Utility Safety Management Articles

Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: FMCSR Compliance: Driver Qualification Files

As I travel around the country to audit driver qualification files, I often find that requirements found in the federal motor carrier safety regulations (FMCSR) are misunderstood by many companies. In this article I will focus solely on driver qualification files and the most common FMCSR compliance failures I see when I audit those files.

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Kathy Ellsworth, CUSP

Performance Improvement: Barriers to Events

Performance Improvement: Barriers to Events

For anyone who has worked toward improving the safety performance of an organization, you are consistently led back to the fact that people keep making errors. If we could just stop people from making mistakes, we wouldn’t have all these accidents, right? Right. It’s true. If people didn’t make mistakes, we would have far fewer accidents and events. What is also true is that people are fallible, people make mistakes, and people will continue to make mistakes regardless of how much we wring our hands and tell them to be more careful. Without understanding and accepting these truths, there can be little progress in minimizing the number and severity of accidents we experience.

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David W. Bowman

Safety and Human Performance: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

Safety and Human Performance: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

Safety and human performance professionals have spent a lot of time trying to find that one nugget, that one silver bullet, that one thing that – if we used it – would stop people from getting hurt. I’ve always been a firm believer that safety and productivity can coexist at the same time. The gap between the two is a lack of focus on behavior.

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Rick Tobey, CUSP

Formal vs. On-the-Job Training

Formal vs. On-the-Job Training

I have been doing a lot of training and evaluation work over the past few years, and I have started to notice a trend. The workers who have had a formal in-depth training experience have a better perspective about the theories behind why they are performing certain tasks. Workers that are trained on the job are good at the tasks, but do not really understand why they perform the tasks that way.

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Emily Wilkins, CSA, CUSP

How S.A.F.E.T.Y. Brought Bluebonnet Through the Fires

How S.A.F.E.T.Y. Brought Bluebonnet Through the Fires

It was Labor Day weekend of 2011, around 2 p.m., when I received a call that there was a fire in my hometown. A big part of Bastrop County, Texas, was burning and thousands of people were being evacuated – friends, co-workers, neighbors and me. Details were scarce, but there were poles and transformers on fire and lines on the ground.

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ET&D Strategic Partnership Task Team IV

Strategic Safety Partners

Strategic Safety Partners

In 2004, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) entered into the Electrical Transmission & Distribution (ET&D) Strategic Partnership agreement with six electrical contractors: Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Henkels & McCoy, MDU Construction Services Group, MYR Group, Pike Electric and Quanta Services; one union: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); and two trade associations: the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and Edison Electric Institute (EEI). The primary objective of this partnership is to improve worker safety in the high-voltage electric line construction industry. Members of the partnership have renewed their agreements with OSHA and expanded in 2006, 2008, 2010 and, most recently, in 2011 with the addition of MasTec and Power Line Services to the list of membership partners. Today the ET&D Strategic Partnership is one of only a few national partnerships between employers and the federal job safety agency, and covers an estimated 80 percent of total workers in the line construction industry.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

The Intersect: A Practical Guide to Work-Site Hazard Analysis

The Intersect: A Practical Guide to Work-Site Hazard Analysis

A hazard is essentially a condition or activity that, if left uncontrolled, may result in an accident or a serious injury. To effectively identify hazards, the observer must develop a means of recognizing a hazard exposure. What I see repeatedly in the field are hazard lists like “wear PPE, stay out of the bite, watch for cars, cover up well.” What I don’t see is an effective approach to identifying hazards. I had occasion to investigate a 4-kV contact in a metal-clad breaker where the worker brushed his hand against a control power transformer that had not been identified or tested. For three days he had his head in the cabinet, unaware that the primary leads for the transformer had been moved from the load side to the high side of the breaker contacts. For three days his pre-job hazard analysis entries included “check for voltage.” He survived, but not because of his hazard analysis.

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Jeremy Adcock and Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP

Safety Rules and Work Practices: Why Don’t They Match Up?

Safety Rules and Work Practices: Why Don’t They Match Up?

What do safety rules mean to the organization? To the worker? Does having a safety rule mean it has to be followed 100 percent of the time, part of the time or not at all? Most employers and employees would say 100 percent of the time. So why do safety rules and actual work practices not match up every single time? Is the rule not known or not understood, does it not fit the application or has it always been done that way?

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Gretchen Erga

Hearing Conservation: An Interesting Challenge

Hearing Conservation: An Interesting Challenge

Helen Keller has been quoted as saying that blindness separates you from things, but deafness separates you from people. While noise in the workplace usually does not produce the profound deafness that Helen Keller had, it can contribute to permanent hearing loss. As the quality of hearing aids has improved immensely over the years, people with mild to moderate hearing loss can often expect significant benefit from them. However, hearing aids usually do not improve hearing as effectively as glasses correct vision.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Arc Flash Exposure Revisited: NESC 2012 Part 4 Update

Arc Flash Exposure Revisited: NESC 2012 Part 4 Update

The 2012 edition of the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) hit the streets August 1. The updated code adds a new dimension to electric utility arc flash implementation with the inclusion of voltages from 50-1000V. Previous editions have required employers to assess voltages over 1000V for potential electric arc flash exposure and to provide clothing or a clothing system with an effective arc rating for the anticipated arc energy.

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Michelle Brown

Safety Circuitry: The Power in the Brain

“What was he thinking?!” This frustrated question of supervisors, managers and safety professionals speaks directly to the future of safety in utilities. What are workers thinking when performing unsafe acts or walking past hazards, if indeed they are thinking at all?

For companies to realize their goal of zero incidents, an understanding of thought, attention, motivation and decision-making is a must. They must now enter the realm inhabited by psychologists for decades, the world of the human brain.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

What’s Your Seat Belt IQ?

What’s Your Seat Belt IQ?

Seat belt use – or the lack of seat belt use – continues to be an issue on the road and on our job sites. It is obvious that some of our employees and even some of our supervisors don’t get it. Seat belt use is a mandatory Department of Transportation safety rule and it does not matter whether the truck is used on a roadway or right-of-way. OSHA 1926.601, which covers vehicles that operate within an off-highway job site, requires seat belts. If the legal argument is not convincing, maybe statistics will be. Not coincidentally, states with the highest crash fatality rates also rate low in seat belt use.

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Kimberlee Craig

Competition for a Cause

Competition for a Cause

Every June, a forest of 45-foot power poles suddenly sprouts in scenic Walla Walla Point Park along the Columbia River in central Washington state. It’s a sign that the best power linemen in the Pacific Northwest will soon head to Wenatchee for the annual Andrew York Lineman Rodeo.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Employee Training: How Hard Can It Be?

Employee Training: How Hard Can It Be?

We all know high-quality training must take place to ensure the overall development of employees. Does having a well-trained employee mean the employee only attends a monthly safety meeting to gain training knowledge? Certainly not. Training should provide employees with a continual understanding of job task requirements, task-associated hazards and the appropriate abatement strategies for their safety. A monthly safety meeting may help validate these issues, but it cannot be the sole delivery method for training. Unfortunately, many employees receive no additional training beyond apprenticeship other than safety meetings. Some employees, depending on their job classification, may never receive any additional formal training besides safety meetings. 

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William Bosch

Challenges & Successes

Remember when getting that new customer powered was the main issue? How many weeks out were our construction crews and how to deal with customers wanting power yesterday? Those were the good old days; money was rolling in and yearly budgets were more of a joy than they are today.

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Michael S. Haro, Ph.D., CBSS

Behavior Safety: A Safety Program's Missing Link

Behavior Safety: A Safety Program's Missing Link

Behavior safety is gaining recognition as a significant safety resource in many industrial companies. In recent discussions, however, safety professionals representing traditional and fundamental safety programs have made me aware that acceptance, understanding and the status of behavior safety are still in question. These discussions brought back early challenges, in particular the claim that behavior safety is just good common sense or another flavor of the month.

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Bruce Elfstrom

Northeast Utilities Takes Safety Off-Road

Northeast Utilities Takes Safety Off-Road

Nobody likes getting stuck in mud, rock, sand, snow or anything for that matter. As a company that maintains more than 1,600 miles of transmission lines in all kinds of terrain, Northeast Utilities (NU) understands this fact all too well. Environmentally it can be a nightmare, logistically it can affect job completion estimates and from a safety perspective it can put employees in harm’s way.

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Seth Skydel

A92.2: The 2009 Standard

A92.2: The 2009 Standard

The Accredited Standard Committee (ASC) A92.2 Subcommittee for Vehicle Mounted Rotating and Elevating Aerial Devices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has issued the long-awaited 2009 edition of the American National Standard for Vehicle Mounted Rotating and Elevated Aerial Devices.

Design and construction requirements of the original 1969 edition of A92.2 and its appendix were made a part of OSHA in 1970. Since then, the standard has been reissued in four editions in 1979, 1990 and 2001, and most recently in 2009. The 2009 Draft of the Standard was balloted twice by the committee and by ANSI rules was opened for public comment prior to final approval.

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Tyrone Tonkinson, Ph.D., P.E.

Procedure for Reducing Injuries

Step 1: Turn on Brain. Step 2: Start Working.

I wish it were that easy. While reducing injuries is a very appropriate goal, making it happen with your workers is a challenge. This article will review a few proven ways that we can get our workers actively thinking about the potential hazards involved in the work they are performing.

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Kate Wade

Crane & Derrick Compliance

Crane & Derrick Compliance

New OSHA standard becomes effective November 8, 2010

OSHA’s new Crane and Derrick standard has a little something for everyone, including some unexpected compliance issues for the electric utility industry. Known as Subpart CC, the standard was years in development, pushed heavily to completion in the last years by serious and highly publicized crane accidents.

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