Incident Prevention Magazine

Jeremy Verrillo, ATC, CEAS III, CWcHP, CMMSS

Strength and Conditioning Strategies to Prepare the Next-Generation Utility Worker

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Apprenticeships in the utility and construction fields often serve as a transition point for individuals from sedentary or light work to heavy or very heavy jobs. As more individuals seek jobs in the trades, many may have little to no experience with regular physical activity. Injury-free performance of heavy or very heavy job tasks strongly corresponds to an individual’s physical abilities and health habits. While the electrical utility industry strives to engineer the risk out of jobs, many tasks still require a minimum amount of strength, endurance and flexibility.

Strength and conditioning principles have long been used in sports to ensure that would-be players achieve the specific demands of their desired position while also optimizing performance. Similarly, hiring managers, training specialists and safety professionals can implement these same principles into apprenticeships to enable new employees to achieve the physical ability needed to perform their work safely. This creates a win-win scenario that helps to prevent workplace injuries and increase the health and wellness of employees.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Exploring Human Judgment and Its Impact on Safety

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As a human being, you depend on your own good judgment and the good judgment of others in everything you do. For example, in order to avoid an accident, you depend on your good judgment and driving skill as well as those of the driver in the car approaching you. To create and maintain a safe working environment, you rely on the good judgment of all crew members – including yourself – to carry out tasks with skill and precision.

In part, every individual’s safety depends on the safe decisions of others. When things go well, it often is assumed that everyone involved made good decisions. And when something goes wrong, it sometimes is said that the person at fault used bad judgment. But what exactly drives human judgment? Are there ways that human beings can strengthen their ability to make wise, safe decisions? In the remainder of this article, we will explore the topic of human judgment, including insight on the human brain and some tips to help you improve your decision-making abilities in the future.

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Michael Kleinpeter, M.Eng., CUSP, CHST

Organizational Safety Roles and Responsibilities

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Safety personnel are not the only individuals responsible for safety in an organization. Executive management, operations management and workers also have roles to play in establishing and maintaining a safe working environment.

However, specific roles and responsibilities for each of these groups are not always understood, and they may never have been introduced. This means there may be employees in an organization who do not realize how vital their influence can be on safety – for better or for worse.

The four groups listed below typically comprise a safety team; your organization’s team may vary somewhat. Each group has a specific role and responsibilities for safety in their workplace, as well as some common responsibilities that they share as part of the safety team.

  1. Executive management are owners, presidents, CEOs and the like. They are the final decision-makers.
  2. Operations management are operations managers, project managers, supervisors and foremen. These individuals usually are overseers of an organization’s projects, jobs, crews and/or workers.
  3. Workers are those directly involved in the day-to-day work of the company.
  4. Safety personnel are those employees dedicated to providing safety support.
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Derek Sang, QSSP, IASHEP, NASP

Understanding, Selecting and Caring for FR/AR Clothing

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When the original version of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard was published in the 1990s, flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing weren’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known at the time, but the standard only required that an employer not allow an employee to wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury sustained by the employee. This eliminated use of garments constructed with synthetic materials – such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate – so the default was for employees to wear clothing made of 100% cotton. The problem was that non-FR cotton, once exposed to thermal energies beyond its ignition point, will ignite and continue to burn, thus adding to the employee’s injury.

It has now been a little over five years since FR/AR clothing requirements were incorporated into the 1910.269 standard. The 2014 final rule (see www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2014-04-11/pdf/2013-29579.pdf) states the following: “The new provisions for protection from electric arcs include new requirements for the employer to: Assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flames or from electric arcs, make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed, ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by employees is flame resistant under certain conditions, and generally ensure that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Manufacturer Warnings and OSHA-Compliant Safety Performance

Over the past few weeks I have received several inquiries regarding horizontal directional drilling (HDD). It’s not unusual in our industry for questions to make the rounds of utilities and contractors, generating interest and often controversy. I also have recently received several inquiries regarding OSHA allegedly canceling the digger derrick exemption in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes & Derricks in Construction.” OSHA hasn’t done that, but somebody said they did, and folks started asking around. Soon after, I received calls for clarification on the matter. In the digger derrick case, there was nothing to it; OSHA has not changed anything about the exemption. However, concerning HDD, there is an issue that raises an interesting question for those who administer compliance.

The point of the rest of this article is not to recommend or criticize any safety procedure associated with HDD. The point is to examine the role of manufacturer warnings and OSHA-compliant safety performance in the workplace. There is no doubt that I will get emails from HDD machine manufacturers and adherents of overshoe use, as well as overshoe sales or manufacturing representatives. I invite your response. To be clear, both Incident Prevention magazine and I are solely interested in providing an opportunity for perspective and analysis of a process that will help individuals learn how to deal with challenges in the workplace.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: What Do New Employees Need to Know?

As I’ve recently traveled around the U.S. speaking to different utilities, contractors and municipals, I’ve found that attrition is greatly affecting the workforce. And as more and more workers retire, the industry will need to hire new workers to fill those vacated roles – new workers who will need the appropriate training to safely and effectively perform their jobs.

I’ve written about the value of training in the past, specifically about how the quality of training and performance management has a direct effect on the safety of employees and the productive abilities of the workforce. In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I want to take the opportunity to review some of the basic skills a lineworker should possess in order to help ensure quality construction for the employer and decrease safety issues for everyone working in field.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2019 Q&A

Q: We experienced an event that has caused some confusion among crew and supervisors about what we thought we knew about grounding. We were working midspan on a de-energized 345-kV circuit. We drove a ground rod, grounded our trucks to it and grounded the phases to it. Almost immediately, we smelled hot rubber, and then tires started to smoke. Can you help us understand why this happened?

A: That was likely much more serious than hot tires. For the benefit of readers, we spoke with you on the phone, got details and shared opinions. Here is what happened: Your crew was in a right-of-way with very high induction. The ground rod you drove was very high resistance. When you connected your trucks, essentially you made a radial connection from phase to truck through the ground rod connection. In doing so, you loaded very high induction current onto the truck, which passed into the earth across the tires and outriggers. Many utilities by procedure use ground rods at midspans, and often it goes without problems. This is why we stress learning the principles of current flow in grounded systems. If you can ground phases to the very low-resistance static, the induction load is handled without much risk to workers on the ground. If you do have to ground your truck, and there is high induction, a well-driven rod isolated from the phase grounds might be a good choice. If grounding to the same ground electrode as the phases can energize the truck, as happened in your case, dangerous gradients can occur around the truck, and touch potentials between earth and truck can be deadly.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: Valuing Your Team and Developing Relationships

Developing relationships is a huge topic, especially in today’s world of generational differences, cultural sensitivities, political divisions, and a general us-versus-them attitude between organizations, leadership, and frontline workers. It starts with how you onboard new employees and encompasses everything from conflict resolution to codes of conduct. While relationships often are overlooked or ignored, they may be the most influencing factor in the success of your team.

Let me tell you about an experience I had that infuriated me. It’s probably the angriest I have been in my professional life. A trainer was about to go into a crane certification preparation course. Right before he walked into the room, he looked at me and said, “None of these guys are going to pass. They’re all too stupid to do the math.” I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that quite a few of them passed. What’s important is how this exemplifies the value – or lack thereof – that leaders place on their teams.

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