Incident Prevention Magazine

Sam Stonerock

New Updates to the National Electrical Safety Code

New Updates to the National Electrical Safety Code

The National Electrical Safety Code is a referenced standard to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269. A referenced standard means it is a voluntary consensus standard that OSHA recognizes as a means to help the employer meet the requirements of the OSHA rules. OSHA will not cite an employer on the basis of an NESC provision, but the agency may use the NESC as evidence the employer knew a hazard existed and may have been prevented using the provisions of the NESC.

The 2017 edition of the NESC was released earlier this year. It has been reorganized for easier use and includes a number of changes and exceptions to rules, as well as the introduction of some new, useful tools to help users more easily access and utilize NESC content. The latest edition follows a tradition to ensure the continued practical safeguarding of persons and utility facilities during the installation, operation and maintenance of electric supply and communication facilities. NESC Part 4 is the pertinent section for lineworker safety, and it has been revised fairly extensively. The following summary of the changes can be a useful guide for those directly impacted in their daily work.

Arc Hazards
NESC Part 4 rules include a section on arc hazards that was updated in the 2012 edition. At that time, a new low-voltage arc flash table was added that coincides with the rules in the code related to arc hazard analysis. This table has been further modified in the 2017 edition of the NESC. The table, numbered 410-1, is based on recent industry testing performed with the Electric Power Research Institute and Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and now includes more detailed information, primarily on 480-volt arcs.

Revisions have also been made to Rule 410A3 to help ensure that employers perform an assessment to determine the potential exposure to electric arcs for their employees when they go to work on energized lines or equipment. This rule is used to help determine the flame-resistant and other types of personal protective equipment that is necessary. Exception 4 has been added to the rule to help employers and employees understand when protection is needed for the head and face.

Continue reading
  11035 Hits
  0 Comments
Eduardo Suarez

Creating a Safe Driving Culture

Creating a Safe Driving Culture

At ComEd, as with any other electric utility, keeping the lights on is important. However, no job is so important that it cannot be done safely, and that includes driving to and from the job site. Over the past few years, ComEd – a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp. and the largest electric utility in Illinois – has worked diligently to educate its drivers about safe driving practices, help them develop skills and learn techniques to avoid accidents, and raise awareness about the many distractions that can occur on the road today. Drivers are encouraged to “treat driving with the respect it deserves,” whether at a reporting location, on the road or at a customer’s property.

ComEd’s Safe Driving Initiatives
Defensive driving, according to the National Safety Council, is defined as “driving to save lives, time and money in spite of the conditions around [the driver] and the actions of others.” In order to set clear expectations for its driving force, ComEd has adopted a driver safety program to help its drivers improve their defensive driving skills. Following are descriptions of a number of safe driving initiatives included in the driver safety program that have worked for the utility.

Smith Driving System
This is the foundation of ComEd’s safe driving program. All employees who drive company vehicles are trained on the Smith Driving System, which is based on five key principles:
1. Aim high in steering. Make sure you’re looking far enough ahead of your vehicle so you have time to react to any hazardous situation that may present itself.
2. Get the big picture. Keep the acronym G.O.A.L. – Get Out And Look – in mind, and search for hazards all around your vehicle.
3. Keep your eyes moving. Don’t stare in any one direction while driving; use your peripheral vision and continuously scan the entire area.
4. Leave yourself an out. Always have an identified escape plan for you and your vehicle.
5. Make sure they see you. Help other drivers be aware of your presence by using the tools at your disposal, including the vehicle’s turn signals, brake lights, headlights and horn.

Continue reading
  11682 Hits
  0 Comments
Todd Horning

Emergency Preparedness for Remote Winter Work Locations

Emergency Preparedness for Remote Winter Work Locations

When utility employees travel to remote backcountry job sites, things can turn bad quickly if they are not prepared to deal with hazards. And a bad situation can become exponentially worse during the winter months, when over-the-snow travel may be involved and additional factors – such as limited or failed communications, difficult terrain, winter storms, avalanche hazards and the potential for cold weather injuries – can potentially wreak havoc.

If employees are to understand how to safely handle these types of emergency situations, employers must diligently train and equip employees well before they travel to a backcountry site. For starters, all workers must be taught how to identify a survival situation. If a problem arises on a job site, lone employees or small crews with limited resources on hand should be trained to notify their operations centers to advise them of the problem, regardless of whether or not the employees believe they can overcome the issue on their own. This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Many times workers believe that walking back to the highway vehicle is the best option if they become stranded in the backcountry due to an equipment failure or operator error. This is almost always the worst thing to do, and many deaths have been attributed to such incidents. Traveling on foot in deep snow – which is incredibly difficult, if not impossible – should be the last choice, as crew trucks should have food, water and heat to last crew members several days of the worst-case conditions.

Beyond the basics of how to identify and address a survival situation, employers should also train employees about communication protocols, survival priorities, the appropriate survival tools to bring to the backcountry, and how to recognize and avoid cold weather injuries.

Continue reading
  9131 Hits
  0 Comments
Thomas Penner

Rope Access for Live-Line Work

Rope Access for Live-Line Work

As a third-generation lineman in the high-voltage utility industry, I can say based on experience that the industry has changed slowly at certain times and radically at others. And yet one thing that has not changed much over the years is the process of performing live-line work on extra-high-voltage (EHV) transmission lines. It still requires the use of live-line tools; it still requires linemen to maintain minimum approach distances; it still requires that linemen possess the knowledge and ability to use tools properly depending on the application, whether it be steel or wood construction; and it still requires access to the energized end of the insulator string or conductor. For many years the method of accessing the “hot end,” as we call it, required the use of live-line-rated aerial lifts, horizontal or vertical live-line insulated ladders or, in some instances, helicopters. Each access method has its own set of intricacies that can be time consuming, labor intensive and costly, but all of the methods have the same end result when the procedure involves the bare-hand method for conducting the maintenance work. Live-line maintenance using the hot-stick method is another topic entirely, so for the purposes of this article, I am only going to address live-line bare-hand work.

Creating a New Tool
Well before OSHA’s final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V was published in 2014, ushering in new fall protection standards, the live-line bare-hand committee within the company I work for – Tri-State Generation and Transmission, headquartered in Westminster, Colo. – began to think a great deal about providing our linemen with a new tool for performing traditional live-line work. Ongoing environmental and related job site concerns also impacted our thought process at the time. Those concerns included a lack of rights-of-way; earth disturbances caused by the need to access structures and set up aerial lift equipment; the possible need to re-vegetate earth that we disturbed during a job; lack of ability to de-energize transmission lines requiring live-line work; and the costs associated with the use of helicopters for routine live-line EHV maintenance.

The time the committee spent thinking about creating this new tool for live-line work was the beginning of developing Tri-State’s rope access and rescue program for live-line bare-hand work. Basic work methods did exist at the time, but we wanted a rope access program that provided greater training and direction and could include rescue at a level that hadn’t existed before but that we as linemen had always wanted. As time went on, we began to develop a comprehensive process for performing live-line transmission maintenance just as we had always done with ladders, trucks and helicopters, and it was – and continues to be – every bit as efficient, cost effective, rescue enabled and, most importantly, safe.

Continue reading
  9772 Hits
  0 Comments
Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Understanding Canine Behavior for the Protection of Utility Workers: Part Two

In the last installment of “Train the Trainer 101” (see http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/train-the-trainer-101-understanding-canine-behavior-for-the-protection-of-utility-workers), I provided information to help utility personnel understand, in part, why dogs do what they do. In particular, I addressed the pack mentality, dominant and submissive behaviors, and when and why a dog may feel threatened and try to attack. In the conclusion to this two-part article, I will explain how best to respond to unfamiliar dogs and what to do if you are attacked, as well as discuss breeds that are more commonly involved in biting incidents.

How to Respond to Unfamiliar Dogs
A dog’s response to a stranger will vary depending on whether he is with a handler or alone. When the dog is with a handler, remember what you know about the dog and human family relationship. The dog will respond to his handler’s actions as well as his own interpretation of an encounter with an unknown human. If you are the unknown human, speaking in casual tones to the handler, as well as the handler responding in a casual tone, will immediately set the dog at ease.

Workers in residential areas often are attacked by dogs who never posed a threat to people in the neighborhood. One reason behind this may be that workers focused on their task don’t exhibit the same mannerisms as visitors to the home or the people who frequent the property. This “unusual behavior” raises a dog’s suspicion and consequently his alertness level.

If you are walking toward a dog and his handler, stop a few feet away. If you are jogging or moving briskly, that may signal aggression to the dog. Stopping and allowing the handler and dog to approach you tends to reduce the dog’s alertness level.

Continue reading
  7625 Hits
  0 Comments
Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Switching and Working on UD Systems

I was recently asked to provide information about the challenges and opportunities found when working on direct-buried underground distribution (UD) systems. In light of that request, I’ll address those topics in this installment of “Voice of Experience.”

My first opportunity to work on UD systems was as a truck driver operating a trencher in the late 1960s. UD systems were fairly new at the time; lineworkers were learning new techniques, using different types of tools to terminate cables and installing switchable elbows. In that day, some elbows were non-load-break. Back then the work was all about proper use of tools, identifying equipment and following the minimum rules. There were no OSHA regulations. We learned many techniques and work practices the old-fashioned way: through the school of hard knocks.

The challenges that workers faced back then are much the same as they are today, with two exceptions: The industry has more experience installing and operating UD systems, and equipment is now much more technically sophisticated and reliable. For many years, maintenance of UD systems was nonexistent. The common approach was to dig a ditch and put cable in the ground, and industry workers believed everything would last forever. That belief was short-lived; within a few years, external concentric neutrals began oxidizing, and radial and loop-fed systems suddenly became single-conductor, earthen-ground return systems. Driven ground rods at transformers split coil for secondary voltages. There was no neutral conductor for return currents or fault current flow.

Continue reading
  4888 Hits
  0 Comments
Jim Vaughn, CUSP

December 2016 Q&A

Q: We hear lots of opinions on whether a lineworker can lift a hot-line clamp that has a load on it. There is a rule that says disconnects must be rated for the load they are to break. We’ve been doing it forever. Are we breaking an OSHA rule or not?

A: Incident Prevention has answered this question before, but it won’t hurt to revisit it and use the opportunity to explain how OSHA analyzes a scenario to see if it’s a violation. Most objections to operating a hot-line clamp (HLC) under load are based on OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(12)(i), which states that the “employer shall ensure that devices used by employees to open circuits under load conditions are designed to interrupt the current involved.” There are some utilities that prohibit operating HLCs energized, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Our purpose at iP is not to judge an employer’s operational rules but to enlighten and educate the industry.

On its face, the rule seems to prohibit use of an HLC to break load. Anybody could also argue, then, that any operation of an HLC must be dead-break since HLC manufacturers offer no load-break value at all. However, there are several facets to analyze in this scenario. First, if a non-rated HLC cannot be lifted under load, how about a drop-out switch? We operate those thousands of times a day without injury to the employee, although sometimes an ill-advised operation does smoke a pole top. There is nothing in the rules that prohibits an employer from making an engineering-based decision establishing criteria or protocols for operating HLCs or drop-outs under certain load conditions. Primarily, the employer’s determination would be based on risk to the employee and risk to the equipment. For OSHA, the primary consideration would be risk to the employee. Just as in the working alone rule, if the device is operated by a hot stick from a position that prevented injury to the employee, there would be no violation. Second, what would be the solution in the scenario? If the solution required installing a mechanical jumper and installing a load-break switch, would such an operation add risk exposure to the crew, and would adding the switch really enhance the safety of the operation? At the very worst case, the scenario – operating the HLC under load – could be ruled a de minimis violation. De minimis is the level of violation where OSHA recognizes that a direct rule was violated, but there was no other way, or no safer way, of executing the required task, and there was no risk to the employee.

Continue reading
  5283 Hits
  0 Comments
Kate Wade

December 2016 Management Toolbox

December 2016 Management Toolbox

5 Ways to Stop Procrastinating

There are myriad reasons why people put off doing the things they should do, or need to do: lack of time, lack of interest and lack of financial resources are a few that spring to mind. And when it comes to critical actions – such as making a career change or having a difficult conversation with a loved one – fear is often the greatest reason underlying a person’s hesitation to make a move. The causes of procrastination are not difficult to figure out, but if you regularly find yourself putting off work or other important tasks, following are five helpful ways to break the habit.

1. Start with small steps. It is not uncommon to procrastinate when you are staring down a complex job. If you feel overwhelmed by a project you need to complete, break it down into a series of smaller, more manageable tasks. Then, create a timeline and assign a deadline to each task. Seeing your work as a series of steps, each with its own due date, will help to calm your mind, keep you on track and provide encouragement that the work can be done.

2. Do the most difficult work first. Sometimes procrastination gets confused with laziness, but what commonly happens is that people put off doing the most challenging or unpleasant parts of their project in favor of doing other tasks that take less time, are easier to complete or are more enjoyable to do. That approach is understandable, but try thinking of the process like climbing a mountain. Once you make it through the toughest work – trekking to the top – you’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment, and the rest of the work – going back down the mountain – should feel like less of a struggle, comparatively speaking.

Continue reading
  4934 Hits
  0 Comments

KNOWLEDGE, INSIGHT & STRATEGY FOR UTILITY SAFETY & OPS PROFESSIONALS

Incident Prevention is produced by Utility Business Media, Inc.

360 Memorial Drive, Suite 10, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 | 815.459.1796 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
© 2004 - 2019 Incident Prevention. All Rights Reserved.