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Utility Safety Management Articles

Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CHST, CET

What OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Means to You

What OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Means to You

Airborne crystalline silica has long been discussed as a health hazard in the workplace. When inhaled, very small crystalline silica particles referred to as “respirable” particles are known to cause silicosis, a fatal lung disease, as well as other respiratory-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

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Lee Marchessault, CUSP

The Power of an Effective Field Observation Program

The Power of an Effective Field Observation Program

Electric utilities are among the most hazardous industries in which to work. This was recognized in the early days of electric power distribution when extremely high fatality rates occurred. Since those days, utilities have examined injuries and fatalities to learn how to prevent others. The examination process has included analyzing possible hazards, mitigating the identified hazards to a safe level of acceptable risk, creating policies and procedures, developing and providing protective equipment, and making the workplace as safe as it can be … or has it? Unless we make a conscious effort to verify that what has been developed and provided is used properly, safe work practices can only be assumed. By conducting field personnel work site observations on a consistent basis, we can substantiate and measure the effectiveness of organizational safety efforts, proving that the “safety first” culture is accurately represented.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Globally Harmonized System is Here

Creating one global standard to classify and label hazardous chemicals has been a topic of international negotiations since the process began in Brazil in 1992. Now, the long-awaited and much-discussed Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is beginning to appear in the American workplace. December 1, 2013, was the deadline for the initial required employee training about the changes the GHS will bring to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), which is used to ensure chemical safety in the workplace. The GHS will affect current HCS labeling requirements with the addition of new signal words, hazard and precautionary statements, and pictograms. One of the most noticeable changes is that material safety data sheets, or MSDS, will now be referred to as safety data sheets, or SDS.

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Claudia Hendricks

Safety Management During Change

Safety Management During Change

Safety champions Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities companies have created a culture of safety excellence with consistently low injury rates and hundreds of national and international awards to their employees’ credit. A key factor in LG&E and KU’s success has been a top-led, employee-driven approach to safety, which includes a concentrated effort to identify hazards and issues and proactively address them before they become injuries. Safety professionals know that even the most exemplary performance can turn upside down in a split second due to any number of factors. They may include the failure to follow procedures or recognize hazards, distractions, attitude, complacency and even a false security about past successes. LG&E and KU have been very effective in managing those situations as well as one that can easily be overlooked – change.

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Jim Boyd, CUSP

Transitioning to FR Clothing

Transitioning to FR Clothing

Since Tacoma Power’s creation in the 1890s, its employees have worked on or around energized conductors and have been exposed to the hazards of electrical arcs and flames. For most of that time, electrical workers wore natural fiber clothing to reduce the risk of injury if involved in a situation that could result in an arc flash. Injuries from burning clothing can lead to permanent disabilities and death.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Why You Need More than 1910 and 1926

OSHA, like MSHA, publishes regulations for the employer to follow to promote safety in the workplace. The methodology of the regulations is to establish performance goals. Regulations do not establish procedures according to OSHA, even though they may occasionally require certain actions. One example is requiring barricades and equipotential mats at grounded equipment to protect workers from voltage gradients.

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Steve Hedden, CUSP

Ergonomics for Lineworkers

Ergonomics for Lineworkers

I am not an ergonomics expert. I am, however, a former lineman now in my 50s, experiencing aches and pains from many years of working in the field. I became interested in how ergonomics – the field of study that fits the job to the worker rather than the worker to the job – could improve line work after reading an article that explained how We Energies, an electric service provider headquartered in Milwaukee, had conducted a study in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute and Marquette University to determine why their employees were suffering so many hand, shoulder, knee and back injuries. It was like a light bulb came on. I thought back to co-workers who struggled with chronic pain resulting from their work as lineworkers and realized it didn’t have to be that way. I started the trade knowing it was a hard job, but I was young and strong. I wanted to impress co-workers and gain their acceptance on the crew, so I worked hard and didn’t concern myself with what I was doing to my body. The veterans who started this same way, and were now suffering the consequences, respected others who were willing to put in the hard work and sacrifice themselves just like they did.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Live-Line Tool Maintenance Program

Around 2009, a hot-line crew working in the Southwest had a transmission phase suspended under a hot stick while replacing a suspension string. The observer on the ground was the first to spot it. The crew was warned and looked up to see their rated hot stick smoking, all the more urgent because at the time they had no safe place to land the phase. The day was freezing and windy, not uncommon for that part of the Southwest. The wind was picking up dust and then mixing with sleet. The sleet started to adhere to the stick, creating a path to the steel crane line. Thinking quickly, the crew knocked the ice off the stick, lowering the chance of flashover. They also took that stick out of service.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Eddie
Do the sticks have to be dry tested and wet tested?
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 16:42
Guest — Jim Vaughn
There is no speific requirement for both only either wet or dry. IEEE 978 the consensus standard entitled In Service Maintenance ... Read More
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 17:04
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Bart Castle

The Authority to Stop Work

The Authority to Stop Work

Since its founding in 1984 as an electric utility contractor company, co-founder Steve Standish has always considered Standard Utility Construction an organization concerned about safety. Specifically, Standard responded to a fatality in 2003 by developing formal safety processes and documents. These included assigning employees to full-time safety-related work; increased emphasis and time devoted to safety meetings and incident response; deepened training and even more extensive use of appropriate PPE, often before an item was formally required by regulation; working toward formal OSHA certifications for Standard’s safety efforts; and a review to make certain all company documents regarding safety contained language emphasizing that no employee had to complete work he or she believed was unsafe.

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Gary Coleman, CHST, CSP, CUSP, OHST, STSC

Foundation Drilling Safety: The Aldridge Electric Story of Success

Foundation Drilling Safety: The Aldridge Electric Story of Success

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 4,500 and 5,000 people are killed in the U.S. workforce each year. Approximately 20 percent of those workplace fatalities are in the construction industry. According to OSHA, the four leading hazards that contribute to fatal injuries in construction are falls, electrocution, struck by object and caught-in/between.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Training for the Qualified Employee

Training is required by OSHA and all employees should follow proper training, but the unfortunate truth is that doesn’t always happen, resulting in accidents, contacts and fatalities. OSHA is very specific about defining what qualifies employees to work on and near energized conductors and equipment energized at greater than 50 volts. To be qualified to work on systems considered primary voltages greater than 600 volts, the mandated training is markedly more intense because of the requirements for such things as knowledge of component specialization, procedures such as insulate or isolate, and the personal protective measures and personal equipment used, among others. The ideal trainer is OSHA-authorized and intimately familiar with federal standards and expectations, and has industry experience as well as a broad knowledge of consensus standards and contemporary practices related to the topics being covered. Electric utility employees are a tough group, and they will be tough on an instructor who has no utility experience. Instructors should not deliver training material simply via PowerPoint presentations or similar delivery methods. Examples and accident histories should be incorporated into the training. Additionally, OSHA requires field observations in order for employees to prove their proficiency in the training subject. After training is complete and an employee has proven proficiency, the employer can state the employee is qualified for the task.

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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, CIT, 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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