Incident Prevention Magazine

Steve Andreas

When Utilities Leave the Pavement: Off-Road Driving Safety Challenges

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The need to safely access hard-to-reach areas continues to be a struggle in numerous industries, including utilities. Historically, people have pushed the limits of machinery and designed better tools in attempts to access such areas. In the early days of automobiles, for instance, enthusiasts modified and improved the designs of their vehicles, enabling them to travel farther across terrain on which the vehicles were never originally designed to travel. As technology and industry continued to progress, manufacturers began to design vehicles specifically intended for off-road applications, which led to the development of a new vehicle category: the all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Over time, the ATV label – which originally applied to Jeeps – became synonymous with four-wheelers, or quads. As even more time passed, ATVs eventually became useful not only as recreational vehicles but as staples of off-road transportation for industrial uses as well.

While ATVs were first produced specifically for utility use in the early 1980s, the utility task vehicle (UTV) – also known as a side-by-side – was initially launched by Kawasaki in 1988 as the MULE, an acronym for multi-use light equipment. The UTV provides features that cater better to industrial applications, such as more seating and cargo capacity. ATV-type vehicles existed long before the 1980s, but they were designed and used almost exclusively by the recreational market. Since utility use of ATVs and UTVs did not exist before the 1980s and became more commonplace in the 1990s, the market and technology are still relatively new from a regulatory standpoint. However, due to significant advancements in the functionality and reliability of these vehicles, industrial use has grown dramatically in recent years. That has prompted an increase in the need to identify proper use of these machines as transportation to access job sites or as tools to aid workers in performing tasks.

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Andrea M. Guadarrama, MBA, STS

Solving the Safety Culture Puzzle

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Have you ever thought about the similarities between solving a puzzle and transforming a safety culture? For one thing, the challenges of solving a puzzle – no matter if it’s a jigsaw puzzle, a Rubik’s Cube, a riddle or a maze – range from simple to difficult, just as the challenges of a safety culture transformation do. And second, people approach solving puzzles and creating cultural transformations in myriad ways.  

Whether you’re trying to solve a puzzle or transform the way your organization handles safety, two things are for certain: to be successful in your mission, you must have all the necessary pieces before you get started, and you must then fit them into their proper places. In the safety world, those pieces include a clear vision, commitment, a positive attitude, accountability, clear communication and leadership support. As you fit each piece into its appropriate spot, you take one step closer to your goal – a strong safety culture. But a piece placed in the wrong spot, or one that’s missing altogether, can lead you in the wrong direction.

So, how do you begin to transform your organization’s safety culture if it is missing pieces, has interdependencies and can be approached in more than one way?

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Peter P. Greaney, M.D.

Empowering Employees to Take Care of Themselves

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Sergio is repairing equipment at a power station when he feels a twinge of discomfort in his lower back. Per company policy, he informs his supervisor. What happens next is likely to have a critical impact on the outcome for Sergio and his employer.

Let’s assume the supervisor instructs Sergio to stop working and visit a clinic for evaluation. At the clinic, the treating provider conducts a physical exam, orders some diagnostic tests and writes a prescription for medication to relieve pain and inflammation. Sergio takes the afternoon off and returns to work the next day with restrictions. The encounter is recordable and results in a workers’ compensation claim.

Now, let’s consider an alternative scenario. Sergio and his supervisor call or use a smartphone application to contact an injury management triage center. Sergio describes his symptoms to an occupational health nurse or physician who offers reassurance and care guidance. He is given the option of a clinic visit, but with instructions from the clinician, Sergio instead voluntarily agrees to self-administer first aid.

After applying a cold pack to his back and taking a nonprescription anti-inflammatory medication approved for use at the worksite, Sergio resumes work and is able to safely finish his shift. A claim is not filed and there is no case to record.

In the first scenario, a routine complaint of low-back discomfort diverges onto a path with the potential for high medical costs, productivity loss, delayed recovery and litigation. In the second scenario, Sergio is given choices that include using work – an activity “prescription” – as therapy during recovery. Sergio is empowered to successfully manage his condition without worrying about making it worse or potentially missing work.

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Edward Morson and Mark Green

Innovative Fire Suppression Solutions for System and Worker Safety

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For over 100 years, PECO – a Pennsylvania utility and member of the Exelon utility family – has been supplying electricity and natural gas to customers across southeastern Pennsylvania, including those in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. PECO has hundreds of miles of utility poles and thousands of circuit miles of medium-voltage distribution cables installed in conduit and manhole systems.

With all this infrastructure, it is only natural that wear and tear will occur, which can have an impact on the distribution system. Over the decades, PECO has experienced numerous failures of distribution system components, some of which developed into fires that were difficult to combat due to poor weather conditions. Unfortunately, local volunteer fire departments typically are not equipped to deal with these types of fires, and even city fire departments, whose workers receive training on electrical fires, sometimes have a difficult time extinguishing them.

Regulations and Extinguishing Agents
Another issue PECO employees have had to deal with is the type of fire extinguishers available in their work vehicles. For utilities that have service fleets and operate under federal guidelines, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires those fleet vehicles to carry fire extinguishers. Per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 393.95, “Emergency equipment on all power units,” each extinguisher must have a gauge to indicate if the extinguisher is fully charged and a label that displays its UL rating. Extinguishers also must be securely mounted and readily available and accessible for use at all times. In addition, a vehicle transporting hazardous materials must be equipped with an extinguisher with a UL rating of 10 B:C or more. If the vehicle is not transporting hazardous materials, it must carry one extinguisher with a rating of at least 5 B:C, or two extinguishers, each with a rating of 4 B:C or more.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Enforcement of Vehicle Weight and Load Securement Rules

In the past few months, I have received comments and inquiries from all over the U.S. regarding what appears to be stepped-up enforcement of both load securement and vehicle weight rules. It’s not unusual that these topics garner attention from the U.S. Department of Transportation when it comes to carriers, but this recent uptick seems to be for smaller commercial vehicles, mechanics trucks, pressure diggers, and bucket and digger derrick trucks.

Not all utility safety professionals may be up to date on this topic because DOT issues are not front-burner issues. Typically, the human resources department handles a driver’s qualification file and drug testing for the DOT. Drivers at utilities only spend a few hours a week on the road between calls and jobs, idling most of the workday. We recognize that there are utilities with rigorous DOT management programs for equipment and drivers, but generally we find a more lax daily inspection protocol among utilities and contractors than you would find with a carrier. That might be justified considering the time a utility truck spends in transit compared to a carrier that is preparing to put a rig on the road with two drivers for 20 hours a day over the next two weeks. But it’s not the rule, and mistakes or latitude over trucks can suddenly become a serious liability when one of those overlooked trucks loses a steering link as it is driven through a school zone full of first-graders.

Craft Worker Compliance
Recently there have not been any changes of note in the rules for vehicle weight and load securement; however, it appears that some of the latitude taken by utilities, if not given by the DOT, has caught the attention of those responsible for enforcement of the rules. 

In the last couple of years, state enforcement agencies used local media to inform local commercial businesses – that are not carriers – that they would be stopped if they did not appear to comply with loading and marking standards for their class of vehicles. In Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Colorado, my colleagues and I began to hear of roadside stops involving lawn maintenance companies and small construction concerns that were pulling dual-axle, 5-ton trailers behind a Ford F-350, carrying loaders, backhoes and super lawn machines. That soon extended to power company trucks, especially those loaded with large wire reels. I even heard of one instance in which state enforcement set up scales in a shopping center parking lot on a well-known route out of a power company service center. Within 40 minutes they cited 22 vehicles for being overweight. You would think drivers would have warned others, but the DOT waved them into the parking area before they started weighing and inspecting the vehicles, so no one knew what to expect. It shouldn’t have been – but it was – a big surprise for that utility’s fleet management to learn what kind of loads lineworkers were putting on those trailers.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Understanding Induced Voltage

It has taken the electric utility industry many years to understand induced voltage. When I started working in the 1960s, it was explained to me that voltage remaining on de-energized lines was static voltage that had to be bled off or else it could be deadly. Now, when I speak to groups about temporary system grounding for the protection of employees, I occasionally still hear the term “static voltage” being used to describe what really is induced voltage from a nearby energized line. Even today, not everyone in the industry completely understands induced voltage.

So, what exactly is induced voltage? Here are some things utility safety and operations professionals should understand. The electromagnetic field around an energized conductor produces capacitive and magnetic coupling to all nearby objects within the electromagnetic field. The voltage level of the energized conductor and the physical length of the de-energized conductor that is exposed to the energized (source) conductor will determine the amount of voltage on the de-energized conductor or equipment. A de-energized conductor or piece of equipment will remain energized as long as the source remains energized and de-energized equipment remains ungrounded. Properly installed temporary system safety grounds can be used to create an equipotential work zone for employees.

The induced voltage found on de-energized equipment is not static, and it can’t be bled off. System safety grounds that have been installed simply give the induced voltage a conductive connection to ground. Once grounds are removed, the induced voltage returns to exactly the same amount of voltage instantly. It is voltage of 60 cycles per second in a steady-state condition, because there is no path in which electricity can flow other than the energized, isolated conductor or equipment. If grounds are applied to de-energized conductors, the voltage immediately will collapse to near zero, but now the physics have changed and a current flow is established in the system safety grounds. The amount of current flow in ground sets is determined by the amount of induced voltage on the de-energized equipment before the grounds were installed, and the resistance of the ground set and the ground. In addition, the more ground sets that are applied to a de-energized line, the less current flow there is in each set of grounds.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2018 Q&A

Q: Whenever we see graphics for single-point grounding, it’s always a cluster, a connection to the neutral, a connection to a phase and a chain connecting to the other two phases. But when we check with other utilities or consultants, we see all kinds of arrangements, such as bracket grounds with a single point or two sets of single-point grounds bracketing the workspace. Where do we find the definitive arrangement, and why are there so many variations?

A: Under OSHA, the employer is solely responsible for determining how they will meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.269(n)(3), “Equipotential zone,” which requires that grounding of de-energized phases be installed in an arrangement that prevents employees from being exposed to differences in electrical potential. In addition to 1910.269(n)(3), there also is Appendix C to 1910.269, “Protection From Hazardous Differences in Electric Potential,” as well as IEEE 1048-2016, “IEEE Guide for Protective Grounding of Power Lines,” a consensus standard that may be considered the authoritative best practice. IEEE 1048 is filled with detailed electrical data – from modeling to application – to explain how to create equipotential protection and effective tripping of grounded circuits that may inadvertently be energized.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Three: You Cannot Outperform Your Organization

What happens to a saltwater fish if we put it in fresh water? No matter what that fish does, no matter how well it can swim, no matter how strong it is and no matter how hard it tries, it cannot survive because we put it in the wrong environment.

When it comes to human performance, HP principle three states that individual behavior is influenced by organizational processes and values. It implies that incident causation goes deeper than individuals, and that to prevent incidents, organizational (systems) deficiencies must be identified and corrected. The challenge for an organization is to create an environment in which employees – the organization’s greatest asset – perform at their highest level. You do not want to create an environment in which latent organizational weaknesses set employees up for failure.

Us vs. Them
Imagine a group called Us and a group called Them. Them has a package labeled Profit that needs to get from Point A to Point B on or before a day called Standard. Them creates directions on how to get from Point A to Point B, which are contained in the Map. Them gives the Map to Us and instructs Us to go to Point A, pick up Profit and deliver it to Point B on or before Standard.

Us arrives at Point B two days late with only part of Profit because Us got lost. Them is furious and blames Us for losing part of Profit by not arriving at Point B on Standard. Us blames Them, complaining that the Map was wrong, which caused Us to get lost and be late. Two weeks later, this scenario is repeated, with more of Us losing part of Them’s Profit, so Them sends Middle Man to investigate and determine corrective action.

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