Incident Prevention Magazine

Thomas Ray, CSP, CUSP

10 Tips for Better Incident Investigations

10 Tips for Better Incident Investigations

Several years ago, when I was serving as chief investigator for the NIOSH-funded Missouri Occupational Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program, I was called to a scene where a 39-year-old journeyman lineman had been electrocuted while working for an electrical contractor. At the time of the incident, the lineman, his co-worker and the foreman had been working at an electrical substation. The city that owned the substation was in the process of switching their electrical service from a three-phase 4-kV system to a 12-kV system. There were several feeders on the structure, but only one was energized to provide service to the city. The lineman and his co-worker were on the steel framework of the substation when the lineman proceeded to work his way over to the incident point. He sat down on the structure next to the energized feeder and energized lightning arrestor and began to climb down the steel latticework. Typically the contractors accessed the structure with a ladder, but for one reason or another, the lineman chose to climb down using the corner latticework of the structure. At that point, the lineman contacted the energized arrestor with his forearm. His co-workers responded immediately and began CPR, and emergency personnel were summoned to the scene. Unfortunately, the lineman did not survive.

Despite our best efforts to protect workers in the field, incidents like these still occur and, as a result, you may find yourself leading an incident investigation. One of the primary goals of any investigation is to find out exactly what happened so that future occurrences can be prevented. With that in mind, I put together the following 10 tips designed to help you obtain quality information about each incident you investigate, put your interview subjects at ease, and determine an accurate account of what occurred before, during and immediately after each incident.

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Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

Protective Systems for Trenching and Excavations

Protective Systems for Trenching and Excavations

This is the third installment of a four-part series on trenching principles. “Trenching by the Numbers” (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/trenching-by-the-numbers), the first article in the series, presented a simple method for recalling OSHA’s trenching and excavation requirements. The second article focused on soil mechanics (http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/soil-mechanics-in-the-excavation-environment), taking an in-depth look at the behavior and characteristics of different soil types and their relationships with water and air. In this article, we will discuss the four different protective systems described in OSHA 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P, “Excavations”: engineered design, timber shoring, shield systems, and sloping and benching. Each system has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Thus, depending on the environment and the circumstances of the work to be done, one system may be a better fit than the others. Let’s take a closer look at all four systems.

Engineered Design
Engineer-designed protective systems typically are not used in utility operations. Instead, this type of system is more likely to be seen on large-scale building foundation work, and it may also be used on complex construction projects, such as around waterways. In any case, some activities – like those that involve deep, poured-in-place vaults or occasions when a duct bank has to pass beneath water and sewer – may benefit from an engineer-designed system customized for the situation. The need for engineered design may be rare, but knowing what it is and why it is used is necessary information for project and safety planners.

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Michael Burnham, CSP, CUSP

The Job Brief’s Hidden Influence on Utility Safety

The Job Brief’s Hidden Influence on Utility Safety

On your way to work today, how many dashed lines in the middle of the road did you pass? What ornaments decorate your dentist’s office? How many people wearing glasses did you see last month?

If you’re like most people, you don’t know the answers to these questions, and that’s a good thing. In his book “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload,” author Daniel J. Levitin states that the processing capacity of the conscious mind is estimated to be about 120 bits per second, barely enough to listen to two people talking to you at the same time, yet in our waking lives most of us are exposed to more than 11 million bits of information per second, according to Leonard Mlodinow’s “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.” Without what psychologists call an attentional filter, we’d be able to recall the minutiae around us, but left without the mental capacity to draw reasonable conclusions about what we perceive, and therefore left without the ability to lead normal lives.

The problem with an attentional filter, however, is that it occurs on the subconscious level. Our brains decide what we notice without any conscious input from us. Of course, we can always force ourselves to notice small details by applying mental resources to count and memorize them, but that only happens with concerted effort.

In a utility setting, our attentional filter can create a conflict between what we do perceive and what we should perceive. Fortunately, the utility industry has an effective solution to our cognitive limitations: the job brief.

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Chris Grajek, CRSP, CUSP

Fire Restoration Best Practices for Utilities

Fire Restoration Best Practices for Utilities

When the residents of Rock Creek – a small town in British Columbia just north of the Canadian-U.S. border – awoke to smoke on August 13, 2015, they quickly realized that danger was approaching. Fed by westerly winds, the Rock Creek fire spread from the west side of town to the east side, and then to surrounding communities. In total, it took just 45 minutes for the fire to make its way through the Rock Creek community, passing over Highway 33 and the Kettle River before heading northeast.

Visitors staying at Kettle River Provincial Park’s campground, located in Rock Creek, were forced to flee their campsites on foot and head toward the river. Area livestock were turned loose by their owners in hopes they would head for safer ground. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the bulk of the damage could be found a stone’s throw away from the center of Rock Creek. An estimated 4,500 hectares were ravaged.

Crews from Allteck – a utility contractor headquartered in Langley, British Columbia – were alerted to respond several hours after the fire passed through Rock Creek. One of the main feeder lines, KET1, had been destroyed, leaving residents without services. Telecommunications and radio towers also were disrupted, leaving few options for communications. Most residents and visitors affected by the fire had been transported to the local community of Midway, southeast of Rock Creek, where shelters had been established and the BC Wildfire Service had set up their central response. The fire was still burning to the northeast, with prevailing winds from the southwest. After consultation with FortisBC, the local utility, it was decided that power restoration would soon commence, although it would prove to be a challenge: Highway 33 – which provided access to the restoration area – was blocked by the authorities, and local fire crews continued to battle flare-ups in the area with helicopter support in the nearby hills.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Recommendations for Wire Stringing

In the last installment of “Train the Trainer 101,” we discussed grounding when stringing in energized environments (see http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/train-the-trainer-101-grounding-for-stringing-in-energized-environments). Many readers responded with questions regarding the myriad issues they have faced during stringing. I learned a lot about this type of work during my first 25 years in the trade. In stringing hundreds of miles of conductor, I am proud to say I never dropped wire. I also have to say it’s most likely I have that record because I learned a great deal from other workers’ accidents. In fact, I am seriously afraid of dropping wire. Stringing incidents are some of the most dangerous in the trade, not only risking the lives and limbs of line personnel, but creating a serious risk to the public. Over the years I have heard of or investigated every kind of incident, including one in which a phase dropped during clipping, shearing off 26 side-post insulators before the carnage ended. Wire ended up across school driveways, shopping center parking lots and intersections. More than 40 cars suffered damage and dozens of people reported injuries. I’ve seen wire dropped across interstates and rivers, and it always happens at the worst time. You’d be surprised how much damage 1272 can do to a luxury boat. So, the remainder of this installment of “Train the Trainer 101” will focus on some recognized issues and tips that might help prevent future disasters when stringing goes bad.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Confined Spaces in Construction

Last May, OSHA published its final rule regarding confined spaces in construction. Since that time, there have been many questions about the differences between the new construction standard and 29 CFR 1910.146, “Permit-required confined spaces.” In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” we will take a closer look at both standards in an effort to clear up any remaining confusion.

“Confined Spaces in Construction” is the title of 1926 Subpart AA, the recently released construction standard. Before Subpart AA was published, 1910.146 was the only OSHA standard that addressed permit-required confined spaces, and 1910.146 assumes that the host employer and the controlling employer are one and the same. But over time OSHA realized that because construction activities may involve more than one employer on a job site – which is not usually the case with general industry jobs – the controlling employer is not always the host employer. In fact, there may be a variety of contractors working on or in a space, building the space or entering the space. There was clearly a need for these issues to be addressed by OSHA, and the agency has now done so in 1926 Subpart AA.

Given the subject matter of the new construction standard and 1910.146, it is no surprise that there are a number of similarities between the two. However, Subpart AA is much more detailed than 1910.146. This is particularly apparent in 1926.1209, “Duties of attendants,” and 1926.1210, “Duties of entry supervisors,” which explicitly address accountability and responsibility for protection of workers on job sites.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June 2016 Q&A

Q: Is a transmission tower leg considered a lower level? And is there an exception for hitting a lower level when someone is ascending in the bucket truck to the work area? Our concern is that the shock cord and lanyard could be long enough that the person could hit the truck if they fell out of the bucket prior to it being above 15 feet.

A: The February 2015 settlement agreement between EEI and OSHA addresses both of your questions, which, by the way, were contentious for several years until this agreement. The settlement agreement includes Exhibit B (see www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/SubpartV-Fall-protection.html), which explains how the new fall protection rules will be enforced or cited by OSHA. Employers should review the entire document.

Section A of Exhibit B states that no citation will be issued because a fall arrest system could permit the employee to contact a lower level while the bucket is ascending from the cradle or to the cradle position, provided that the fall protection is compliant in all other respects, the bucket is parked with brakes set and outriggers extended, and there are no other ejection hazards present.

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Kate Wade

June 2016 Management Toolbox

June 2016 Management Toolbox

4 Ways to Become More Open-Minded
Open-mindedness is one of the greatest leadership traits you can possess. It means you are receptive to other people’s thoughts and ideas, that you are willing to look at a situation from all angles and perspectives in order to make decisions that best serve the company and its stakeholders. Managers who maintain an open mind also tend to have strong relationships with their colleagues because they approach their work with an attitude of flexibility, thoughtfulness, humility and objectivity. And yet, keeping an open mind is not always easy; like many other skills, it must be honed. Below are four actions that you can regularly engage in to keep your mind open to new ideas and different viewpoints.

1. Talk less and listen more. This is perhaps the best way to learn new information and better understand other perspectives. None of us learns much if we are always the ones doing the talking. So, the next time you are engaged in a conversation with someone, be present in the moment and listen without distraction. Make eye contact, ignore your electronics, and point your feet in the direction of the person who is speaking (that may sound strange, but it works). Simply focus on the other person and the information they are sharing.

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