking systems became widespread in the 1970s, and the advent of airbags occurred in the 1980s.

Today, technology continues to constantly shape and change our world. It is integrated into our daily lives at work and in our homes, from personal electronic devices such as smartphones to features in our vehicles that are truly remarkable. In fact, we continue to see new and dedicated areas for testing and improvement in the automobile industry, including utility fleets. In addition, universities are devoting time and resources to studying and developing technology with the hope of educating drivers and ultimately providing safer vehicles.

The auto industry is now producing, testing and using semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles at a rapid pace. The mining industry is currently using autonomous vehicles in Australia. Even construction machinery and equipment companies have developed and are using autonomous vehicles with high rates of success. The desire for self-driving vehicles has been underwritten by the hope that they will save lives by reducing accidents, resulting in fewer injuries and deaths than human-driven vehicles and ultimately improving overall safety.

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Joe Cisneros

When Insulating Booms Fail Dielectric Testing

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Insulating boom aerial devices and insulating boom digger derricks are designed to provide secondary protection to help prevent workers from being electrocuted. Maintenance and dielectric testing are critical and required by law to verify that the insulating portion of the machine is functioning as designed.

A new boom is dielectrically tested at the factory following ANSI requirements for a qualification test to verify the insulating rating. Additional tests are performed to confirm the insulating value after units are finished and operational. Once insulating equipment is placed in service, maintenance tests are required to be performed for a variety of reasons. Periodic testing in accordance with the ANSI A92.2 or A10.31 standard is required. If the equipment has not had a dielectric test performed within the last 12 months, as required by ANSI and OSHA, it cannot be considered insulating. Dielectric testing also should take place after repairs or replacement of components in the insulating sections, when a problem is suspected or after incidents of contact with energized power lines.

Environmental factors can affect the results of a dielectric test. The environment of use, exposure to sunlight, surface condition, damage, and cleanliness of the boom and internal components could lead to dielectric test failure. Following are some of the procedures a boom test technician performs when booms don’t pass a periodic test. Periodic testing usually is conducted annually, but many owners perform tests more frequently when weather or harsh conditions warrant them.

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Bart Castle

Microlearning: Another Critical Piece of the Employee Training Puzzle

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Few people involved in helping others learn new skills suggest that doing so is easy. In the electric utility industry – or any industry, for that matter – training typically ranges from the informal, on-the-job variety to more formal classroom-type training. The results from each continue to be mixed.

In the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve also seen training evolve to include computer-based education. And over just the past several years, another type of training – referred to as “microlearning” – has started to take off. So, what is microlearning? And why should you bother educating yourself about it? Those are both great questions. Let’s consider them and the relevance of microlearning to the electric utility industry.

What is Microlearning?
Just as the word sounds, microlearning is an approach to training that involves smaller-than-usual educational units. Yikes – that’s a bad thing, right, especially in electric utility line work, where the information needed to understand and carry out the work can be dense and somewhat complicated? Not so fast. In reality, microlearning is the process of intentionally taking large blocks of mission-critical content and breaking them down into bite-sized chunks, so that individuals can use that information at the point of greatest impact. Thus, microlearning is not about shrinking the amount of information; rather, the information is distilled to its critical elements so that it can be readily accessed by those who require the knowledge in order to safely and accurately perform specific activities.

When used effectively, microlearning is a powerful performance support tool that can be accessed by a leader or team member at a point of critical need to increase the likelihood that decisions made or actions taken will be those needed to accomplish specified goals. The microlearning might involve two sentences of a critical policy. It might involve an interactive decision tree on responding to a lights-out ticket. It might involve a 30- to 90-second video clip on effective job setup. Or, it could involve parts of all three.

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Trisha Bilyeu

Live Safely: The OG&E Way

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Safety is more than a priority at OG&E – it’s a value. Priorities can change daily, but values stay the same and define what OG&E is as a company. Formed in 1902, OG&E is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest investor-owned utility, and over time it has built a culture around being incident- and injury-free (IIF), with the companywide belief that one incident is too many. In everything OG&E employees do, they are intentional about safety and committed to living safely, whether it’s at work, at home, at play or behind the wheel.

All OG&E employees receive rigorous and personalized IIF training. One of the most meaningful parts of this training is “the letter.” Imagine getting a letter from your loved one stating that he or she has been in an accident and this is goodbye. Every employee is asked to write this type of letter to their family. It’s a gut-wrenching exercise that really drives home the critical importance of safety.

To further the culture, every company meeting begins with a safety moment. It can be anything from a driving tip to a personal experience. Our employees also carry safety coins every day as a reminder to always live safely and to protect themselves and others from injury through constant engagement.

Since OG&E started its IIF journey in 2008, the company has continued to see a decrease in incidents and injuries.

“We put a stake in the ground, so to speak, by standing up and saying our employees deserve to work in the safest environment in the industry,” said Jean Leger, vice president of utility operations at OG&E. “Employees live and work safely not out of motivation to be in compliance or to avoid punishment, but instead because not doing so would violate a deep internal value. It’s our steadfast determination to achieve a goal – even in the face of obstacles and setbacks.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: The Value of a Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan

If you follow OSHA’s guidelines, you train your workers to perform hazard analysis. You probably have a tailboard process as well, although your company might have a different name for it. Tailboards and crew hazard analysis are fundamental leading indicators of a good safety program. But hazard analysis and tailboards are only two elements of what really makes a difference in a safe approach to work. A health and safety site-specific plan (HASSSP) and the HASSSP process bring with them innumerable benefits – not just prevention of unwanted incidents.

When I was a contractor safety manager, I wrote a site-specific plan for every project. I started doing so about 15 years ago, after a series of preventable incidents and conditions that wouldn’t have occurred if I had provided prevention information to the supervisor and crew prior to the events. It occurred to me that for all the planning our company did, we missed some pretty big issues – issues that cost us pain and treasure.

A health and safety site-specific plan is not just a contractor tool. Many utility projects will benefit from a HASSSP since the level of detail for the plan itself is relative to the type and complexity of the work. Contractor HASSSPs typically are more detailed and developed if the local area is new to the company and particularly if the contractor is hiring new personnel for the duration of the project. The HASSSP is the product of prework research and analysis of the worksite and conditions that can or will affect crew performance or success.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Value of Worker Training

Many recent articles I have read in other magazines and via social media emphasize the importance of worker training. I couldn’t agree more. It is both important and valuable that employers invest in training for new employees entering the industry as well as current employees. While the return on investment cannot always be accurately measured and calculated, the ROI does exist nonetheless – just imagine what injury and fatality statistics would look like if we did not train our workers.

One of an employer’s training-related responsibilities is to investigate cases of failure to follow training that result in property damage, injuries or fatalities. OSHA also obligates employers to report any accident that requires medical attention beyond first aid, if the accident is work-related. And risk management professionals and certified loss control professionals are required to investigate property damage involving employees for insurance purposes. Loss control can be difficult to track because damage is not always immediate, and the cost of damages may not be directly attributable to failure to use proper training. In addition, a bad underground splice or a failed connection on primary or secondary that results in property damage may or may not be recorded by an employer as a failure to use proper training.

I understand that we are human beings, and because we are human, we make mistakes. And yet, I would like for all of us to think about the possibility of following all rules and regulations all the time – in short, I want all of us to strive to operate excellently. By adhering to what we learn in our training and using the correct procedures to perform our work, we can protect lives and prevent property damage.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

August-September 2018 Q&A

Q: I am brand new to the safety side of contracting and need guidance on finding information about heat stress. There are lots of guides on assessing heat illness as it occurs, but what about industry practices to prevent heat stress? What do successful heat-stress prevention plans look like?

A: We have three recommendations for you. First, some state plan safety and health agencies – such as California’s – have mandatory program requirements that include trigger temperatures. When a worksite reaches such a temperature, certain site practices for heat stress must be employed. Section III, Chapter 4 of the federal OSHA Technical Manual (see www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_4.html) also has detailed information about heat hazard assessments and programs.  

Second, call your local hospital or favorite occupational medicine specialist and review your heat-stress prevention plan with them. In the past, I have offered to pay a fee to have a doctor visit a safety meeting to talk about prevention, although doctors usually will come to speak for free.

Third, do just as you have done: Ask questions, and share information with individuals and companies that have good, effective programs.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Four: People Influence Each Other

“That night in the city, when you thought I was the Special, and you said I was talented, and important … That was the first time anyone had ever really told me that, and it made me want do everything I could to be the guy that you were talking about.” -Emmet in “The LEGO Movie”

When Emmet made this statement to Lord Business in 2014’s “The LEGO Movie,” he nailed human performance (HP) principle four – that people influence each other – and taught viewers of the movie some valuable lessons about how safety should be led. In this installment of “Frontline Fundamentals,” I’m going to present some of those key safety leadership points, along with expected outcomes when HP principle four is properly applied.

Key Safety Leadership Points

  • HP principle four: People achieve high levels of performance based on encouragement and reinforcement given to them by leaders, peers and subordinates.
  • Encourage others: Believe in yourself and others; provide feedback, coach and mentor with the goal of achieving excellence; and have a positive attitude.
  • Reinforce desired behaviors: Don’t assume because behavior is good that people will know it’s good and repeat it; tell them it’s good, why it’s good and how it will benefit them to repeat it.
  • Minimize negative consequences: Punishment will generally get you compliance, but it’s likely that compliance will only occur when someone is watching.
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