Incident Prevention Magazine

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Learning Curve

The OSHA Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1910.269 Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution) requires employers to ensure that qualified personnel who perform work on equipment 50 volts or greater verify their knowledge of the regulations on an ongoing basis. To meet this important requirement, NSTAR Electric and Gas Corporation has implemented a highly successful self-service, computer-based learning program. In the past, NSTAR used a five-person field safety department to provide instructor-led sessions for craft workers who service overhead, underground and substation installations. Over time, we found this model to be repetitive and inefficient. Human Resources Senior Vice President, Tim Manning, and Director of Safety and Health Services, Michael Fleming, wanted to re-focus safety resources "in the field" by working with our electric operations teams. To address that challenge we started to look for a better solution to engage our employees. Our new approach had to be efficient without losing the quality of instructor-led sessions.
We were impressed with the success that other utilities had with online training systems, particularly the products of Vivid Learning Systems ( In January 2005, NSTAR contracted with Vivid and implemented an online learning system that provides interactive lessons and safety awareness sessions for employees based on the requirements of 1910.269. NSTAR employees now use the online system to complete one to 15 required courses annually to meet the federal requirement.
With Vivid's help, NSTAR developed a customized home page that has become our NSTAR branded compliance portal and provides easy navigation to the online system. The system is available at strategically located, dedicated computer workstations in ten service centers and four manned substations within our franchise area. For workers who may not be computer conversant, the system is easy to use. "Point and click" functions, for example, access options with video and audio interaction, making otherwise dull compliance sessions interesting and challenging.

With the dedicated workstations, there is always a place for employees to work in a quiet, comfortable atmosphere. The system is available 24/7 so employees can use it at anytime, including before and after work, and during certain working hours.
Employees can even log into our online training programs at their homes by using our dedicated website ( The system is secured by a unique password set by the user. Once logged on, the program is intuitive and selects information that is applicable to the employee's craft, limiting the scope to each worker's compliance requirement. The system even remembers where the employee left off in his or her last online session.
Vivid's content is easily customizable to meet each customer's needs. For NSTAR, the company created lessons that were specific to our policies and procedures. Vivid also created custom reports that show senior management and supervision the percentage of completion overall and by location.

Vivid compliance modules also offer NSTAR the ability to run detailed reports that alert managers when an employee does not meet the minimum compliance program threshold. Employees who may have difficulty in any area of compliance programs can be highlighted and are given assistance. All required records are stored and easily retrieved by a simple, menu-driven reporting system. Our Human Resources Information System (HRIS) department is also integrated with Vivid to track employees as they change departments, supervisors and managers.
The advantages of our online learning system include being able to more easily help those employees who have difficulty with compliance subjects and work with them on an individual basis. The entire process creates an opportunity to further the relationship between workers and our training experts. So far, our employees truly appreciate the ability to test their knowledge against the federal requirements. They also seem to enjoy the interactive format of the lessons and corrective data.
At NSTAR, safety and efficiency are watchwords for doing business and prevention is the name of the game. NSTAR strives for safe operations in all aspects of its business, including ensuring our employees are aware of safety requirements and are qualified to do their work. NSTAR and Vivid have teamed to create a highly effective regulatory compliance system that has been very successful in bringing safety and efficiency to a new level in the company. ip

George R. Popovici, ASP, CUSA is the Senior Safety Engineer at NSTAR Electric and Gas Corporation. Based in Westwood, Massachusetts, the investor-owned utility serves 1.3 million customers in the greater Boston and Cape Cod areas.

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Thursday, 20 June 2019

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