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Incident Prevention Magazine

Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP

Using Checklists to Mitigate Error and Injury

Today’s utility crews are working in an increasingly complex and fast-paced environment. Utilities and their contractors have come under intense pressure to get work done quickly and to ensure that it is done without error or serious injury. With this increased pressure comes increased risk.

So, how can we reduce the possibility of error on our worksites given such a demanding environment? One simple way is to use checklists. I realize this is hardly a new concept, but my colleagues and I have found that checklists, when properly written and consistently used, are a proven method to reduce risk and error.

The power of the checklist is well-documented in Dr. Atul Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto,” published in 2009. Gawande, an endocrine surgeon, found that on average, there were over 50 million surgeries performed each year in the United States. Alarmingly, 150,000 of the patients died after surgery – and half of those fatalities were avoidable.

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Lidia Dilley Jacobson

One Key Question Every LIFE Guard Must Ask

I never planned to be a safety director. Rather, I think my path was chosen for me through a series of circumstances that all started when I was 16 years old and landed my first official job. Back then I was a lifeguard at a public pool in my South Dakota hometown, and I continued to lifeguard during the summers of my college years. At the pool where I worked, the safety orientation always included the tragic story of a little boy who had drowned many years ago when the pool was overcrowded one hot summer day. The story gave me and the other lifeguards I worked with a sense of the importance of our job – hearing it was an opportunity to remind ourselves that we were LIFE guards.

Fast-forward to today and I find myself still hearing stories about on-the-job tragedies, as I’m sure you have, too. We don’t want these tragedies to continue to happen, so what can we do?

I believe stories can shape our thinking and instill in us a stronger commitment to do better. Yet this commitment can only arise when stories are treated as learning opportunities. If they are merely told and then promptly forgotten about, the point is missed, the opportunity is gone, and we haven’t made our world any safer. We didn’t do anything with the story.

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Take Off Those Blinders: The Importance of Situational Awareness

Some days I feel like a broken record with my apprentice. “Watch out for …,” “Keep in mind …” and, of course, the much more emphatic “Hey, hey, hey, you can’t …” Those of us who work in the field on a daily basis and are responsible for the training of less experienced workers know this feeling well. So, how do we train our workers, keep them safe and still be productive? To me, it comes down to one simple phrase: situational awareness.

What is situational awareness? I am constantly using the analogy of blinders on a racehorse to describe it. All those horses care about is what is directly in front of them as they run down that track. In our line of work, that way of thinking is dangerous. It is easy to talk about the scope of a job and identify hazards, but once work starts, the situation changes and a worker’s field of vision may shrink. Sometimes there is so much going on in your working environment, or you become so absorbed in your own thoughts, that you fail to spot those things that could pose a serious threat to your health and safety.

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — Geoffrey Rogers
Good article and very true.
Wednesday, 29 May 2019 13:44
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Max Fuentes

Writing Utility Work and Safety Procedures

With the great number of potential hazards in the industry, high-voltage transmission and distribution line work can be risky business. That’s a considerable part of why the T&D industry is rife with regulations, policies, procedures and work practices that electrical workers must adhere to.

Work and safety procedures should be written so that there is a clear set of steps to follow in order to perform every task safely and in compliance with existing regulations. It is critical that training is in place for new procedures, and that information about the procedures is shared with affected work groups via meetings, tailboards and other methods to ensure understanding.

Engineers often are the primary developers and writers of a utility’s work procedures. If you’re fortunate enough to have a safety department, someone within that department likely will be tasked with writing safety procedures. The best scenario is to form procedures committees staffed with individuals from relevant departments who have different job skills and essential functions; these people can bring subject matter expertise to the table when procedures are being crafted. For example, the safety department can provide information about current regulations and compliance issues. Engineering can provide expertise about any new system equipment or devices that require either a new policy or procedure or a modification to an existing policy or procedure. The training department can develop, facilitate and deliver training on any new procedures, as well as develop related guidelines, job aids and other tools for affected workers.

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David Spooner

Remember Why Safety Rules Were Written

Recently I was thinking back over my career as a lineman. There was a man – we called him Big Jim – who was our safety guy from the time I started in the industry until I had been a lineman for about 20 years. Jim always sported a crew cut and a green hard hat that didn't have a scratch on it; the rumor was he waxed his hat to keep it shiny. I’m unsure if he served in the military, but Big Jim behaved like a borderline drill sergeant on the job. He got right to his point and was a stickler for safety rules.

For instance, Big Jim used to visit the crew to check on everything. He would start by going through the bins on the trucks. If he found a chainsaw or saw blade with no cover, he would toss it on the ground and continue his inspection. If tools were worn out or in need of repair? That was a big problem – he would remove them from the truck and toss those on the ground, too. Hooks with no gaff guards? You knew you were dead meat. After Big Jim was done with the bin inspection, he would interrogate us about why there were no blade or gaff guards, and why faulty tools were still on the truck.

Sometimes Big Jim would watch the crew and ask us questions: Was the line grounded properly? Were we using the handline instead of going up and down to get materials? “No seesawing that bucket, guys” was one of his favorite things to say.

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Ryan Stephens, AEP, and Amber Travis, GSP

3 Safety Measures to Mitigate Substation Risks

Any type of utility work can present a number of potentially fatal hazards, from arc blasts and flashes to extreme temperatures that can cause the human body to overheat or become hypothermic. And it’s not just severe hazards that can lead to injury or death – even the slightest negligence can bring about circumstances in which workers can get hurt. Regardless of the job or work environment, careful analysis of all risk factors is a must, along with initial and ongoing training and communication. In this month’s Tailgate, we’re going to take a look at three important safety measures that can minimize risk when working in a live substation.

1. Personal Protective Equipment
PPE must be worn that is appropriate for the potential hazards that may be encountered. Work areas must be assessed by a person qualified to determine what PPE is required for the hazards involved. PPE may not always be the first choice for protection. If a hazard can be avoided by re-engineering or changing the work plan or procedures, choose that option first. Good PPE procedures use PPE as a last resort to mitigate hazards that cannot be controlled through procedures or engineering changes. PPE for substation work might include arc-rated/flame-resistant clothing, high-visibility vests appropriately rated for the electrical environment, head protection, safety glasses with side shields, fall protection and insulated gloves.

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Tony Boyd, CUSP

Training and Certifying Apprentices

Training today’s apprentice lineworkers has become a priority that no company, large or small, can afford to ignore. Most of the old-timers who trained us are all gone now, and we are now the old-timers who are left to get out the message. The message should not be about getting apprentices to follow safety rules. Rather, the message for apprentices should be about understanding what the hazards really are, knowing how to recognize them and having apprentices learn to think for themselves to avoid the traps that can injure them.

Some apprentices believe they are 10 feet tall and bulletproof. It often is said among young apprentices, “That’s not going to happen to me!” These apprentices are overconfident in their abilities and understanding and take for granted the training they receive. If you have apprentices who are open to learning, serious about their training and ready to take part in the safety of the crew, hang on to them, give them a raise and make a good example of them.

The basic concepts of training apprentice lineworkers have not changed. Regardless of the training material used or the delivery of that training material, many of the skills needed to do the job have remained the same since the beginning. The industry has learned through the years, however, that injuries and near misses usually are the result of a performance pressures, lack of understanding the hazards or both. Misunderstanding the hazards has been the Achilles’ heel of the industry, and even today many still do not understand the consequences associated with this confusion over the industry’s best practices.

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Dean Newkirk, CUSP

Addressing Allergic Reactions on the Job

Power-line workers carry out their assignments in all types of outdoor environments and thus are susceptible to all of Mother Nature’s elements, good and bad.

When humans expose themselves to those elements, some might experience allergic reactions, a safety-related topic that is rarely top of mind until a worker in the field is experiencing such a reaction. If you know you are allergic to something you may come in contact with while working, it’s critical that you make your colleagues aware of it and, more importantly, that they know how to respond.

A Personal Tale
There are personal as well as practical reasons why I’m writing this month’s Tailgate Topic. I’ve worked on and around line crews for many years, and I love the outdoors. As a young man about 40 years ago, I was stung by a wasp and had what I considered a minor reaction – my arm swelled up like Popeye’s. I didn’t think much of the situation back then, although I now recognize that I was allergic to the sting even all those years ago. At the time, I didn’t follow up with a medical professional to see exactly how allergic I was or what could happen if I got stung again in the future.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

Overcoming Slip, Trip and Fall Hazards on the ROW

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. It wasn’t too hot or too cold, and Jim, a new worker, was listening to the plan for the day with Jack and Mary as they walked on the right-of-way (ROW) to the drilling pad they would be working on. As they were walking, Jim stepped on a rock that caused his ankle to roll. Instinctively, he put his hand out to catch himself, but his arm didn’t quite make it to the right position before he hit the ground. Everyone heard a snap, and Jim felt the fracture in his left wrist. He knew that pain because he had sustained a similar injury a few years before, and he knew that it would affect his work for the next six to eight weeks. But what he didn’t know until he saw the doctor was that he also had torn two ligaments in his ankle. Regrettably, the surgery required to fix this mess wouldn’t go as well as planned, which would put Jim out of work for the next six months. In addition, this injury occurred in a non-employee-friendly workers’ compensation state, and Jim and his family would face severe financial issues as his take-home pay would be cut from $1,100 per week to exactly $442.28. The end. Not all fairy tales have a happy ending.

In real life, the contractor I work for – Supreme Industries – grew by 42 percent in 2017, which required us to hire many new workers. Surprisingly, of all the issues that could have arisen from this growth, it was slip, trip and fall (STF) injuries that popped up on our safety radar. Upon investigation, we found that approximately 70 percent of these injuries involved workers who had been with our company for less than six months and may not have been accustomed to working on a ROW. In response, we developed an STF training program and rolled it into our onboarding process, a move that – despite growing another 25 percent in 2018 on top of the 42 percent growth in 2017 – has reduced our STF injuries to zero. We at Supreme want to share with you some of our knowledge gained and lessons learned so you can help your workers do the job right and go home unharmed.

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Kelly Sparrow, J.D.

Production, Quality, Safety and the Bermuda Triangle

We’ve all heard or read about the Bermuda Triangle, a loose geographic area with Miami, Bermuda and San Juan, Puerto Rico, serving as the triangle’s three points. Legend has it that lots of strange things have happened in the Bermuda Triangle, mostly the unexplained disappearances of ships and airplanes that sailed or flew through the area. You may remember the story of Flight 19, a group of five torpedo bombers that disappeared on December 5, 1945, over the Bermuda Triangle while on a training mission. Fourteen airmen were lost in the incident.

There is a part of the story that a lot of people don’t know about. Those in command responded to the missing Flight 19 by sending a flying boat – a plane that can land on water – to search for the lost planes. It is believed that the rescue plane had a small, undetected fuel leak that caused a vapor buildup in the fuselage. The plane exploded in midair, and all 13 crew members were lost while they were looking for Flight 19.

Experts think the five planes of Flight 19 may have been uniformly underfueled due to a faulty gauge on the tanker that fueled them before they took off. Because systems for checking the gauge failed to discover that problem, 14 men died and 13 more died searching for them. If a quality equipment inspection had found the faulty gauge on the truck, or the operator of the truck had questioned why the filling operation had been completed so quickly, or the flight crew had asked for a recheck, the Flight 19 mission might have gone off without any problems. If that had happened, the rescuers would not have died because their flight would have been unnecessary.

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Lidia Dilley Jacobson

Four Things We Shouldn’t Say

Throughout my years of serving as a safety professional, I have seen safety grow from simply telling people to “follow the rules” to engaging people in building safety cultures. I’ve also seen employees and managers shift their thinking about safety as they engage in it for all the right reasons – so we can all go home tonight. It’s refreshing!

Yet when an accident does happen, as much as we work to prevent it, I’ve also heard some questions and statements that make me wonder if we have truly advanced safety. I admit, those questions and statements might have been “the way we said it” in the past, but they can no longer be accepted if we are to grow our safety culture. Here are four things I believe we should never say again – and explanations as to why we should avoid them.

1. “Why don’t they just follow the rules?”
I can give you at least 10 reasons why people don’t. In fact, we have had rules in place for many years, yet we still are having accidents. Maybe the safety rules are vague, misunderstood or lengthy, leading to shortcuts. What we need to ask is if the rule system we have in place is effective – do employees know what’s expected of them? If they don’t know our rules, how can we expect employees to follow them? One solution is to move to basic life-saving rules. These are the rules we need people to know and follow.

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Construction Workers are Occupational Athletes

Why do professional athletes compete? Well, the obvious answer is that they compete to both win and earn a living. But athletes aren’t just found in the professional sports world. The construction industry has its own athletes; they’re known as “working athletes” or “occupational athletes,” people who physically move around to work and earn a living.

Although a successful day for a construction worker may not be an actual win that gets recorded like a professional athlete’s does, it is a win nonetheless. A successful day for an occupational athlete who wants to win on the job includes a couple of things. One of those things is eating nutritiously before, during and after their shift. Years ago, I remember several journeymen linemen approaching an athletic trainer in the workplace to discuss nutrition. They were very interested in learning how to choose the right foods to buy and consume. The trainer agreed to meet them after the end of their shift to walk through the supermarket and show them what to look for on food labels. Those linemen were preparing to win.

Workplace Ergonomics
A well-developed workplace ergonomics program is another thing that helps to ensure occupational athletes have successful days. There are four essential components of such a program. The first is worker education and training, and those must take place before anything else. Athletic trainers will educate workers about musculoskeletal injuries and how to prevent them. Construction work is demanding on the body, so learning how to move safely on the job is key to prevention. Workers will learn how important it is to get close to the work and properly position their bodies. Knowing the causes of soft-tissue injuries and how to avoid them provides the working athlete with the prevention tools needed to help ensure proper body mechanics on the worksite.

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David Spooner

If You Could Talk to Your Younger Self, What Would You Say?

“The Shawshank Redemption” is one of my favorite movies. In one scene, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, played by Morgan Freeman, is sitting in front of the parole board. He is pouring his heart out to the members of the board when they ask him, “Do you feel rehabilitated?” Red tells them, “I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid … I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are.” I, too, wish I could go back and talk to my younger self about one thing in particular – it sure would be saving me some heartache today.

I started working for an electric utility, SCE&G, in 1979, and I have pretty much been outside in the sun every day since. When I started at SCE&G, I worked on the coast near Charleston, South Carolina, where summers are hot and humid, and the sun is direct. Many days after work, my clothes were soaked with sweat, all the way down to my underwear and socks. I even had to dry my boots out every now and then.

When I made lineman in the 1980s, many lineworkers wore long-sleeved shirts and extra-wide shades on their hard hats. They also used company-provided sunscreen. I thought the long sleeves were for protection from creosote on the poles, and the hard hat shades were to shade workers’ eyes. I even asked my foreman, an old-timer named Ronald, “Why do you wear long sleeves? Is it to keep the creosote off your arms?”

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Kevin Ripplinger and Will Schnyer, CUSP

St. Thomas Storm Restoration: Lessons Learned

Late last year, two powerful hurricanes – Irma and Maria – carved their way across the Virgin Islands and nearby Puerto Rico before turning north. Both hurricanes left behind substantial damage to the region, including debris, flooding, communication outages, power outages, and water and food shortages. As the first deployed line crews to arrive in the region, Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) linemen were tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair roughly 25 miles of 34.5-kV transmission lines on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In the electric utility business, it is common knowledge that energy recovery after a natural disaster can be complicated due to physical damage to the electric system and surrounding land as well as unknown hazards. Accordingly, throughout the restoration effort on St. Thomas, WAPA crews didn’t always know what they faced or the extent of the damage until after it was thoroughly evaluated. Worksite tailgate meetings and job briefings were often held several times a day because issues that affected both the scope of work and the safety of employees had to be mitigated before continuing the work.

WAPA linemen encountered numerous hazards while working to restore power on St. Thomas, including:

  • Hazardous driving conditions due to narrow and slippery roadways, and driving on the left side of the road.
  • No power to traffic lights.
  • Slips and falls due to steep and slippery work locations.
  • Falling objects, such as debris, tree limbs and damaged utility poles.
  • Electrical hazards from generators back-fed into the power grid.
  • Electrical hazards from re-energized circuits.
  • Falls from height.
  • Fatigue from working extended shifts.
  • Heat exhaustion.
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Lidia Dilley Jacobson

Coaching the Crew Chief in Safety

Walk onto any job site and you will find that one person has been designated to be in charge. Although this person may have a different title from site to site – such as crew lead, foreman or crew chief – they are responsible for the work being done by the crew that day.

What do you think is the crew chief’s most important action in their role? In Minnesota, we are making an effort to send one clear message – that the crew chief’s most important job is to prevent injuries. It is not a new message, but it is critical that it has been clearly communicated to the crew chief at every worksite. And you can’t simply tell the chief that preventing injuries is their No. 1 priority – that person needs to be coached in safety. Just as in football, we don’t send the quarterback onto the field with their team if we have only shown them films and talked about how to play the game. In addition, the coach watches from the side of the field and guides the quarterback as to what skills they must use to do the job, to win the game. So, in this month’s Tailgate, let’s explore what it takes to coach a crew chief in safety.

An Overview
To begin, pair the crew chief with the designated coach; they should expect to spend a half-day together. The coach should be present at the start of the job, and their role is to observe the crew chief and interact with them as necessary, while staying conscious of whether or not the work at the site is being done safely.

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Jennifer A. Martin

Into the Woods

Having worked in the safety field for more years than I care to discuss publicly, I am frequently reminded of the continual need to adapt existing safety policies and procedures to ever-changing work environments. The safety field provides ongoing opportunities to learn and improve our work practices, with the important goal of making job sites safer for everyone. Prior to my current role within the safety industry, my boots-on-the-ground field time occurred either within four walls or during the construction of those four walls. Delving into the utility industry and experiencing the sheer isolation of some worksite locations were new experiences for me.

For the longest time, the environmental section of my tailboards looked like the cookie-cutter variety. In the summer, the section consisted of anything related to heat, including heat stress, heat cramps, heat stroke and dehydration. The winter section revolved around hazards related to cold and ice: hypothermia, frostbite, winter driving conditions and slippery work/walking surfaces.

And of course, ticks are mentioned seasonally in nearly every safety professional’s tailboard paperwork, including mine. But what about all of the other creatures that may be found in rights-of-way and other remote work locations, particularly bears, which can be found in the majority of U.S. states and in Canada? Are they being mentioned in your tailboards? They weren’t always mentioned in mine, but they are now.

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Brad Brill, CHST, CSHO, CUSP

Going Into Battle

In August 2009, I was in Okinawa, Japan, preparing to depart with my unit to Afghanistan. As we were getting in our last hugs and kisses from family members, we were summoned to meet up to receive some news from our commander. Once our families were out of earshot, we were told that one of our Marines who had arrived in Afghanistan a couple weeks prior had been killed. Captain Matthew Freeman, a Marine helicopter pilot who volunteered to leave the relative safety of the flying community to advise Afghan National Army soldiers as an embedded trainer, had been shot during a firefight with the Taliban. Captain Freeman was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a Naval Aviator and had married his high school sweetheart two weeks before deploying. As 150 of us stood there receiving the news of a fallen brother, we couldn’t help but think about Matt’s family as well as contemplate our own mortality. We had not even left Japan and we were down one Marine.

Over the next two months, three more Marines, one Navy corpsman and a soldier were killed in battle. The fallen were fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands and friends. The loss of those men affected people all around the U.S. and beyond. The daily threat to us was very real, and we knew that we had to be prepared to do our jobs. Prior to a patrol, we would check all our gear and equipment as well as conduct buddy checks to ensure our teams were ready for whatever was thrown our way. We knew we could not afford to overlook even a small detail because each patrol potentially was a life-or-death situation. We would ensure every single person on the patrol could repeat the plan back to us before departing so that anyone who was put in harm’s way would know their role. We understood that if you are not prepared for the enemy or other hazards that present themselves, you have a far greater chance of being injured – or worse.

The Link to Utility Safety
You may be asking yourself, what does any of this have to do with utility safety? Each day on construction worksites, we are essentially going into battle, potentially being confronted with many enemies and hazards. We may be working on a highway near drivers who may not be paying attention to our safety vests and barricades. We may be working in an energized substation with voltages ranging from 12 kV to 765 kV. We may be in a trench installing underground distribution or transmission lines while working near other hazards such as natural gas lines, water mains and sewer lines. We may be in a manhole with the potential for unhealthy air or traffic above, both the foot and vehicular varieties. We may be supervising a pilot who is carrying a lineman hanging by a rope off the bottom of a helicopter or setting a 340-foot transmission tower. The work we perform is hazardous, just like a battle. I would argue that most of us can name a fallen brother or sister within the utility industry, and if that is the case, we likely have pondered the events that led up to those tragedies and what could have been done differently.

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Jared Rumm, CUSP, GSP, Roger Timmons, CHST, and Kent Fogelberg, COSS

Near-Miss and Good-Catch Reporting

An employee using a GFCI-protected extension cord had to push the reset several times to get the cord to work. The cord reset finally held, and he finished his task and returned the cord to the tool room. A few days later, another employee – using the same GFCI-protected cord – noticed the GFCI breaker on the cord was warm. He also had trouble keeping the cord from tripping when he plugged it in. The cord reset finally held, and the employee finished his task and returned the cord to the tool room. Within days, a third employee selected that same defective cord from the tool room. When he plugged it in, the GFCI module on the cord flashed in his hand. He received a shock and flash burn, resulting in his death.

Few people would imagine that an extension cord reset issue could rise to the level of a fatal event, but that precisely illustrates the value of a strong near-miss and good-catch program. Unusual events prompt reports and out-of-service orders, maintenance or repairs, preventing potential incidents.

“Near Miss” and “Good Catch” Defined
Before we go any further, let’s define “near miss” and “good catch.”  

A near miss is an event during which no property is damaged and no personal injury is sustained, but where – given a slight shift in time or position – damage and/or injury easily could have occurred. For example, let’s say an employee grabs a 3/4-inch drill motor with a paint-mixer blade from a gang box. Previously, someone had removed and bypassed the switch. When the employee plugs it in, the drill motor starts unexpectedly, and the mixing blade causes the unattended drill motor to bounce wildly around the work-area floor. 

A good catch is recognition by an employee of a condition or situation that had the potential to cause an incident but did not cause one due to corrective action and/or timely intervention by the employee. For example, a good catch occurs when an employee inspects a piece of electrical equipment prior to use and notices damage or an unusual condition, which prompts him to immediately tag the equipment out of service.

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Hubert Hayes, CHST, CUSP, MESH

Managing Stress in the Workplace

I’ve worked in the electrical industry for more than 40 years, and the work has pretty much stayed the same. We set poles and towers, string conductor, build stations, dig trenches and install conductor in the ground the same way we did years ago, aside from some new tools and technology that have been introduced. The weather conditions we faced back then are pretty much the same, although maybe it’s a little warmer now. And we still get called out to work at all hours of the day and night, weekends and holidays included.

Families are still intact and function the same way they always have. Your loved ones still miss you, need you and rely on you coming home every day, safe and sound. Companies have rules about employees being fit for duty that mainly focus on our physical fitness. For instance, are we clear of alcohol, drugs and anything else that would affect our ability to safely perform our duties? Are we well-rested, fed and hydrated? If we are switching from the day shift to the night shift, have our sleep patterns adjusted so we can be alert on the job?

Somewhere along the line, however, something has changed. The demands on our employees have increased significantly. More than ever, the work moves and so do our workforces, from state to state and region to region. Paperwork has increased, and some of it must be filled out daily or even hourly. On top of that, it’s likely a monthly recap – filled with information you’ve already turned in several times before – also is a requirement. Time constraints are getting greater and greater, with little to no ability to employ scheduled outages because the country revolves around their power staying on 24/7. In addition, as our most skilled employees are promoted to fill leadership roles, they face new pressures and challenges. And as those people are promoted, there is a smaller pool of qualified people willing to put sweat equity into a job that many of them view differently than we did years ago.

So, what is one major result of all these changes within our industry? Stress.    

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Jerry Havens, COSS

3 Safety Considerations for Cold Weather Work

Cold weather safety is a topic that should be discussed at length among utility workers who perform any outdoor job functions. That’s because, as with heat stress, cold stress can be a fatal threat. When you’re exposed to freezing temperatures for long periods of time, you run the risk of losing a dangerous amount of body heat, which, if not corrected immediately, could lead to frostbite, hypothermia and even death. There are a number of things to think about prior to and when working in the cold, and while we won’t talk about all of those things in this month’s Tailgate Topic, we’ll cover three of the most important items: dressing properly, staying hydrated and eating right, and keeping an eye on your co-workers.

1. Dress Properly
The golden rule for winter weather preparation is to dress in layers. One of the biggest problems with working in the cold is getting too warm and sweaty. If it’s a cold and windy day, hypothermia can begin within just a few minutes. So, layering is key. Here are some layering basics:

  • Layer 1 (base layer): Wear a light, long-sleeved base layer close to your skin. Thinner layers wick sweat better and dry faster.
  • Layer 2 (mid-layer): This layer also should be a thin layer. Wool is a good choice; not only is it warm, but it will retain most of its warmth when wet. There are some fantastic flame-resistant wool garments currently on the market.
  • Layer 3 (heat trap): This should be a zippered jacket with a hood – hooded zip-up sweatshirts are most commonly used for this layer.
  • Layer 4 (outer shell): Choose a waterproof but breathable fabric, and make sure the garment is large enough to fit over all of the other layers.
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