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Incident Prevention Magazine

Lee Marchessault, CUSP

Properly Securing Vehicle Cargo is Serious Business

Utility workers are required to receive electrical safety training on a variety of topics, including grounding, switching and tagging, de-energizing, live-line work, pole-top rescue and job briefings. Unfortunately, there are some training topics – like how to properly secure loads on vehicles – that are not always given the attention they deserve. For instance, when I first passed my commercial driver’s license test 25 years ago, I had to undergo training on proper inspection of commercial vehicles, physical limitations, record keeping and proper driving techniques. Part of the training discussion was about securing the load on a commercial vehicle, but not much emphasis was placed on its importance. As you and I well know today, properly securing cargo is serious business, and a failure to follow the rules may result in injuries, death and jail time.

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Guest — Laurie
Securing your cargo is extremely important for the safety of yourself and others as well. If you don't know how to properly secure... Read More
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 17:32
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David Bowman

Do Your Employees Know When It’s Time to Stop?

Have you ever reflected on the moment when an accident or injury occurred? During that period of reflection, did you think about the decisions you made that may have played a part in the incident? A common thread I have discovered among many incidents is that we sometimes make the choice to proceed with a certain step in a process or activity despite the fact that we are unsure of exactly how to safely and correctly do so.

In retrospect, we know the step is one that we obviously should not have taken. It’s that simple. Instead of moving forward, we should have stopped and asked, am I really sure about what I am about to do? Do I fully understand what is going to happen when I perform this step?

Far too often, we find ourselves in a place of uncertainty and talk ourselves into going ahead with an action. Based on various root cause evaluations I have reviewed over the past several years, it has become more evident that we are creatures of habit who want to accomplish our tasks without failure. It has also become clear that many organizations have not provided enough resources to thwart this and related issues. The root cause of an incident is found to be human error and we leave it at that. But what about organizational weaknesses, such as failing to identify the need for more specific guidance or to provide stop-work criteria?

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Preventing Worker Injury and Damage to Vehicle and Equipment Doors in High Wind Conditions

It will soon be that time of year when wind speeds increase all across the U.S. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wind speeds typically increase in January, peak throughout March and April, and decrease during the summer months. The increase in wind speeds creates high wind conditions that, if not properly planned for, can potentially result in worker injury and equipment damage on job sites.

Defining High Wind Conditions
High wind conditions are often a result of straight-line winds and are different from high winds caused by a tornado. Straight-line winds can occur any time of day or night, during thunderstorms or on perfectly sunny days. These types of winds are typically sustained winds from 10 to 40 mph that can suddenly gust up to 50 mph or more at any moment.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Mike Starner
I would add that aerial lifts have limitations in high winds. Utility companies should work with the manufacturer to identify a wi... Read More
Wednesday, 27 January 2016 06:54
Guest — Jason Wilson
I agree Mike. That would be a great addition to this article.
Wednesday, 27 January 2016 08:16
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Kelly Sparrow, J.D.

The 911 Dilemma

It’s happened to most of us. We’re at a job site and someone gets hurt. We’re not sure how badly the employee is hurt or if we should call 911. Sometimes when an incident occurs, we think it might be better to take the injured employee to a care facility rather than call 911 for emergency assistance. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, there are two simple guidelines to help you decide what to do. First and foremost, remember to do no further harm. If there is any chance that you could cause the employee additional injury by taking him or her to get medical care, call 911 for professional help at the job site. Second, there are three types of injuries that always necessitate medical personnel capable of advanced care. Always call 911 when any of the following are involved.

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Guest — Gary
I would add anytime someone complains of chest pains/hard to breath, injuries to eyes, and burns. Great articles for training.... Read More
Wednesday, 16 December 2015 09:49
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John Boley, CET, CHST, CUSP, and Jordan Hollingsworth, CHST, CSP, CUSP

Spotters: A Critical Element of Site Safety

Many OSHA regulations call for someone on the job site to make sure that people, equipment and the site don’t come together in the wrong way. Generally known as a “spotter,” this person provides guidance so people don’t get hurt and things don’t get damaged.

However, the role rarely gets the respect or attention it deserves. Most people think that being a spotter is an easy job that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower, so the task is often handed to the “low man” on the site, or assigned to someone who’s not particularly busy that day. Either way, the person performing the role gets little – if any – preparation or training.

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Michael J. Getman, CUSP, MBA

Coping With Industry Changes

“I really like change as long as it is happening to someone else.” Have you ever heard that old saying? Well, for quite some time we have been talking about certain changes making their way to our industry, and now they are finally here. As utility workers, we sometimes complain about changes in our work environment, especially some of the more recent ones. For example, take the new OSHA fall protection regulations. Now we can no longer free climb and must be secured to a wood pole from 4 feet off the ground.

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R. Neal Gracey

The Safety Coaching Observation Process

In the 1980s, my main job responsibility was “gin-setting” power poles in backyards and rights-of-way in Maryland. For those of you who are unfamiliar, a gin pole is a supported pole that serves as a lifting device; it has a pulley or block and tackle on its upper end to lift loads. Without the luxury of a boom truck, pole-setting was one of the most demanding activities in line work. Over my 37 years of setting poles, some days were more memorable than others. On one occasion, a pole had to be set behind a row house. Access to the work site was so limited that the only solution was to maneuver the pole through the front door of a home, down the hall and out the back door. It was a funny experience because as work was going on, the unit owner and her two children sat on the couch and watched TV, as if we weren’t there, until we finished.

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Recent Comments
Guest — Sam Bridges
Quality Stuff
Tuesday, 13 October 2015 12:37
Guest — Robert Baker
The experiences are sometimes the best teachers. The six steps are spot on!
Sunday, 01 November 2015 06:30
Guest — Bob
I like these steps. It's more than common sense. Common sense is a person's best thinking on his best day. Everybody has a bad day... Read More
Monday, 02 November 2015 13:34
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David Bowman

Human Performance and a Rat Trap

The rat trap is a fantastic combination of simplicity and efficiency. There isn’t much to it – just a wood pallet, a coiled spring, a latch and a bar – but the results are impressive. The rat trap we know today was originally patented in 1897 and has remained largely unchanged for more than a century for one reason: it works. However, the device comes with its own set of hazards for humans. The kinetic energy stored in the coiled spring is indiscriminate and comes at you in fewer than 0.004 seconds. Despite this fact, it’s easy to become complacent when handling a rat trap. The original patent called it the “Little Nipper,” which sounds almost harmless. In fact, the term “rat trap” is a little misleading since the intent is not to trap rats, but rather to kill them (I guess the name “Rat Spine Snapper” didn’t poll well with focus groups in the 1890s). The rat trap has a job to do, and it does it well, but not without risks. This is also true of many of the jobs utility safety professionals engage in every day; we do our best to execute them well, but they have their risks.

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Guest — Samuel Clemons
Amazing. Hard to believe one person could write such a great article. Well done sir.
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 14:05
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Mike Caro, CUSP

Distribution Switching Safety

Lineworkers face no shortage of hazards during the course of a day, but switching is among those that give me the most pause. Opening and closing circuits, tying circuits together, breaking loads, transferring loads, tying or breaking substations – if any of these procedures go wrong, the results can be catastrophic. And while it always pays to heighten your awareness while switching, it is especially important to do so during the summer. Air conditioners, pool pumps, fans and other appliances add load in hot weather that can make any switching operation more precarious. In addition, the heat itself can cause the equipment to become overloaded. Regardless of the loads involved, there are safety precautions that should be taken every time you are switching. If you follow these basic ideas, the process becomes much less likely to go awry.

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Jordan Hollingsworth, CHST, CSP, CUSP, and Joe Clady

The Most Important Tool on the Job Site

Utility workers should be familiar with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(c) and 1926.952, which require a job briefing before work begins. OSHA expects each briefing to include a discussion of hazards, work procedures, any special precautions, controls for energy sources and personal protective equipment needed for safe work.

Performing such briefings provides basic regulatory compliance, but taking an additional step significantly improves worker safety. Prudent electric power transmission and distribution providers and contractors require crews on their job sites to perform a task hazard analysis (THA) as part of the job briefing process. This approach is increasingly being recognized as a best practice for the industry.

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Will Schnyer

Thirty Years of Personal Perspective

Not long ago I ran into an old acquaintance I had not spoken to in more than 25 years. We shook hands and wondered aloud at where the last couple decades had gone. As we were reminiscing, my friend eventually asked what I do for a living. I told him that I’m currently a division maintenance manager for Western Area Power Administration. I also mentioned that, before becoming a manager, I had spent a good portion of my career as an IBEW electric utility distribution and transmission journeyman lineman and foreman.

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Guest — Michael J Getman CUSP
Great perspective Will and well put. If the truth be known you are not alone in the reason(s) for your attitude and behavior adjus... Read More
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 10:25
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Rey Gonzalez

The Power of Human Intuition

Some time ago, two of my students and I observed as two operators replaced fuses on a 6.9-kV electrical bus. Both operators were new to this task that had only recently been turned over to them from their company’s electrical department. When my students and I approached the bus from the front side, I noticed that it was energized. We started our observation in a bus cubicle where the breaker was racked out and de-energized. The operators replaced fuses in a compartment above the breaker cubicle without physically opening the breaker cubicle door, only the compartment above. This was accomplished using gloves for PPE. Once the task was completed, the operators went to the back side of the bus. They began to open the large back door of another breaker cubicle, and at that point the hair on my arms stood up and the little voice inside my head asked, “Isn’t that breaker cubicle energized? I don’t think this is the same breaker cubicle, and why are they doing this without arc protective gear?”

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Clifford Carroll, CUSP

Overhead Utility Hazards: Look Up and Live

“Look Up and Live” is a catchphrase used by a utility provider that I know of to educate the public about how to identify overhead utility hazards. However, the phrase isn’t just useful for members of the public. Given the number of overhead incidents that have occurred on utility-related jobs, “Look Up and Live” is a phrase that should be used by all utility companies and workers in order to encourage awareness of overhead hazards. In this month’s Tailgate, I will walk you through an overhead incident that recently occurred and discuss what can be done to avoid similar incidents in the future.

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Kelly Sparrow, J.D.

Safe By a Nose

Years ago I went to a horse-racing track with my co-worker Larry. Horse racing is his passion, so he spent hours choosing which horses he would wager on in the races that were on the slate that day. Larry taught me a lot about how the races work.

In a nutshell, the track establishes the line on each horse in a race by reviewing lineage and the relationship the horse has with its assigned jockey. They calculate how well each horse runs on a particular type of track, such as turf or dirt. They also consider track conditions. Does the horse run best in wet or dry conditions? Is the horse better at long distances or shorter ones? Additionally, they check the form of each horse in the race, including win-loss records, how the horse has interacted with other horses in the race and its record on different types of tracks.

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Richard J. Horan Jr., CSP, CUSP

Human Performance Tools: Important or Critical?

The critical steps of a work task are just that – critical. They are distinct from important steps and can cause immediate injury if not properly executed. If you research the definition of a critical step in relation to human performance, you will find that it is a human action that will trigger immediate, irreversible, and intolerable harm to a person or asset if that action or a preceding action is improperly performed. In other words, it’s basically the point of no return once the action is performed. On the other hand, many actions that you may need to take leading up to a critical step are important and should be recognized as such. Some examples of important steps include preparing for a task, verifying proper equipment to be worked on and selecting materials.

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Ron Joseph, CUSP

Safety and Common Sense

Almost everyone in the world has heard the term “common sense.” Merriam-Webster ( offers two definitions of the term:
1. Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
2. The ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.

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Steve Bryant, CUSP

PPE: Much More Than Basic or General Protection

A groundman was working his third day on the job for a utility construction crew that was building a new three-phase circuit. His task that day was pulling rope by hand between the poles in order to pull in the conductors. While walking between two poles, he realized that he’d forgotten to return a pair of pliers to the lineman who owned them. The groundman pulled the pliers out of his pocket, just to make sure he still had them, and proceeded to drop the pliers on the ground. Because he was standing in a field with hay that stood nearly waist high, the groundman didn’t see the green metal fence post as he quickly bent over to pick up the pliers. His safety glasses struck the hidden fence post directly over his left eye, with such force that the post cut a groove in the glasses as it slid up and hit the groundman’s forehead at his upper eyebrow. Fortunately, the safety glasses took the brunt of the impact, resulting in a minor injury that only required first aid, and the groundman’s tetanus shot was up-to-date.

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Nick Davey

A Key to Safety Performance Improvement

I have been intimately involved with safety in one form or another for my entire career. I became an electrician when I was a young man, spent a few decades in power plants as an engineer, held various management positions in the electric transmission and distribution field, and now act as a safety consultant. Over the years I have learned a great deal, and I want to share with you one of the most important lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

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Guest — Ronald Oloo
A very concrete article which vividly depicts the exact management view as far as safety is concerned. An insipirational article t... Read More
Friday, 20 June 2014 05:48
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Steve Hedden, CUSP

Are You Your Brother’s Keeper?

“I’m a big boy and I can take care of myself.” How many times have you heard this comment when observing and attempting to challenge risky behavior? Why do we hesitate to question someone else’s actions? And why don’t we listen to co-workers’ concerns? First, I believe we don’t want to deal with the confrontation, and second, we either don’t consider the consequences or we don’t believe the consequences will occur. Why else would we allow a crew member’s unsafe actions to continue?

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Michael J. Getman, CUSP, MBA

Improving Safety Through Communication

Recently we have heard about serious accidents and fatalities in our industry that have had a significant impact on the injured employees, their fellow workers, their family and friends, and virtually everyone else who knows them. These accidents should not have happened, and when we look at the events leading up to some of them, they could be described by the famous quote from “Cool Hand Luke”: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

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Guest — Scott
Friday, 13 June 2014 08:55
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