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Utility Safety Management Articles

Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

The Hierarchy of Incidents and Learning: Part II

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The contractor’s executive team sat across the table from the client’s construction leadership. It was the client’s director who spoke first.

“Let’s ensure everyone is on the same page,” he said. “Over the past six months, you’ve had numerous quality, production and schedule issues, an environmental noncompliance, two injuries and a utility contact that caused a 3,500-customer outage for over six hours. All of this has almost crippled three projects that we trusted you with, and we need to know how all this happened and what you are going to do about it.”

The contractor’s president looked up and humbly replied, “First, I want to apologize for breaking your trust. As for the ‘how’ question, there was no single cause. We missed a lot of good catches and close calls because we weren’t using those indicators on our operational and safety scoreboards, but things are different now. We have a new way of measuring success. What we’ve learned over the past few months is that our workers’ thoughts, attitudes and mindsets affect how much they respect the conditions and situations they face, and that level of respect becomes apparent in their behavior. We’ve been learning about and addressing these issues for the past month, and we’re beginning to see greater operational and safety success. However, we also have to change 52 years of culture, and that’s taking more time and effort than we would like. While I accept the fact that this change will be an ongoing, forever endeavor, I can confidently tell you that if we had begun this earlier, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

The Hierarchy of Incidents and Learning: Part I

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You just want to do the job right and go home unharmed today, but things don’t always go as planned, incidents happen, and the lessons your team learns don’t always change the way you’ll do the job tomorrow. This can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless to improve the things that keep your team from reaching its full potential.

You deserve a framework that allows you to continuously improve your operations and team morale. In this two-part article, we’ll use the hierarchy of incidents and learning to identify and rank the different parts of an incident. As we work through all six levels of the hierarchy – the first three in this article and the next three in the follow-up article – we’ll discuss things you and your team members can do to support a continuous growth mindset. The ultimate goal of all this is to learn and improve so that we can identify and mitigate the potential for error as soon as possible and reduce the impact of incidents on our people, projects, company and customers. 

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities: Part II

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This article concludes a two-part discussion of protection strategies against arc flash and shock hazards. Here you will read about two topics: (1) arc flash and shock hazard labeling for industrial, commercial and generation facility electrical exposures, and (2) methods used to determine the level of PPE required.

The previous article (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities) mentioned that utilities follow OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and construction companies follow either 1926 Subpart K or 1926 Subpart V, depending on the job site. It discussed arc flash and shock hazards as a basis for selecting appropriate PPE to protect against each hazard. It also reviewed the consideration and provision of daily workwear and flash suits as well as voltage-rated gloves for low- and high-voltage work. Part II will explain the methods used to determine the level of PPE required through an arc flash incident energy analysis or engineering study. Equipment-specific labeling is the most widely used method to communicate the level of protection to workers. Arc flash and shock labeling will be presented using examples and serve as a backdrop to the introduction of key terminology used in electrical safety.

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Lee Marchessault, CUSP

The Field Observation: A Proactive Safety Methodology

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Electrical utilities are among the most hazardous industries in which to work. And since the early days of power distribution, utilities have investigated and analyzed fatalities and other incidents in an effort to prevent recurrences.

One proven way to help verify and measure the effectiveness of an organization’s safety efforts is to conduct field personnel observations – or, in OSHA terminology, “inspections” – on a consistent basis. Conducting these observations enables the organization to take a firsthand look at what is going on in the field, as well as document employees’ demonstration of their knowledge and ability to work safely. The practice also sends a message to employees that the company cares about their safety.

Five Goals of Field Observations
There are five goals we hope to achieve when we observe workers in the field.

1. To assure compliance with the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(iv).
Paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(iv) states the following: “The employer shall determine, through regular supervision and through inspections conducted on at least an annual basis, that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by this section.”

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities

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Electrical safety-related work practices are governed by different OSHA regulations for utilities and construction companies. Utilities follow 29 CFR 1910.269 and construction companies follow either 1926 Subpart K or 1926 Subpart V, depending on the job site. It wasn’t until the 1910.269 revisions in 2014 that OSHA used direct wording mandating arc-rated clothing. And while it may seem that five years is enough time to install an organization-wide PPE program, it is not uncommon to find such programs lacking. Recently, a utility’s operational team confirmed that they normally operate a piece of equipment while wearing street clothing. While this practice may not be a problem in certain limited cases, in this instance the garment labels prohibited any energized work based on the high arc flash energy. The problem was, these workers failed to realize that switching off is considered energized work. Serving as independent safety consultants to various construction companies and utilities has offered us a great deal of insight into similar hazardous operating conditions, but at the same time has allowed for testing and implementing what works in these environments. This article, the first in a two-part series, introduces the concepts of arc flash and shock hazards, followed by a discussion about personal protective equipment (PPE) that guards against those hazards. The second article in this series will provide guidance on how to effectively communicate the adequate level of protection to workers.

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Art Liggio

Breaking Down Barriers: Using Data as a Tool in the Driver Safety Communication Process

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Utility fleets today have access to a wide variety of valuable data from sources including telematics systems, motor vehicle records and crash statistics, all of which track drivers’ actions behind the wheel. With the vast amount of information available and the efficiency technology offers, it can be tempting to believe instilling safe driving behaviors in your organization’s drivers can be turned into an automated process.

The truth is that you can robotize behavioral change to a certain extent, but if you are using only automated processes, don’t expect them to make any true, long-lasting change. At best you will achieve the most basic level of driver compliance because in this scenario, the driver is not integral to the process but rather just the object of it. And as soon as you pull the plug on any technological monitoring of drivers, expect that evidence of risky driving habits will likely resurface in your next round of risk management reports.

The growing lure to rely almost exclusively on data inputs for managing safety – without including personal and direct involvement from the very drivers you expect to influence – creates a barrier to meaningful progress. It’s one that essentially positions drivers on one side as a problem to be controlled and management on the other side commanding that the drivers comply with the rules. This impersonal approach could lead to more severe incidents and higher crash rates in the future, which could mean increased injuries, fatalities, and revenue loss resulting from payouts and repair costs.

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Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CHST, CET

Establishing and Evaluating a Value-Driven Safety Culture

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“Safety” is a word many of use daily in our line of work. Within our organizations, we have safety manuals, safety procedures, safety meetings and even entire safety departments. But I often wonder how many times workers have truly considered the question, “What does safety mean to me?”

Safety is “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury or loss,” as defined by Merriam-Webster. If you were to come up with your own definition of safety, what would it be? Some common responses I’ve heard include having the ability to go home at the end of each day, not getting injured and following all of the rules.

Whatever their definition of safety happens to be, most people don’t head to work each day planning to get hurt – but it does happen. And the reasons why often reflect the safety culture of the workplace. Relatedly, how an organization’s leadership team defines safety has an enormous impact on the company safety culture.

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Michael Kleinpeter, M.Eng., CUSP, CHST

Organizational Safety Roles and Responsibilities

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Safety personnel are not the only individuals responsible for safety in an organization. Executive management, operations management and workers also have roles to play in establishing and maintaining a safe working environment.

However, specific roles and responsibilities for each of these groups are not always understood, and they may never have been introduced. This means there may be employees in an organization who do not realize how vital their influence can be on safety – for better or for worse.

The four groups listed below typically comprise a safety team; your organization’s team may vary somewhat. Each group has a specific role and responsibilities for safety in their workplace, as well as some common responsibilities that they share as part of the safety team.

  1. Executive management are owners, presidents, CEOs and the like. They are the final decision-makers.
  2. Operations management are operations managers, project managers, supervisors and foremen. These individuals usually are overseers of an organization’s projects, jobs, crews and/or workers.
  3. Workers are those directly involved in the day-to-day work of the company.
  4. Safety personnel are those employees dedicated to providing safety support.
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Derek Sang, CSHEP, QSSP

Understanding, Selecting and Caring for FR/AR Clothing

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When the original version of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard was published in the 1990s, flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing weren’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known at the time, but the standard only required that an employer not allow an employee to wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury sustained by the employee. This eliminated use of garments constructed with synthetic materials – such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate – so the default was for employees to wear clothing made of 100% cotton. The problem was that non-FR cotton, once exposed to thermal energies beyond its ignition point, will ignite and continue to burn, thus adding to the employee’s injury.

It has now been a little over five years since FR/AR clothing requirements were incorporated into the 1910.269 standard. The 2014 final rule (see www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2014-04-11/pdf/2013-29579.pdf) states the following: “The new provisions for protection from electric arcs include new requirements for the employer to: Assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flames or from electric arcs, make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed, ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by employees is flame resistant under certain conditions, and generally ensure that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.”

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Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP, MBA

Five Essentials of Successful Safety Programs

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Recently my teammates and I were given the opportunity to evaluate the safety programs of a cross-section of contractors conducting potentially hazardous work for a large utility. It was our goal to help those contractors identify the vulnerabilities of their safety strategies and to help them become even more reliable partners to the utilities they serve.

In my line of work, I am often asked what commonalities I see among the most effective safety programs. The temptation is to think that bigger is better, or that world-class safety requires an enormous investment of resources. I wrote this article to dispel some of those notions, and to let smaller contractors know that they, too, can have highly reliable safety programs without huge investments.

Following are five principles my teammates and I have observed in every effective safety program we have evaluated. Please note that none of the following ideas are originally mine. I am indebted to my team and the contractors with whom I have worked. The ideas are theirs, and so the credit must be as well.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Are Compliance Grungs Taking Over Your Organization?

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Do you have a safety culture that focuses solely on safety compliance and the use of personal protective equipment? If so, you probably also have the dreaded Compliance Grungs, which can secrete poisons throughout your organizational safety culture.

What exactly are Compliance Grungs, and how do deadly creatures relate to anything associated with safety? Deadly creatures kill, destroy, and cause suffering and pain. They wreak havoc and generate a great deal of harm. Individuals who work for organizations that promote safety only as a rule or compliance issue may experience similar phenomena without understanding why their safety culture is suffering.

To put it simply, Compliance Grungs are rules, policies or procedures that are considered more important than their application. They destroy a culture by promoting safety as a rule instead of a personal value, thereby strongly devaluing the importance of safety. Statements like “They don’t care about me,” “Management only wants to cover their own behinds” and “That rule is so dumb – they don’t know anything about our work” are sure indicators that you are suffering from an invasion of Compliance Grungs.

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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Specifying Arc-Rated and Flame-Resistant Gloves

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Until recently, standard specifications and conformity assessments of flame-resistant (FR) gloves fell into no-man’s land. While many end users have requested FR gloves, there has not been a standard in the industry for manufacturers to use to specifically label their gloves as flame resistant. In 2013, ASTM F18 set forth a standard for testing gloves in arc flash exposures to provide an arc rating; ASTM F2675 offered arc ratings for gloves, but F696 protector gloves and D120 rubber insulating gloves were excluded. This did not prevent testing of rubber insulating or protector gloves, but many manufacturers would not label their gloves because of these exclusions. Most arc-rated (AR) gloves on the market are work gloves designed as ground gloves or for low-voltage operations to protect from arc flash, but they have no shock protection. This has created a challenge for manufacturers in the marketplace – they are left to decide on their own how to test and interpret their product to make such claims. To further complicate matters, gloves in the AR and FR PPE industry have become increasingly complex to offer better grip and protection from multiple hazards (e.g., impact, cut and puncture), with designs that include extra components that may ignite under certain conditions. With these changes in the market, how can you be sure you’re specifying what you need when it comes to hand protection?

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Recognizing Our Human Risk Factors

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Determining the root cause of an incident or accident gives us the opportunity to share lessons learned to help prevent future duplication of the event. In this article, we’ll identify those inherent human traits that seemingly have little to do with the tasks lineworkers perform but often are the cause of incidents. It’s difficult to mitigate risk if we don’t recognize it, so let’s explore how simply being human can set traps for us.

Inattentional Blindness
Before we go any further, please be interactive here. Log onto your computer and plug in https://youtu.be/KB_lTKZm1Ts. The link will lead you to an awareness test during which you simply count the number of passes one team makes in a 15-second basketball game. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the video yet, don’t read any further until you have.

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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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Guest — Darrien Hansen
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