Utility Safety Management Articles

Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Cost of Business

Sadly, accidents in our industry continually occur even though they are avoidable. I have spent the better part of 46 years teaching safe work practices, rules and regulations in an effort to prevent accidents from happening. However, in all the time I spent on the job, from my start as a helper on a line crew until I was promoted to line crew supervisor, I never really considered the costs of injuries or property damage. Due to the culture of the industry, the costs were seen as just part of doing business. In this article, I want to take a few minutes to share with you the costs of accidents.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Arc Hazard Protection

You have read and heard about all of the related standards for arc flash protection and you still don't have a program or even a plan for a program, right? In this installment of “Train the Trainer 101,” I will sift through the rules so you can begin a practical approach to creating an effective and compliant program. Obviously, we want to protect employees and well-developed programs accomplish that, but this article primarily focuses on the administrative side of compliance.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Definition of Personal Protective Equipment

I can remember a day when I would ask employees to name the five topics of a job briefing and why personal protective equipment (PPE) is the fifth point on the list of topics. Since the second part of the question was always a greater challenge for everyone to understand, I’d like to take some time to discuss the differences between protective equipment and PPE. Employees sometimes consider PPE to be system safety grounds, cover-up equipment, traffic vests and other equipment. As you can see in the excerpt below, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I defines and identifies PPE as well as the body parts that are required to be protected while performing work.

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Emily Wilkins, CSA, CUSP, and Ryan Schenk

Are You Prepared for the Next Generation of Lineworkers?

The next generation of lineworkers is beginning to step in to fill the shoes of retiring baby boomers and most utilities haven’t even begun to think about what it’s going to take to train and educate these new apprentices. Is your company prepared for the next generation? This article offers suggestions for the training planner to consider as you prepare your updated training plan.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Are You Ready for the Big Storm?

Now that Superstorm Sandy is over, there are fewer news stories about the destruction left in her wake and more media coverage of other topics. That is the nature of the news, but the truth is that Sandy cleanup will take months to complete. Many homeowners now have to cope with the new normal; their lives have been forever changed by the storm. When looking back on Sandy from a utility perspective – when you are scrutinizing what went well, what didn’t and the lessons learned – please consider the following points.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CET, CUSP

Raising the Bar, Lowering the EMR

Raising the Bar, Lowering the EMR

Today, many contracting companies in the maintenance and construction industries are facing mounting pressure from utility owners to rethink their health, safety and environmental (HSE) cultures and work practices, which in turn can lower their common HSE indicators. Those companies that fail to meet client demands often find themselves excluded from bid lists while they search for a catalyst of cultural change. In this article, we will explore how Supreme Industries – a contracting company that specializes in right-of-way (ROW) clearing, environmental and sedimentation controls, access roads building, site development and ROW restoration – lowered its experience modification rate (EMR) from 1.12 to 0.64 in just three years.

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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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