Incident Prevention Magazine

Jordan Hollingsworth, CHST, CSP, CUSP

Safety Best Practices for Outage Season

Safety Best Practices for Outage Season

Football season is here, and hunting season is right around the corner. That means it’s also outage season for the electric power industry.

Planned outages allow utilities to take equipment out of service for maintenance, replacement or new construction. The timing is dictated by the utility owners and the regional transmission organizations that oversee the power grid. Planned outages can last from 15 minutes to months, and they can be continuous or intermittent. Most occur late in the year because loads are lower than during the peak summer and winter months. In addition, utilities need to use up their capital budgets for the year.

The height of outage season is between Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Christmas. With the rush to perform outages as quickly as possible, they often entail 12- to 16-hour workdays and seven-day workweeks for crews. Given the pace and intensity, along with the weather conditions, the potential for injuries is significant. To combat these risks, following are a number of best practices that can be used in your organization to help keep crews safe during outage season.

Site-Specific Safety Plan
Safely performing an outage begins with the crew developing a comprehensive, site-specific safety plan that – at a minimum – addresses manpower, equipment, logistics, training and emergency response. Because planning for most outages takes months, there’s plenty of time to thoroughly address safety.

Manpower
When developing the safety plan, establish how many workers will be needed to perform tasks safely and efficiently. In particular, consider work hours, because expecting workers to put in too many hours increases the risk of something going wrong on the job. Do you need 10 employees to perform 16-hour shifts seven days a week, or is it more prudent to ask 20 employees to work 10-hour shifts for five days?

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Phillip Ragain

Assimilating Short-Service Employees Into Your Safety Culture

Assimilating Short-Service Employees Into Your Safety Culture

Culture is one of the most significant drivers of an organization’s safety performance. It can take time to build a safety culture, and it also takes time for employees to assimilate into an existing culture after beginning work for an organization. This poses a serious challenge for organizations that regularly scale to meet project demands. An influx of short-service employees (SSEs) often coincides with an increase in incidents. While there are a number of reasons for this – such as poor hazard recognition – one significant reason is that SSEs have not yet assimilated into the existing culture’s standards of safe operations. Despite efforts to overcome this problem, many companies continue to report that it remains one of their greatest challenges. After examining SSE programs implemented by different organizations, my colleagues at The RAD Group and I have identified criteria for an SSE program that helps new employees more effectively adapt to a company’s safety culture.

The Root of the Problem
Once a strong culture is in place, it is like a hidden force guiding people’s decisions to work safely. However, it takes time for people to fall under the influence of a safety culture, and in the meantime they may work in a way that does not align with their employer’s standards. The root of the problem, of course, is that SSEs by definition have not been in the organization long.

To better understand and respond to this enduring challenge, it helps to address three questions:
1. How do people assimilate into a culture?
2. Why do some SSE programs fall short?
3. What kind of program would more effectively assimilate SSEs into a safety culture?

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Does Your Company Have an Effective Safety Management System?

Does Your Company Have an Effective Safety Management System?

Your safety program can have fully developed rules and procedures, a top-notch training program and the best safety equipment and tools money can buy – and there is still the possibility that it may not be successful. Although these things are extremely important and necessary, safety success will not occur until your safety program becomes a fully functional safety management system. This means that everyone in the organization is actively pursuing the same safety goals and working together in a synchronized manner to achieve those goals. A fully developed and well-executed safety management system is the backbone of safety excellence.

Safety Management System Components
What does a safety management system need in order to be effective? According to ANSI/AIHA Z10-2012, “Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems,” the following components are required for success:
• Management leadership and employee participation
• Planning
• Implementation and operations
• Evaluation and corrective action
• Management review

Let’s take a closer look at how each component is defined.

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Chris Grajek, CRSP, CUSP

Underground Electrical Vaults: Safety Concerns and Controls

Underground Electrical Vaults: Safety Concerns and Controls

There are hundreds of thousands of man-accessible vaults in North America, with potentially tens of thousands of utility worker entries into those vaults each year. And it’s likely that every worker who enters a vault appreciates the safety procedures that govern the work. The combination of high-voltage electrical cables and aging infrastructure can exponentially complicate even the most routine vault-related task. In addition, many utilities across North America continue to report electrical vault failures, some of which lead to violent explosions.

For the most part, utility owners have a good understanding of the risks of entering man-accessible vaults and conducting work inside of them. There are many stories and equally as many opinions as to the safety and stability of the underground electrical network. The intent of this article is to summarize some known conditions your employees may face during execution of work in underground vaults. Although explosions may constitute the bulk of catastrophic events, thorough consideration of all hazards should be included in risk analyses.

The Vault
There is no uniform standard pertaining to vault configurations, but utilities regularly have an engineering standard. Man-accessible spaces can be as shallow as 8 feet deep with 340 cubic feet to approximately 30 feet deep with 3,000 cubic feet. Each vault is connected to others in the underground system through ducts and can have one to several high-voltage cable circuits passing through it. Some cables pass through directly while others contain splices, connections, transitions and some high-voltage switchgear or similar equipment. Most common cables are cross-linked polyethylene – often referred to as XLPE – or lead cable circuits. There is the potential for other systems to be present in spaces associated with lower voltages and communication cables. Some vaults have standard manhole lids while others have latch plates. The number of combinations is endless, but hazard exposure in these spaces is similar and can be categorized into exposure tables. When conducting your risk assessments, it is generally accepted in most jurisdictions to group your spaces by similar configurations of space and type. This will help organize information, reduce the volume of documentation and provide your field crews with clear data to safely perform their work.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Understanding Canine Behavior for the Protection of Utility Workers

Utility personnel are going to find themselves in confrontations with dogs. It is the nature of our work. How a worker responds during that type of engagement will have consequences that can be good or bad. The best consequence is when the parties go their separate ways and no one is left bleeding. Frankly, bleeding is not the worst outcome of these situations. People sometimes die as a result of confrontations with dogs, and the dogs can be hurt or killed, too. As a dog person, I would choose to see everyone walk away if at all possible.

While there is no magic formula that can be used to prevent you and your employees from being attacked by dogs, there are many good training programs out there and many good companies that provide dog attack prevention training. I have witnessed many training sessions and one thing is certain, not all of them provide the same information or approach. A few years ago I decided to perform some research on my own and compare it to what I knew about dogs as a longtime dog owner, a former dog breeder, and someone who is experienced with trained canine service members in the military and on police duty. I should also mention that some of my experience comes from four or five up-close engagements with big, seriously aggravated dogs in the backyards and pastures of utility customers. I can assure you that the nature of those incidents squared well with what I have learned over the years.

Now I must offer this disclaimer: Dogs can’t read. They don’t have the benefit of the wisdom offered throughout this two-part article (check out part two in the December 2016 issue of Incident Prevention). No one can account for or predict every dog’s response. What you read during the course of both of these articles will help you understand, in part, why dogs do what they do. You may also find some practical ways you can improve your chances of having safe experiences with dogs, both those that are friendly and those that are not so friendly.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: OSHA’s MAD Changes and a Missed Opportunity

In the 2014 OSHA update to 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, major changes were made regarding apparel and minimum approach distance (MAD) calculations. And yet I believe the agency missed an opportunity related to distribution voltages and gloving of energized conductors and equipment. For all intents and purposes, other than the MAD updates, few changes occurred in 29 CFR 1910.269(l) regarding working position. A new requirement removed any implied obligation that an employer is accountable for ensuring employees do not approach or take any conductive objects within the MADs found in tables 6 to 10 of 1910.269. The standard now clearly and without any doubt requires an employer to calculate and provide MADs to all employees and contractors working on energized systems.

Paragraph 1910.269(l)(3)(i) now states that the “employer shall establish minimum approach distances no less than the distances computed by Table R-3 for ac systems or Table R-8 for dc systems.” And the updated standard also now requires an engineering analysis on voltages greater than 72.5 kV to allow for transient overvoltages that occur due to system operations, breakers, capacitors or lightning. Ironically, the MAD found in the 2002 National Electrical Safety Code for 25-kV systems was 31 inches, 12 years before it was changed in OSHA’s update to 1910.269.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

October 2016 Q&A

Q: What is meant by the phrase “circulating current” as it pertains to transmission towers? Does it have something to do with the fact that there is no neutral?

A: We’re glad you asked the question because it gives us an opportunity to discuss one of the basic principles of the hazard of induction. More and more trainers are teaching with a focus on principles instead of procedures, and we often overlook some of these basic definitions. The concept of circulation is associated with what happens in any interconnected electrical system. Refer to the basic definition for parallel paths: Current flows in every available path inversely proportional to the resistance of the path. That means that current flows through every path, and the path with the least resistance has the most current flowing in it. Inversely, the path with the most resistance has the least current flowing in it.

When you ground a circuit to the structure, you are making an electrical connection to the tower. Current will flow in every available path. If there is any source for current, including induction, there will be current flow. The greater part of the current will flow in the lower-resistance pathways. If the tower is well grounded, the majority of the current will flow in the tower to ground. In a distribution system, the majority of the neutral current flows in the neutral. Pole bonds to ground rods have much higher resistance and therefore lower current that usually can’t be measured by a typical clamp current meter, so some people think there is no current flowing in them. There is, and under the right conditions – such as a fault or open in the neutral – the level of current flowing in a pole bond can be deadly.

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Kate Wade

October 2016 Management Toolbox

October 2016 Management Toolbox

4 Tips to Delegate More Effectively

Perhaps the most common reason people avoid delegating tasks to others is that the process can be a lot of work. And that work requires a commitment of time – a precious commodity to nearly every leader. However, if done well, delegating not only takes work off a leader’s plate, but it also helps employees develop and strengthen their skills, enabling them to make greater contributions to the organization. So, what are some key points to remember when you are delegating responsibilities?

1. Know your employees. If you have a job that you want others to complete, it is best if you delegate the work to those most capable of doing it, provided they have the time. A great number of managers have made the mistake of handing off a task to someone who lacked the ability or willingness – or both – to do the work. That is why it is critical that you get to know the people who report to you, including their strengths, weaknesses, personality styles and commitment to the job. Even if no one on your team has the exact skills required to perform the task, by getting a handle on everyone’s talents and struggles, you can delegate to the most qualified person.

2. Be clear. In order for a person to execute a task well, he or she needs specific guidance. This is likely where you will spend the most time during the delegation process, but it is worth it to ensure that your employee understands exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. Ideally, you should provide the employee with a written procedure to follow, plus you should have as many in-person meetings as necessary to ensure the employee has a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities.

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