Utility Safety Management Articles

Chip Darius, CUSP, OHST, CET, CSHO

Controlling Struck-By Hazards in Utility Work Zones

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Struck-by hazards are one of the greatest threats to workers employed in the utility and construction industries, and thus are hazards every utility and construction company should be focused on mitigating. Typical examples of struck-by hazards include traffic passing through a work zone; vehicle and equipment movement within a work zone or construction area; rotating or swinging equipment, such as an excavator; and falling loads and tools.

Worker fatalities in work zones dropped due to the last recession, hovering around 100 fatalities per year from 2007 to 2013, but numbers are rising again as the economy strengthens and roadway work projects increase. More than 140 worker fatalities in work zones were recorded in 2016.

OSHA is the Minimum
OSHA standards establish minimum legal standards for safety programs, and many employers rely on OSHA when creating company safety plans and policies. In this particular area, it is essential to emphasize the word “minimum” because OSHA standards lag far behind current consensus standards and recognized industry safety practices. Employers committed to protecting workers from struck-by hazards must set their sights higher than the OSHA minimums, looking to ANSI consensus standards and industry practices for guidance. This article explains the current federal OSHA and industry safety practices.

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Lee Marchessault, CUSP

Are Your Substations Safe?

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Electrical power is a critical service that profoundly affects our daily lives. Without it, we would lose cellphone service, safety on city streets would be compromised because lights would not work, and the quality of life as we know it would diminish significantly. We would have to close schools and hospitals, and most jobs would be eliminated. Much of our food supply also would be critically impacted.

To continue living the life we are accustomed to – and have come to expect – we must have a reliable source of electricity, which starts with generation. Outside the generation station, power typically is stepped up to a higher voltage and usually ends up at a transmission system voltage (i.e., 115 to 550 kV). Transmission substations provide a means to transmit and protect the high-voltage transmission systems throughout the U.S. To distribute the power to homes and businesses, the transmission voltage is stepped down to lower voltages in distribution substations. Both transmission and distribution substations have breakers and fuses to provide system protection, along with many other parts and pieces that provide protection for equipment, personnel and the public, as well as reliability.

To ensure that power is always available, utilities must be diligent – engaging in regular inspections and National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) audits – in identifying conditions that may impact reliability and safety. The NESC has been around for approximately 100 years. Initially created as a guide to help electrical professionals understand safe design and work practices for generation, transmission and distribution systems, it is a culmination of many other standards, some of which will be referenced in this writing. Substations – or “supply stations,” as they are referred to in the NESC – are an integral part of our transmission and distribution infrastructure and have inherent hazards that must be considered.

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Chris Court, CSP

Why Employees are Silent When Near Misses Occur

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What is a near miss? For those of you who are new to occupational safety, it’s typically defined as an event in which no workers were injured and no equipment or other property was damaged, but – had things gone just a little differently – injury or damage could have occurred.

Let me give you an example. A group of employees were digging a trench with an excavator so they could install some underground piping. At one point, the bucket came in contact with an old, abandoned 480-volt temporary power line that was not supposed to be in the area. Fortunately, the line was not energized, so no employees were injured, nor was the line damaged. Because the trench was already deep enough to set the pipe, the crew chose to re-cover the 480 line and continue working. This event should be considered a near miss, but it also is exactly the type of event that some workers may choose not to report to their company. The fact that the circuit was not energized in this case is not the most important issue. The crew did not know the circuit was there and did not identify it in the utility locates that should have preceded the excavation. Those issues indicate defects in the planning process, records and archives, and execution of the project. A near-miss report has the value of helping to ensure those defects are identified and corrected. Just because this line wasn’t energized doesn’t mean the next one won’t be.

The topic of near misses and the lack of employee reporting has been an interest of mine since I started working in the industrial sector. At first, I thought employees perhaps didn’t know what a near miss was and that reporting would increase if they were properly trained on the subject. I learned that wasn’t the case after I invested a good deal of time in training as well as talking to employees about what defines a near miss. After making those efforts, I only witnessed a slight increase in employee reporting that eventually slowed to a stop. I did find that lack of knowledge about near misses was true for newer employees, but that didn’t explain why older, seasoned employees were still keeping quiet. I also learned that the lack of near-miss reporting happens just about everywhere, whether it’s an established chemical plant with tenured employees, a new construction site with a diverse workforce, or even a remote oil and gas site.

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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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Trisha Bilyeu

Live Safely: The OG&E Way

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Safety is more than a priority at OG&E – it’s a value. Priorities can change daily, but values stay the same and define what OG&E is as a company. Formed in 1902, OG&E is Oklahoma’s oldest and largest investor-owned utility, and over time it has built a culture around being incident- and injury-free (IIF), with the companywide belief that one incident is too many. In everything OG&E employees do, they are intentional about safety and committed to living safely, whether it’s at work, at home, at play or behind the wheel.

All OG&E employees receive rigorous and personalized IIF training. One of the most meaningful parts of this training is “the letter.” Imagine getting a letter from your loved one stating that he or she has been in an accident and this is goodbye. Every employee is asked to write this type of letter to their family. It’s a gut-wrenching exercise that really drives home the critical importance of safety.

To further the culture, every company meeting begins with a safety moment. It can be anything from a driving tip to a personal experience. Our employees also carry safety coins every day as a reminder to always live safely and to protect themselves and others from injury through constant engagement.

Since OG&E started its IIF journey in 2008, the company has continued to see a decrease in incidents and injuries.

“We put a stake in the ground, so to speak, by standing up and saying our employees deserve to work in the safest environment in the industry,” said Jean Leger, vice president of utility operations at OG&E. “Employees live and work safely not out of motivation to be in compliance or to avoid punishment, but instead because not doing so would violate a deep internal value. It’s our steadfast determination to achieve a goal – even in the face of obstacles and setbacks.”

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Value of Worker Training

Many recent articles I have read in other magazines and via social media emphasize the importance of worker training. I couldn’t agree more. It is both important and valuable that employers invest in training for new employees entering the industry as well as current employees. While the return on investment cannot always be accurately measured and calculated, the ROI does exist nonetheless – just imagine what injury and fatality statistics would look like if we did not train our workers.

One of an employer’s training-related responsibilities is to investigate cases of failure to follow training that result in property damage, injuries or fatalities. OSHA also obligates employers to report any accident that requires medical attention beyond first aid, if the accident is work-related. And risk management professionals and certified loss control professionals are required to investigate property damage involving employees for insurance purposes. Loss control can be difficult to track because damage is not always immediate, and the cost of damages may not be directly attributable to failure to use proper training. In addition, a bad underground splice or a failed connection on primary or secondary that results in property damage may or may not be recorded by an employer as a failure to use proper training.

I understand that we are human beings, and because we are human, we make mistakes. And yet, I would like for all of us to think about the possibility of following all rules and regulations all the time – in short, I want all of us to strive to operate excellently. By adhering to what we learn in our training and using the correct procedures to perform our work, we can protect lives and prevent property damage.

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Steve Andreas

When Utilities Leave the Pavement: Off-Road Driving Safety Challenges

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The need to safely access hard-to-reach areas continues to be a struggle in numerous industries, including utilities. Historically, people have pushed the limits of machinery and designed better tools in attempts to access such areas. In the early days of automobiles, for instance, enthusiasts modified and improved the designs of their vehicles, enabling them to travel farther across terrain on which the vehicles were never originally designed to travel. As technology and industry continued to progress, manufacturers began to design vehicles specifically intended for off-road applications, which led to the development of a new vehicle category: the all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Over time, the ATV label – which originally applied to Jeeps – became synonymous with four-wheelers, or quads. As even more time passed, ATVs eventually became useful not only as recreational vehicles but as staples of off-road transportation for industrial uses as well.

While ATVs were first produced specifically for utility use in the early 1980s, the utility task vehicle (UTV) – also known as a side-by-side – was initially launched by Kawasaki in 1988 as the MULE, an acronym for multi-use light equipment. The UTV provides features that cater better to industrial applications, such as more seating and cargo capacity. ATV-type vehicles existed long before the 1980s, but they were designed and used almost exclusively by the recreational market. Since utility use of ATVs and UTVs did not exist before the 1980s and became more commonplace in the 1990s, the market and technology are still relatively new from a regulatory standpoint. However, due to significant advancements in the functionality and reliability of these vehicles, industrial use has grown dramatically in recent years. That has prompted an increase in the need to identify proper use of these machines as transportation to access job sites or as tools to aid workers in performing tasks.

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Peter P. Greaney, M.D.

Empowering Employees to Take Care of Themselves

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Sergio is repairing equipment at a power station when he feels a twinge of discomfort in his lower back. Per company policy, he informs his supervisor. What happens next is likely to have a critical impact on the outcome for Sergio and his employer.

Let’s assume the supervisor instructs Sergio to stop working and visit a clinic for evaluation. At the clinic, the treating provider conducts a physical exam, orders some diagnostic tests and writes a prescription for medication to relieve pain and inflammation. Sergio takes the afternoon off and returns to work the next day with restrictions. The encounter is recordable and results in a workers’ compensation claim.

Now, let’s consider an alternative scenario. Sergio and his supervisor call or use a smartphone application to contact an injury management triage center. Sergio describes his symptoms to an occupational health nurse or physician who offers reassurance and care guidance. He is given the option of a clinic visit, but with instructions from the clinician, Sergio instead voluntarily agrees to self-administer first aid.

After applying a cold pack to his back and taking a nonprescription anti-inflammatory medication approved for use at the worksite, Sergio resumes work and is able to safely finish his shift. A claim is not filed and there is no case to record.

In the first scenario, a routine complaint of low-back discomfort diverges onto a path with the potential for high medical costs, productivity loss, delayed recovery and litigation. In the second scenario, Sergio is given choices that include using work – an activity “prescription” – as therapy during recovery. Sergio is empowered to successfully manage his condition without worrying about making it worse or potentially missing work.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Understanding Induced Voltage

It has taken the electric utility industry many years to understand induced voltage. When I started working in the 1960s, it was explained to me that voltage remaining on de-energized lines was static voltage that had to be bled off or else it could be deadly. Now, when I speak to groups about temporary system grounding for the protection of employees, I occasionally still hear the term “static voltage” being used to describe what really is induced voltage from a nearby energized line. Even today, not everyone in the industry completely understands induced voltage.

So, what exactly is induced voltage? Here are some things utility safety and operations professionals should understand. The electromagnetic field around an energized conductor produces capacitive and magnetic coupling to all nearby objects within the electromagnetic field. The voltage level of the energized conductor and the physical length of the de-energized conductor that is exposed to the energized (source) conductor will determine the amount of voltage on the de-energized conductor or equipment. A de-energized conductor or piece of equipment will remain energized as long as the source remains energized and de-energized equipment remains ungrounded. Properly installed temporary system safety grounds can be used to create an equipotential work zone for employees.

The induced voltage found on de-energized equipment is not static, and it can’t be bled off. System safety grounds that have been installed simply give the induced voltage a conductive connection to ground. Once grounds are removed, the induced voltage returns to exactly the same amount of voltage instantly. It is voltage of 60 cycles per second in a steady-state condition, because there is no path in which electricity can flow other than the energized, isolated conductor or equipment. If grounds are applied to de-energized conductors, the voltage immediately will collapse to near zero, but now the physics have changed and a current flow is established in the system safety grounds. The amount of current flow in ground sets is determined by the amount of induced voltage on the de-energized equipment before the grounds were installed, and the resistance of the ground set and the ground. In addition, the more ground sets that are applied to a de-energized line, the less current flow there is in each set of grounds.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2018 Q&A

Q: Whenever we see graphics for single-point grounding, it’s always a cluster, a connection to the neutral, a connection to a phase and a chain connecting to the other two phases. But when we check with other utilities or consultants, we see all kinds of arrangements, such as bracket grounds with a single point or two sets of single-point grounds bracketing the workspace. Where do we find the definitive arrangement, and why are there so many variations?

A: Under OSHA, the employer is solely responsible for determining how they will meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.269(n)(3), “Equipotential zone,” which requires that grounding of de-energized phases be installed in an arrangement that prevents employees from being exposed to differences in electrical potential. In addition to 1910.269(n)(3), there also is Appendix C to 1910.269, “Protection From Hazardous Differences in Electric Potential,” as well as IEEE 1048-2016, “IEEE Guide for Protective Grounding of Power Lines,” a consensus standard that may be considered the authoritative best practice. IEEE 1048 is filled with detailed electrical data – from modeling to application – to explain how to create equipotential protection and effective tripping of grounded circuits that may inadvertently be energized.

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Jim Willis, CMAS

Rethinking Utility Security

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The names Nathan Baker, Zackary Randalls, Alex Boschert and William Froelich may not be familiar to you, but their stories are tragically important for utility workers. Nathan worked for East Mississippi Electric Power Association in Clarke County, Mississippi. Zackary was employed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in Fresno, California. And Alex and William worked for Laclede Gas Co. (LGC) near St. Louis. Except for Alex and William, who were employed by the same company, there is no evidence that these men knew each other or their paths ever crossed, so what thread binds them together? They were murdered while doing their jobs for their respective companies. In a horrible twist of fate, three of the men were killed within a week of each other in 2017.

In 2012, Nathan was making a routine collection/disconnect call at a residence when he was shot; his body was dumped in one location and his truck abandoned in another. In 2017, Zackary was sitting on the passenger side of a PG&E truck when a gunman walked up to the window and fired at him. A few days later, Alex and William were connecting a residential natural-gas line when a man, believed to be upset about his electricity bill, shot the two men and then turned the gun on himself.

Troubling Reminders
These stories are troubling reminders of a trend of violence aimed at utility workers. Utilities go to great lengths to ensure their employees have the skills and training necessary to safely do their jobs, but there has been less of a focus on utility worker security. This has to change. It is time to rethink utility security. From the front door of the office to the crews in the field, we must change how we go about protecting employees. Lives depend on it.

When you mention “utility” and “security” in the same sentence, many people think of cybersecurity or physical security of large-scale infrastructure sites. Many have heard about the cyberattack on the Ukrainian electricity grid in 2015 and know about the steps taken in the U.S. to secure the grid. Some conceptualize utility security as protection against attacks like the one on the PG&E Metcalf substation – a major transmission grid link – that occurred in 2013. Although these are critically important security issues, they are not the only ones. Safety managers and senior staff with safety and security responsibilities also should focus on improving the security posture of utilities at the local level. This means securing office complexes, warehouses and operational facilities; taking steps to target-harden local transmission and distribution; and improving the protection afforded to both office and field personnel, whether company or contractor.

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Rob D. Adams, CLCP, CUSP

Scenario-Based Fall Protection Solutions

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At least once in their career, nearly every safety worker in the utility business has been – or will be – faced with the need to use fall protection in an area where there is no place to tie off. In my role as a safety technician, I work with personnel in both generation and transmission business units; fall protection is needed in this line of work, but I have found that anchorage points can sometimes be few and far between. It’s a problem that clearly needs to be solved, and in this article I will share what my company has done to provide scenario-based solutions.

Scenario One
During an outage preparation meeting a couple of years ago, I was presented with some fall protection issues that employees had been dealing with. These issues specifically related to anchorage points for crews working on our main steam stop valves. Once the grating and I-beams were removed from the valve pit area, all potential anchorage points were eliminated, and thus no fall protection could be properly anchored and used in the valve pit area. Given this problem, I contacted a fall protection solutions group that came to visit our facility and gathered information regarding our anchorage concerns. While the solutions group was on-site, we also discussed possible recommendations to solve the anchorage problem. In a follow-up email after our initial meeting, the solutions group provided detailed information about the different types of equipment we could use to eliminate our anchorage issues on this particular project. The detailed equipment recommendations were then presented to our company’s personnel, and ultimately the decision was made to purchase the recommended equipment.

That recommended equipment was two advanced portable fall arrest posts, which allow us to provide overhead tie-off and utilize small self-retracting lifelines, or SRLs, so that workers in the valve pit are equipped with complete fall protection. Among the advantages of the portable fall arrest posts is how the posts are mounted. They offer several mounting applications that range from weld-on plates to beam clamps that are designed to fit 6-inch to 14-inch I-beams, meaning that we can use the posts in numerous locations throughout the company. Time and time again, the equipment has proven to be the solution to many of our fall protection needs in both generation and transmission work, including in Scenario Two below.   

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Bart Castle

Three Overlooked Processes for Increasing Safe Work Practice

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Have you ever seen or heard a restaurant, vehicle dealership or retailer claim, “We care little about service”? On the contrary, don’t many of these businesses – if not most – make bold claims about the quality of their services? How many, though, take the time needed to do the work, pay attention to the details, and become known for meeting or exceeding their claims?

Now, think for a moment. Have you ever seen or heard an electric utility organization of any variety claim, “We care some about safety performance”? I doubt it. If you look at 100 electric utility website landing pages, it’s likely you will see slogans about safety. Investigate those sites further and it is common to see safety listed as a company value or guiding principle. Yet just as some retail establishments tout their high-quality service while acting in ways that make it clear that “service” is more a buzzword than a business practice, so, too, are there electric utility companies and contractors that publicly state their concern for safety while their day-to-day actions don’t back up those claims.

Job descriptions, job safety analyses, tailboard meetings, PPE and training are important components of an effective safety program. But even for companies that are truly focused on providing a safe working environment for their employees, there are at least three other components that contribute to a consistently safe workplace, yet tend to get overlooked: effective interviewing, onboarding and mentoring processes.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

How to Develop a Contractor Safety Management Standard

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Have you ever questioned whether a contractor or subcontractor was qualified to perform electric power work? If so, you should consider developing a contractor safety management standard. This type of standard defines minimum safety requirements that contractors must adhere to when they perform work for your company.

Years ago, many electric power organizations used contractual language and a hands-off approach to establish contractor safety responsibilities. In fact, organizations hired contractors to perform work they felt was unsafe because they knew the contractor would do whatever it took to complete the job. These work practices have significantly changed throughout organizations that recognize employers share responsibility for working conditions and safety at multiemployer worksites. Utilities and contractors are adopting a shared commitment to worker and system safety within their organizations.

Regulatory Requirements
In the preamble to 29 CFR 1910.269 – the electric power generation, transmission and distribution standard – OSHA states the following: “When OSHA promulgates new safety and health standards, it does so against this background principle that employers share responsibility for working conditions, and thus for OSHA compliance, at multiemployer worksites. Therefore, when the Agency issues a new safety or health standard, it is with the intention that creating, exposing, and controlling employers at multiemployer worksites will exercise their respective responsibilities to ensure that affected employees are protected as required by the standard.”

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Hugh Hoagland and Zarheer Jooma, BSEE, M.S.

Using Arc Protective Blankets as an Engineering Control Method

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While engineering controls are preferred over personal protective equipment for worker protection, many engineering controls, such as arc-resistant switchgear, require the purchase of new electrical equipment in order to fully implement them. When replacing equipment, this type of installation makes total sense, but it rarely can be the only company policy to mitigate arc flash in all facilities.

OSHA always prefers that organizations use the highest option possible on the hierarchy of controls. This is clear in the preamble to 29 CFR 1910.269, in which OSHA states the following: “NFPA 70E-2004 warned that ‘[d]ue to the explosive effect of some arc events, physical trauma injuries could occur’ … OSHA expects that the hazard analysis required by paragraph (g)(1) in the final rule will identify nonthermal hazards, including physical trauma hazards posed by flying debris, associated with employee exposure to electric arcs. … [OSHA requires] employers to address [these hazards] … [and] provide shields and barriers necessary to protect employees from physical trauma hazards. However, as noted by NFPA 70E, not all arc events pose physical trauma hazards from flying debris; therefore, this protection will not always be necessary …”

The 2018 NFPA 70E standard rightly took out the reference to 40-cal/cm² exposures posing a hazard from arc blast, since arc blast is more a function of containment and current than calories. In fact, our recent research surveyed the literature on arc blast pressure waves and found that many of the formulas did not come close to predicting our lab data from 4,000A to 12,000A (E. H. Hoagland, C. Maurice, A. Haines and A. Maurice, "Arc Flash Pressure Measurement by the Physical Method, Effect of Metal Vapor on Arc Blast," in “IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications,” vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 1576-1582, March-April 2017). New work continues to expand this knowledge and will be presented to the IEEE Electrical Safety Workshop this March in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Kate Wade

Chris Grajek Honored at 2017 USOLN Safety Award Ceremony

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On October 2, the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network (www.usoln.org) held its annual award ceremony at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Louisville, Ky. During the event, USOLN board members presented the John McRae Safety Leadership Award to Chris Grajek, CRSP, CUSP. Grajek currently serves as safety and work methods director for Allteck Line Contractors based in Burnaby, British Columbia.  

The John McRae Safety Leadership Award was created to honor McRae, a fourth-generation lineman who enjoyed a 42-year career before passing away July 27, 2010. He was active in the military reserves for nearly 30 years and instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts Municipal Lineman’s Association. McRae, a member of San Diego’s IBEW Local 465, spoke across the country about electrical training and went on to assist in the launch of Incident Prevention magazine.

“The John McRae award is a great honor, and even more so coming from an industry full of great leaders and professionls,” Grajek said after winning the award. “I never had the opportunity to meet John, but he sounds like an incredible leader and mentor. I take comfort in surrounding myself with those types of people whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

Grajek was selected to receive the award due to his commitment to the USOLN and its work. “Chris has dedicated himself to the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network by serving on the CUSP exam development committee and, more recently, the CUSP governing board,” said Carla Housh, USOLN executive director and publisher of Incident Prevention magazine. “He, along with other Canadian CUSP credential-holders, recognizes the benefits of the program and has worked to support and advance CUSP growth for Canadian utilities. Chris’ safety leadership knowledge, along with his passion for advancing the CUSP program, has had a significant impact on the success of the Northern program, and we are sincerely appreciative of his efforts.”

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Molly Hall

What Changes When You Put a Face on Safety?

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As an experienced lineman, Gary Norland was typical of many workers: big and strong, physically tough, unafraid of any challenge. That was before he came into contact with a 12,500-volt line. That’s when everything changed. He is not alone, as many others also have experienced serious electrical contacts on the job.

The well-known fact is electrical line work can be hazardous and potentially deadly. Based on high fatal work injury rates, the U.S. Department of Labor puts it in the top 10 high-risk occupations.

In the industry, there is continuous lineworker safety training, a heavy focus on OSHA regulations and requirements, and a variety of procedural checklists. With all this emphasis on ensuring safety knowledge, one might think the serious electrical contact and flash rate among lineworkers would be declining. Yet it appears to be moving in the other direction.

One utility insurer reported a 40 percent overall drop in OSHA reportable incidents from 2006 to 2016; however, lineworker electrical contacts, particularly serious injuries and fatal contacts, are increasing. In 2016, the number of lineworker contacts grew 23 percent compared to the previous year. The number of those that were serious incidents, characterized by a fatality or an injury costing more than $100,000 in medical expenses, went up by 50 percent.

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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Secondary FR Garments: Practical Solutions for Protection

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Cleanup of potentially hazardous materials and flammable contaminants can sometimes be a part of an electrical job. When workers arrive on a scene, they cannot always be sure of the exposures or contaminants they will face. In electrical work, it could be oil that contains a small number of PCBs. This oil, and other contaminants, is flammable and can affect the flame-resistant properties of garments until it is washed from the garments. Working around flammable contaminants, as well as flame and thermal hazards like arc flash potentials and flash fire potentials, often requires a PPE safety system that can be difficult to balance. Some workers may need chemical protection, flame protection or both. Secondary protection used in such circumstances, like disposable garments, can create a fast and effective way to decontaminate and clean a scene – by removal and disposal – without soiling or degrading the primary protection underneath. Because of this, disposables often are useful over daily wear. Many workers and managers assume that a chem suit is a chem suit and use the common polyester/polyethylene suits to cover their arc-rated/flame-resistant (AR/FR) gear. This can be a disaster if one of the suits ignites, melts and continues to burn, or if part of the suit becomes molten and melts onto a worker’s hands or face.

In the AR/FR PPE industry, however, disposable garments are few and far between, and the standards aren’t quite in place to help make the distinction between garments that are truly flame resistant in specific hazards versus marketing. The lightweight, thin materials typically can’t pass some of the harsh requirements set forth for garments to be used as primary materials. And even though most are not intended for primary protection, there are limited standards to guide manufacturers on appropriate tests and claims for these types of products. This is especially true for those needing multihazard protection in the outermost disposable garment. There are disposable garments on the market that boast protection from a variety of hazards, like blood-borne pathogens, dry particulates and chemicals. When flame resistance comes into play, there are even fewer options on the market.

How Far Have We Come?
Disposables have come a long way in the past few years, but we are still lacking in standards on the AR/FR side. Initially, polyester spunlace disposable garments were used for chemical protection, and they revolutionized the industry in providing secondary, fast protection that could be doffed and disposed of without concern of contamination of primary clothing; these products add extra protection to the worker at a low cost. Later, coated and sealed-seam garments on the chemical protection side were made to withstand even higher-level exposures, including chemical warfare, an unlikely scenario in the workplace. Disposables for chemical protection worked well for chemical hazards, but they were not adequate or intended for the risks from flash fires or electric arcs. Flame resistance of disposable garments still hadn’t been adequately addressed from a standards perspective, and there were misunderstandings in the market regarding FR PPE, including PPE intended to be disposable.

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Michael Stremel, CUSP

Safety Concerns When Working In and Around Manholes and Vaults

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Some utilities – including electric, cable and communications providers – have had both underground and overhead applications for many years. However, more and more of these utilities now are either primarily installing their services underground or relocating overhead services underground, for a variety of reasons. These include reliability and protection from weather conditions, as well as minimizing exposure to equipment, vehicular traffic and farming operations. In addition to these safety concerns, utilities are installing services underground due to customer requests to improve the general appearance of the communities served by the utilities.

There are many beneficial reasons to install services underground, but there also are some downsides. Among them is the risk of personnel exposure to hazards when improper excavation practices are used. It is critical to adhere to OSHA 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P excavation practices as well as 811 and Dig Safe procedures. Another risk associated with underground facilities is that they often incorporate vaults or manholes that may be classified either as confined spaces or permit-required confined spaces. In either case, there are a number of safety concerns for which OSHA has implemented specific regulations that must be enforced to keep employees safe while working in these areas.

Safety should always be No. 1 on any job site. OSHA 1910.269(a)(2) states that all employees shall be trained in and familiar with the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and other safety requirements that pertain to their respective job duties. The agency goes on to say that employees who work in and around manholes must be trained on manhole rescue each year in order to demonstrate task proficiency. Proper documentation should be completed for the manhole training, as with any other training. The standard also states that the employee in charge shall conduct a job briefing or tailgate with all employees involved before the start of each job. At a minimum, the briefing should address the five areas required by the OSHA standard: hazards associated with the job, special precautions, energy-source controls, work procedures involved and personal protective equipment requirements.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Aviation for Power-Line Applications

It was a little over 40 years ago that a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot in Florida made the first live-line contact with a live transmission circuit, bringing a quantum leap for power-line applications using helicopter methods. The FAA regulates what they call “rotorcraft” work with specific qualifications for pilots, flight crews and the airships and auxiliary equipment used.

Many utilities and contractors think helicopters – or HCs, in flyers’ lingo – are for use on difficult projects because of the expense. But I have been working with contractors for the last 15 years who recognize the value of HCs in construction and use them as often as possible. An hour of HC time may cost the same as the monthly rental of a bucket truck, but when you can clip, space, dame and ball 20 times the structures in a day over bucket access, the expense really makes sense. I also am aware that some contractors and utilities think HC use raises risk. I know that some utility clients prohibit HCs on their properties while others actively assist their contractors by prequalifying HC companies.

The primary use of HCs has been to string rope or, in some cases, hard-line for pulling wire in transmission construction using HC blocks. These blocks are equipped with a spring-loaded gate at the top of the frame. The gate has extensions that guide the rope into the sheave, provided the pilot is good enough. It looks easier than it is. Since Mike Kurtgis of USA Airmobile put his ship on a hot line in Florida, skid and rope-suspended work, inspection and insulator washing have continued to advance as accepted work practices. The FAA refers to working from a skid or rope (short haul) as “human external load,” or HEL. By some it is called the most dangerous work method in the line industry. In fact, even the FAA has a sense of humor about it, as noted in their wording of a safety requirement in the HEL rules. In guidance document FSIMS 8900.1, Vol. 3, Ch. 51, the FAA provides examples of the types of persons that can be carried on an HC skid – they include movie camera operators and clowns as two of those examples. We always assumed that the lineman with the nerve to work from the skid was not the camera operator.

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