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Incident Prevention Magazine

Rey Gonzalez is owner and president of HOPE Consulting LLC. He is an electrical generation professional with 35 years of diverse technical and organizational experience. Gonzalez has studied human behavior and organizational effectiveness over the past 20 years, with a focus on methods to improve hazard identification and enhance performance.

Rey Gonzalez

Three-Way Communication for Utility Workers

The purpose of effective communication is to ensure understanding between two or more people. It is an important defense in the prevention of errors that can result in incidents. While the effects of mishaps due to ineffective communication will differ, the unfortunate organization can find itself facing legal, regulatory and financial consequences, and its people dealing with a significant emotional event as a result of a lost teammate.

Many industries have established protocols for effective communication. For example, in the medical field, 66 percent of all sentinel events reported from 1995 to 2005 were related to ineffective communication, according to The Joint Commission, a nonprofit that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 U.S. health care organizations and programs. The commission defines a sentinel event as “an unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk thereof.” To help combat this issue, organizations in the medical field have begun requiring their employees to engage in a repeat-back process when information is verbally communicated to them. This is because, in general, verbal communication presents a much greater risk for misunderstandings than written communication.

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Rey Gonzalez

The Power of Human Intuition

Some time ago, two of my students and I observed as two operators replaced fuses on a 6.9-kV electrical bus. Both operators were new to this task that had only recently been turned over to them from their company’s electrical department. When my students and I approached the bus from the front side, I noticed that it was energized. We started our observation in a bus cubicle where the breaker was racked out and de-energized. The operators replaced fuses in a compartment above the breaker cubicle without physically opening the breaker cubicle door, only the compartment above. This was accomplished using gloves for PPE. Once the task was completed, the operators went to the back side of the bus. They began to open the large back door of another breaker cubicle, and at that point the hair on my arms stood up and the little voice inside my head asked, “Isn’t that breaker cubicle energized? I don’t think this is the same breaker cubicle, and why are they doing this without arc protective gear?”

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