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Incident Prevention Magazine

Steve Nash

Fire Extinguisher Use and Safety for Utility Workers


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


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 and 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


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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Danny Raines, CUSP

Sharing My Story: I’m a Male Breast Cancer Survivor

It was a beautiful October day in Captiva Island, Florida, where my family and I were on a short vacation at the end of the summer season. I was in a room of the condo we had rented. Housekeeping had recently damp-mopped the tile floor in the room, and as I walked across it, I slipped and took a fall that resulted in a concussion after my head hit the tile. Thankfully, the concussion was minor, the embarrassment of the fall was short-lived, and my bruises healed quickly.

While assessing my injuries, however, I found a mass on the left side of my chest that seemed odd to me. Thinking it was an internal bruise, I ignored it for a few weeks, but the mass didn’t go away. I started monitoring the area, which was on my left breast on the outside edge of the nipple. After a few weeks of watching it closely, I made an appointment with my family doctor. He examined the area, declared it a fatty mass, and I went on my way. That was in November. Around the first week of December, I asked my wife, Vicki, to examine the mass to see what she thought. She did and immediately suggested I make another appointment to see the family doctor. That visit ended up being different since the doctor was no longer focused on my head injury. He felt the mass several times and eventually told me I needed a mammogram. And thus began my journey of addressing what was suspected to be breast cancer.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

February-March 2021 Q&A

Q: Why do some experts say ground rods won’t work to trip a circuit?

A: The experts say this because they are right depending on the conditions, which we’ll soon discuss. But let’s start with a definition of the idea of “remote ground” as the point at which we connect a protective system to earth. The lower the resistance of that remote ground connection to earth, the more current flows and the faster a fault clears. So, what we should be doing as a rule is using the best available ground to remote earth. The problem is that we often overlook a key element in this debate, which is that the ground source is not what protects the worker. The ground path trips the circuit. Bonding the worker into the ground scheme – the path between the fault and ground – is what provides reliable protection for workers using personal protective grounds. For example, if you ground to a system neutral, you have connected to a very low-resistance path, but you also are connecting to a current-carrying conductor. If workers are not bonded into the ground scheme, they can be exposed to current from the neutral that can result in voltage rises across the ground scheme, especially if a fault current rises on the neutral from some remote event on the system. If you are on a delta primary system at a transformer bank, that neutral on the secondary side is derived from the ground rod at the foot of the pole. Nobody would take their truck ground up to the neutral bushing of a 300-kVA 277/480 bank, but that’s no different than connecting to the ground rod bonding that 480-VAC neutral to earth. That is why delta system workers use ground rods, and to good effect if the conditions are right.

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Hazards Do Not Discriminate – Nor Should We

Hazards do not discriminate – nor should we. We do not necessarily have to like each other to work safely, but we do have to maintain professional working relationships based on mutual appreciation, caring, respect and trust.

Picture this: It’s January 25, 2021. At 9:15 a.m., Curtis, who is working his second day on the job, expresses concern that the outriggers on a crane are not properly cribbed. Carla, the site supervisor, tells Rich, the certified operator, to exit the crane and join her, Curtis and Becky, a signalwoman, for a discussion about the concern. At 9:20 a.m., the crane overturns, and the boom lands where Carla and Becky had been standing just moments before. The crane is a total loss, and there’s no chance of the job being profitable or completed on time.

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