Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Aviation for Power-Line Applications

It was a little over 40 years ago that a Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot in Florida made the first live-line contact with a live transmission circuit, bringing a quantum leap for power-line applications using helicopter methods. The FAA regulates what they call “rotorcraft” work with specific qualifications for pilots, flight crews and the airships and auxiliary equipment used.

Many utilities and contractors think helicopters – or HCs, in flyers’ lingo – are for use on difficult projects because of the expense. But I have been working with contractors for the last 15 years who recognize the value of HCs in construction and use them as often as possible. An hour of HC time may cost the same as the monthly rental of a bucket truck, but when you can clip, space, dame and ball 20 times the structures in a day over bucket access, the expense really makes sense. I also am aware that some contractors and utilities think HC use raises risk. I know that some utility clients prohibit HCs on their properties while others actively assist their contractors by prequalifying HC companies.

The primary use of HCs has been to string rope or, in some cases, hard-line for pulling wire in transmission construction using HC blocks. These blocks are equipped with a spring-loaded gate at the top of the frame. The gate has extensions that guide the rope into the sheave, provided the pilot is good enough. It looks easier than it is. Since Mike Kurtgis of USA Airmobile put his ship on a hot line in Florida, skid and rope-suspended work, inspection and insulator washing have continued to advance as accepted work practices. The FAA refers to working from a skid or rope (short haul) as “human external load,” or HEL. By some it is called the most dangerous work method in the line industry. In fact, even the FAA has a sense of humor about it, as noted in their wording of a safety requirement in the HEL rules. In guidance document FSIMS 8900.1, Vol. 3, Ch. 51, the FAA provides examples of the types of persons that can be carried on an HC skid – they include movie camera operators and clowns as two of those examples. We always assumed that the lineman with the nerve to work from the skid was not the camera operator.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Training and Verification Requirements for the Safety of Electric Utility Workers

A number of years ago I investigated a pole-top flash that took place during a transfer. The flash occurred when an improperly installed blanket left a dead-end flange exposed on the backside of the metal pole-top. During untying, the tie-wire contacted the exposed flange. No one was hurt. The issue was the lineman’s selection and installation of the blanket. The foreman assumed the lineman was experienced and competent to perform the three-phase transfer with minimal instruction. The problem was the lineman had spent the last several years on a service truck, had little transfer experience and had never worked a steel distribution pole. The foreman’s assumption was based on the fact that the lineman came from the IBEW hall. Even though they had never met, he assumed the lineman was sufficiently experienced – and so the root cause for the incident was established.

Training and verification of training for new, already-trained employees is another subject that has caused headaches for those professionals charged with OSHA training compliance and the employer liability that goes with it. OSHA, just like CanOSH, the agency’s Canadian counterpart, knows that training plays a huge role in incident prevention. It should be obvious that training prevents incidents, but the investigation of incidents across the continent proves that is not so. I have long said that the quality of your safety program and all of the component procedures, rules and policies that go with it, no matter how innovative and well-written, are only as good as the training you provide to the workforce. A safety program is supposed to protect the workforce first and the employer second. How can that happen if the workforce doesn’t know what’s in the program? And if the workforce doesn’t know what’s in the program, how does the employer expect the safety program to protect the employer?

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Addressing Common Fall Protection Questions and Concerns

To begin this article, I want to offer a disclaimer. One of the reasons the “Train the Trainer 101” series was created is to examine the practical aspects of compliance as they relate to the utility industry. We do that by reading the statutes, looking at how OSHA interprets and enforces the rules, reviewing what the consensus standards state and then determining practical ways the employer can manage and comply with the rules. Sometimes I raise an eyebrow, but in working with the group of professionals who review every article published in Incident Prevention’s pages, we endeavor to ensure the advice given is not merely good but also compliant. With that said, in the following pages I am going to address some fall protection issues that iP has received many questions about in recent weeks. Several of them are driven by the latest OSHA final rule on walking and working surfaces, which contains some new language and expanded rules on fall protection.

Who is Responsible?
I get a lot of questions about fall protection that stem from a salesperson telling an employer they need to do a certain something in order to comply with OSHA. First, a nod to our partners in the industry: the vendors and manufacturers. They have done a great job meeting the needs of the employer by innovating, creating and often collaborating with the industry to get the tools we need into the field. Work with your vendors and manufacturer representatives, but be clear about your responsibilities in the relationship. Understand that there are no OSHA-approved devices for sale in any marketplace. OSHA does not approve equipment for manufacturers even though they may comment on a method of compliance if a written request is made by an employer. Even then, OSHA’s language to the employer often is something such as, “OSHA does not approve a particular device or piece of equipment, but the method you describe would meet the requirements of the standard.” And never forget that – no matter what the manufacturer’s rep says – you, as the employer, are ultimately responsible for how you comply with OSHA’s expectation. As I said, work with your vendors, but do your homework and educate yourself about the requirements. We aren’t just complying with standards – we’re protecting our employees and co-workers.

Common Misconceptions About Harnesses
I have often heard that you can’t arrest at the waist or chest. That is correct if you are truly arresting, which usually means the act of interrupting a fall from height by a personal fall arrest system attached to an anchorage limited to a distance of 6 feet. If you fall 6 feet, you must limit the fall arrest’s load, and the fall arrest’s load must be distributed across the body. That is why we use a full-body harness.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: The New Walking-Working Surfaces Final Rule

OSHA’s final rule on 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, “Walking-Working Surfaces,” is finally here. It’s 26 pages of nine-point font equaling 21,675 words, and I read them all. It’s big, and if you include the preamble in your analysis, it is also complicated. It was just as hard to write about as it was to read. I guess that shouldn’t be unexpected for a final rule that has been in the works since 1983. The original 1910 Subpart D was published in 1971. The first update was proposed in 1983, but it was never ratified. Proposals were again considered in either the Construction standard or the General Industry standard in 1990, 1994 and 2003. This edition of the final rule for 1910 Subpart D covers it all. OSHA should be congratulated for bringing almost all of the fall-related standards into one location, making it easier for the employer to find rules related to working surfaces under one subpart instead of having to search for those rules that may affect the employer’s workplace. This may be news to some novice safety professionals in the utility industry, but not all regulations affecting us are restricted to 1910.269 or 1926 Subpart V. Subpart D applies, so it is important to be familiar with it.

What’s New?
Preventing falls is almost the entire purpose of rules for walking-working surfaces. The surfaces are not always those spaces of aisles between walls. Most walking or working spaces in the workplace are not defined aisles; they are more likely to be incidental spaces about the work area. It is quite easy for those incidental spaces to be encumbered by tools, materials and process waste that create stumbling or tripping hazards. In addition, many of those working spaces are raised surfaces, from the tops of foundations to the tops of skyscrapers. That being the case, OSHA has brought into Subpart D the body of fall protection standards. You will now find a greatly expanded section on ladders; step bolts (towers) and manhole steps; scaffolds and rope descent systems (building maintenance); the duty to have fall protection; new and expanded requirements on fall protection equipment design; and some expanded language on the training of employees to recognize and prevent falls in the workplace.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

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

In the last installment of “Train the Trainer 101” (see http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/train-the-trainer-101-understanding-canine-behavior-for-the-protection-of-utility-workers), I provided information to help utility personnel understand, in part, why dogs do what they do. In particular, I addressed the pack mentality, dominant and submissive behaviors, and when and why a dog may feel threatened and try to attack. In the conclusion to this two-part article, I will explain how best to respond to unfamiliar dogs and what to do if you are attacked, as well as discuss breeds that are more commonly involved in biting incidents.

How to Respond to Unfamiliar Dogs
A dog’s response to a stranger will vary depending on whether he is with a handler or alone. When the dog is with a handler, remember what you know about the dog and human family relationship. The dog will respond to his handler’s actions as well as his own interpretation of an encounter with an unknown human. If you are the unknown human, speaking in casual tones to the handler, as well as the handler responding in a casual tone, will immediately set the dog at ease.

Workers in residential areas often are attacked by dogs who never posed a threat to people in the neighborhood. One reason behind this may be that workers focused on their task don’t exhibit the same mannerisms as visitors to the home or the people who frequent the property. This “unusual behavior” raises a dog’s suspicion and consequently his alertness level.

If you are walking toward a dog and his handler, stop a few feet away. If you are jogging or moving briskly, that may signal aggression to the dog. Stopping and allowing the handler and dog to approach you tends to reduce the dog’s alertness level.

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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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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Personal Grounding in Underground Work

Incident Prevention has been covering personal protective grounding (PPG) for many years. Most of the emphasis has been on overhead applications for transmission and distribution. Lately, however, iP and many consultants associated with the publication have been receiving more and more inquiries from utilities seeking to understand the issues related to PPG applications in underground.

Part of the issue with PPG is that, as I mentioned, most training and rules seem to coalesce around overhead applications. The majority of the written standards – both OSHA and consensus – are found in sections dealing with overhead scenarios. It’s anecdotal, but it seems that most of the injuries or accidents discussed in the industry are also related to overhead. Still, the OSHA standard has requirements for PPG that do not specify or exempt underground applications, such as 29 CFR 1910.269(n), “Grounding for the protection of employees.” Employers have recognized that the risks we are discovering related to current flowing in grounded systems exist in underground, too. As responsible employers, they are seeking information, and not all of the information out there is good.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Recommendations for Wire Stringing

In the last installment of “Train the Trainer 101,” we discussed grounding when stringing in energized environments (see http://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/train-the-trainer-101-grounding-for-stringing-in-energized-environments). Many readers responded with questions regarding the myriad issues they have faced during stringing. I learned a lot about this type of work during my first 25 years in the trade. In stringing hundreds of miles of conductor, I am proud to say I never dropped wire. I also have to say it’s most likely I have that record because I learned a great deal from other workers’ accidents. In fact, I am seriously afraid of dropping wire. Stringing incidents are some of the most dangerous in the trade, not only risking the lives and limbs of line personnel, but creating a serious risk to the public. Over the years I have heard of or investigated every kind of incident, including one in which a phase dropped during clipping, shearing off 26 side-post insulators before the carnage ended. Wire ended up across school driveways, shopping center parking lots and intersections. More than 40 cars suffered damage and dozens of people reported injuries. I’ve seen wire dropped across interstates and rivers, and it always happens at the worst time. You’d be surprised how much damage 1272 can do to a luxury boat. So, the remainder of this installment of “Train the Trainer 101” will focus on some recognized issues and tips that might help prevent future disasters when stringing goes bad.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Grounding for Stringing in Energized Environments

A few years ago I came upon a crew using 6-inch chocks to hold back a 38-ton crane truck. I told the crew I was happy that they were making an effort at compliance, but I had to ask them, “Why do we place chocks under a truck’s wheels? Is it to comply with our safety rules or to keep the crane from running away?” It was obvious to me that the short chocks would not hold the crane. The driver proved my assumption true a few minutes later. From the cab, with the transmission in neutral, he released the parking brake. The crane easily bounced over the chocks and, unfortunately, hit my pickup truck.

Sometimes I ask similar questions about grounds installed during stringing. That’s because it seems we do not pay as much attention to the value of grounding as we do to the perceived value of an act of compliance. Grounding during stringing plays a very important role in protecting workers; however, that’s only the case if we know why we are grounding and then install grounding so it does what we want it to do.

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