Tailgate Safety Topics

Tailgate Safety Topics
Tailgate meetings are a critical communication component of any strong utility safety program. Incident Prevention supplies the utility industry with topics for these important meetings. Each article can be printed out for use in the field or emailed to your crews.
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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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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, CUSP

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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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, CUSP, 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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Will Schnyer, CUSP

Snubbing to Steel Lattice Structures: Lessons Learned

In the fall of 2010 I participated as an incident investigation board member to determine why a light-duty steel lattice structure collapsed, resulting in an injury. Shortly after this accident took place, our investigation team met with and interviewed the crew members who were at the work site that day. One crew member in particular still remains firmly embedded in my memory. During his interview he was very emotional while he described the sequence of events that led to the collapse of the steel lattice structure and the injury to his co-worker. He ended his testimony by stating, “Please tell me what happened. I don’t know what happened. I’d like to know what happened.” We left the interview assuring the crew member that we would find out what had happened.

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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 (www.m-w.com) 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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David Bowman

Culture Eats Programs for Breakfast

I was part of a recent training session during which a gentleman from a petroleum refinery made the following statement: “Our culture will eat any program you have for breakfast.” That was such a spot-on comment.

If we believe that one more program is going to fix our organizational safety and efficiency problems, we might be sadly mistaken. We waste far too much time and money on programs to correct specific problems rather than looking more broadly at culture and behavior.

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Michael J. Getman, CUSP, MBA

Job Briefing for One

A lot of safety training is focused on the individual operating in a crew setting, but there are many employees who work alone. How is their safety training different? If you answered that their safety training is not and should not be different, you are correct. However, their work environment is different from a crew’s work environment because they must rely solely on themselves to stay safe. Staying safe on the job requires constant vigilance by every employee, which includes utilizing the best practice of performing a detailed job briefing, tailboard or toolbox talk before starting work.

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

The Perils of Distracted Driving

Numerous studies have shown that cellphone use while driving distracts drivers and reduces their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. While there are other driving distractions such as screaming children, flashing billboards and eating, the focus of this Tailgate Topic is distracted driving due to cellphone use.

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Mike Caro, CUSP

Distributed Generation Safety for Lineworkers

Distributed generation (DG) is also referred to as on-site generation, dispersed generation, embedded generation, decentralized generation, decentralized energy, distributed energy and district energy. Its definition varies slightly from source to source, but for lineworkers, DG is anything that generates power, is connected to the grid and is not part of the normal generating system of whomever we are working for at the time.

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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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Phillip B. McGee, CUSP

Wood Pole Inspection and Testing

Even before OSHA created 29 CFR 1910.269 Appendix D, “Methods of Inspecting and Testing Wood Poles,” it seems likely that pole inspection was a rule of thumb for many field employees. After all, they set poles and repeatedly climbed them to handle upgrades, maintenance, wood rot and decay.

Today, given OSHA regulations and the fact that pole testing and inspections are not difficult to perform, it would also seem likely that workers would adhere to these practices. Unfortunately, some employees don’t inspect a pole at all before climbing. Others believe they can easily comply with regulations by merely rapping a pole several times with a hammer prior to ascending. They have been incorrectly taught by other climbers that it’s sufficient to rap a pole and listen for a hollow sound.

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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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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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John Morton, CUSP

Electrical Capacitors in AC Circuits

In this month’s Tailgate, we will discuss the functions of a capacitor in an alternating current (AC) circuit, including charge and discharge, applications and connections in power circuits, and capacitor safety.

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