Incident Prevention Magazine

Bob McCall

How to Build a High-Performing Team

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I’m really excited to be writing this article for my utility family. I enjoyed all 33 of my years working in the industry. Now, as a leadership consultant, I have the privilege of using my knowledge, experience and passion to help the utility industry improve. My goal is to provide you with proven tools that will enable you to lead your team to their highest level of performance – where each of your team members will be able to consistently perform at their top potential every day, in every task. It is at that level where zero accidents and zero injuries occur on a consistent basis, and that’s what we want and need in our workplaces. It is no secret that our industry is still among the most hazardous. The penalty for making a mistake can be life-threatening. While I was still working in the industry, it was the love I had for my team that made me want to do all I could to protect them. And that love translated into success throughout my career, during which I created a number of high-performing teams. I want to tell you a little more about that in these pages.

“Treat a person the way that you want them to be and you will make them great” is wisdom that John Maxwell – a best-selling author on the topic of leadership – states in his book “Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others.” College football analyst and retired coach Lou Holtz has said, “If you get people to believe in themselves, they will set higher goals.” I’ve long respected both John and Lou as leaders, so during my working years at utilities, I absorbed what they said and tried putting it into action. As I mentioned earlier, all of my success in my previous industry career was the result of investing and believing in people. In total, I was able to build high-performing teams eight times throughout that career. The process is complex, but it starts with one brief question: Why build a high-performing team? The answer is, because a high-performing team will do everything at an exceptional level. They will meet or exceed all of their goals. They will perform excellent pre-job briefings. They will be highly attentive and participatory. They will have a strong ability to recognize and mitigate hazards. They will follow each job plan with the understanding that if anyone on the team sees something wrong or senses that something is wrong, they can stop the job and ask a question without upsetting other team members. A high-performing team uses the safest work methods, and its members reflect great leadership combined with a culture that supports an error-free workplace.

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Debbie Dickinson

Using Task-Based Work Assignments to Create Proficient Crews

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Preventing accidents in utility work, where safety is paramount, starts with establishing protocols for personnel and equipment. Creating task-based and specific work assignments is an affordable way to establish realistic parameters for work to be performed. Using this method enables crew leaders to develop consistency and reliability in assigning tasks by distinguishing between trainees and qualified personnel. Work is assigned based on skill proficiency, which in turn leads to risk mitigation and accident prevention.

The concept of grouping teams of workers by specific work assignment is nothing new. Success stories outside of the utility industry include military and police forces trained to respond to emergencies, trauma surgery teams, astronauts in space, NASCAR pit crews and the University of Alabama football team. Whether you are an Alabama fan or not, Coach Nick Saban’s formula for a championship team involves drilling and honing skills of individual players. The result is a team that works together cohesively for outstanding performance.

In the same way, utility workers with the same job title and general responsibilities – lineworkers – come to the job with different years of experience, types of training and skills. Supervisors who recognize these differences can create outstanding crews by establishing parameters for skills that each person on the crew must have in common, as well as knowing who possesses task-specific talent.

To create a proficient team that performs as a cohesive unit, it’s critical to first determine the skill, knowledge and ability of each individual crew member. These measurements define a baseline of strengths, weaknesses and gaps to fill. Not everyone on the crew needs to have the exact same skill level, but the crew’s collective ability should instill confidence that the crew can work under pressure in adverse conditions without injury. If there are gaps in the collective ability, then you must plan to train and practice so that skills, techniques and technology meet your previously established protocols.

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Rob D. Adams, CLCP, CUSP, and Pete Prast, P.E.

Enhancing Safety for Line Patrol Technicians

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Sunflower Electric Power Corp. is a generation and transmission cooperative located in Western Kansas. We have approximately 2,600 miles of overhead transmission lines, which we patrol annually using vehicles. While you may have heard stories about Kansas being flat as a pancake, they are not true. Several areas of our service territory feature deep ravines, water crossings, washouts and rock outcroppings that make line patrols challenging and hazardous. In the past, patrol vehicles used by our line technicians were either pickup trucks or standard-equipped side-by-side all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). After enduring a few ATV-related accidents that caused damage to both workers and equipment, we knew it was time to evaluate our line patrol program to see what we could do to make it safer.

Our most recent injury, which occurred in 2016, resulted in facial injuries that required reconstructive surgery after an employee hit his face on the steering wheel of the side-by-side ATV he was operating. Following is a summary of the accident.

A line technician was patrolling by himself and came upon an area of grass that was close to 4 feet tall. He did not see the depression in the ground in front of him and dropped the front end of the ATV he was driving into a washed-out area that was approximately 4 feet deep and 6 feet wide. Upon entering the depression, the ATV came to an abrupt stop and the line technician’s face made contact with the steering wheel. This caused multiple fractures of his nose. The line technician was wearing the standard seat belt, which consisted of a lap belt and shoulder strap, but it didn’t lock up fast enough on impact to prevent injury. Fortunately, the technician was able to get himself out of the ATV and walk approximately one-eighth of a mile back to the main road, where his pickup was parked. He then called other crew members for assistance; they transported him to the local hospital, where he was treated for his injuries. Unfortunately, the technician had to have follow-up surgery to repair his broken nose.

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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Rubber Insulating Sleeves and Arc Flash Protection

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Rubber insulating sleeves are commonly worn with dielectric gloves in high-voltage applications to provide added insulation from electrical contact for those working on energized equipment. The rubber insulating gloves and rubber insulating sleeves are worn for shock protection; sleeves typically are worn with rubber insulating gloves when the arm can cross the minimum approach distance or the restricted approach boundary. A protector glove typically is used for arc flash protection and for mechanical protection of the rubber insulating glove, but this over-glove does not protect the entire glove and does not extend up a rubber insulating sleeve.

Many lineworkers wear short-sleeved, arc-rated (AR) T-shirts under rubber insulating sleeves, and a concern was raised in the industry that the insulating sleeves are not arc-rated. As a result, Iowa OSHA issued a letter of interpretation that since rubber sleeves are not arc-rated, long-sleeved AR shirts are required, in their opinion, to meet the letter of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269. Federal OSHA has not issued an interpretation.

Since there is currently no standard that covers arc flash testing of rubber insulated products, ArcWear – an independent, third-party testing laboratory – studied several sleeves to assess arm protection and ignition withstand. That’s because although, per Iowa OSHA, workers are required to wear arc-rated, long-sleeved shirts under the rubber sleeve for arc flash protection, they may unnecessarily contribute to heat stress, and there was no evidence one way or another that this requirement would add to the end users’ protection levels. The configuration of wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt tucked into a rubber insulating glove may be more comfortable to a worker while providing complete coverage, but the question remained, would it provide enough protection in case of an arc flash?

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Are Those Tools and Equipment Approved?

We provide tools and equipment for our crews. Sometimes they are special tools, and sometimes they are generic tools necessary to support routine crew work. Sometimes they are accessories for trucks and equipment, and sometimes they are simply extra tools or equipment to make things easier on the people in the field. The question then is, are these tools approved?

The following is going to aggravate some readers, so let’s start with a reminder: I attempt to clarify and simplify compliance with this series. This is about making compliance easier and sometimes less expensive. So, here is an example.

About 20 years ago I was organizing a training school for a community college in Florida. I was recruiting utilities as clients. A visiting utility safety director saw that we had 40-foot-length retractables at the tops of the training poles. He said, “You are going to get into trouble with those yo-yos. They have to be mounted on approved davits.” My first question – and what should be your first question, too – was, approved by who? Without skipping a beat, the safety director responded, “OSHA.” We then went to his office where he had a similar device for which they had paid a little over $2,000. And just like he said, right there on the box was clearly printed “OSHA approved.” It only took me a few minutes on OSHA’s website to show him reference after reference and interpretation after interpretation in which OSHA stated to employers and manufacturers that it does not approve equipment. If an employer writes to OSHA and asks if they approve of having the employer’s employees in a specific type of exposure, and the employer intends to use a specific tool and equipment in a particular configuration, OSHA will respond that the agency does not approve equipment. The agency will then go on to state that in the situation described, using the equipment as described, OSHA believes the employer’s solution would – or would not – meet OSHA’s requirements.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Why Do Accidents Keep Happening?

2018 is turning out to be a devastating year in our industry. The frequency of energized contacts, flashes, severe injuries and fatalities continues to increase. Why – in a professional trade that requires such an extensive amount of apprenticeship time – do lineworkers have such high incident and accident rates?

In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I want to review two accidents I am familiar with so that we can dive into why they happened, and how you can prevent them from happening on your job sites.

The First Accident
In the first accident, a journeyman lineman lost his right arm to the shoulder. The immediate cause was a 7.2-kV electrical contact phase to ground.

The day of the accident, the journeyman was running a little late, so he drove his personal vehicle to the job site to avoid losing more time. An apprentice lineman had driven a bucket truck to the job site for the journeyman to use. All employees gathered to discuss the job plan. The job, which had been in progress for several days, was reconductoring approximately 5,000 feet of an existing three-phase 12.4-kV line from #2 ACSR to 397 MCM. New poles were set, and old conductors were spread on layout arms. The new conductors had been pulled in and sagged to tension the day before. The day the accident occurred, there was discussion during the job briefing about moving the new conductors from roller blocks and tying them in on the new insulators with preform ties. The structure where the incident occurred was a 45-foot Class 3 with a 10-foot wood arm. Insulated layout arms were mounted on the ends of arms. The middle and field-side phases were set to the field side of the arm. The existing energized road-side phase was on a short arm set to the road side of the pole. All three of the old phases were still energized. The new conductors had system safety grounds installed on each end, as required by standards.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

October-November 2018 Q&A

Q: We were recently sticking distribution for a small utility when the utilities inspector stopped us for not having safety latches on our hot hoist. We have now been told that OSHA requires safety latches, but we can’t find a rule for that in the OSHA 1910.269 standard. What are we missing?

A: This answer will surprise and confuse some safety folks, so we want to remind you that we are not necessarily advocating the information we provide – we are educating readers on the rules and best practices. In response to your question, you are not missing anything; there is no OSHA rule for our industry that requires safety latches on hooks. Latches make sense. With a latch, connections do not unexpectedly separate. However, hooks under strain do not unexpectedly separate either. Most hooks for hoists have a tab for installing a latch. Many come with latches, and many do not. In hot-sticking applications, it often is difficult to open a latch and remove a hook from a sling. OSHA does, however, have safety latch requirements for some vertical standards that have no effect on utilities.

Q: When does OSHA consider a pole hole an excavation requiring a barricade?

A: It depends on whether or how long the pole hole is open and/or unattended. The preamble has a discussion on pole holes in which OSHA, in a fit of practicality, agreed that if the hole is bored and the pole is set within a reasonable time – being tens of minutes – there is very little practical reason to install fall protection. However, if the hole is large enough that a worker could fall in even with the pole in place, then some measures should be taken. As a contractor, we would ensure spoils were stable and lay 6 to 8 feet of 12-inch scaffold board across the holes between pole and spoils to ensure stable footing and no void large enough that a person could fall through. The other issue is, a hole for what pole? Distribution is not an issue. Transmission starts to need activities for protection like the above. Some transmission holes are 50 inches for a pole that’s only 36 inches to allow for concrete ballast. Those are excavations. We know many contractors that have used half of a round hay-bale feeder from Tractor Supply Co. as a guardrail.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle Five: “Why” Works

Frequently I am asked about the qualifications of a safety professional, what makes a good leader and what it takes to work safely. My answer to each question is the same – you must get really good at asking and understanding “why.” At a minimum, you must ask and understand why rules, procedures and work methods are in place; why performance, behavior and results are occurring; and why past events, incidents and errors happened.

If you become really good at asking and understanding “why” in those areas, you will be able to employ human performance (HP) principle five, which states that events can be avoided through an understanding of the reasons why mistakes occur and application of lessons learned from past events or errors. This principle reminds me of an adage most of us have heard before: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It also reminds me of a definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I like to summarize HP principle five by saying simply, “‘Why’ works.”

Not long ago, my son was trying to park a golf cart in the cart shed. He got upset because he was in a repeated cycle of turning too early, almost hitting the shed, backing up and trying again. I let him go through that cycle of repeating the same mistake a few times and then calmly said, “Try again, but do something different this time.” He tried again and still turned too early but improved. The next time he turned too late. After a few more tries, he finally got the cart in the shed without hitting anything.

He got the cart in the shed because, without knowing it, he used HP principle five. He shifted from expecting a different outcome with the same behavior to understanding why the situation was occurring and trying something different until he achieved his desired outcome. Now, he applies the lessons he learned and usually parks the cart successfully on his first try.

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