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Utility Worksite Safety Articles

Ty Fenton and Chuck Kevwitch

Building an ATV/UTV Training Program for Utilities and Contractors

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Utility task vehicles (UTVs) and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are quickly becoming the preferred motorized equipment for lineworkers to use to access difficult terrain for necessary inspection and repair of infrastructure. And although they are exceptionally capable, these vehicles – identifiable by their large off-road tires, relatively small size and light weight – pose certain challenges for both utilities and contractors who wish to use them on job sites. For starters, some workers use these types of vehicles in their personal lives for various outdoor recreational activities. However, when they are deployed in a professional setting, many of the rider’s habits and rules of operation must change.

Safety One Training, the company we work for, was recently tasked with implementing an industrial training program for a West Coast contractor that complied with a utility company’s training requirements. From the outside, it appears that ATV/UTV training can be complex and challenging to implement, but based on our experience, there are typically three broad categories that need to be addressed before these vehicles can be used on the job site: when to choose these machines, operator training requirements, and machine capabilities and limitations.

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Derek Sang and Scott Margolin

FR/AR Clothing Considerations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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In 29 CFR 1910.132, OSHA clearly states that personal protective equipment and appropriate training are required for individuals working in utilities, electrical petroleum, oil and gas exploration, and other industries where there is a danger of being injured by arc flash or flash fire. What’s not so clear to safety professionals is how things have changed with regard to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the information that has been disseminated over the past year or so is incomplete, misleading or just flat-out wrong.

So, what do you need to know and what questions should you be asking your FR/AR clothing and other PPE providers? That’s what we intend to help you with in this article, and please feel free to reach out to us if you have other questions or concerns that aren’t addressed here.

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Marilyn M. Velez, MPH

Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.

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Members of the OSHA Georgia Struck-By Alliance and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia Inc. (AGC Georgia) will join thousands of employers and workers during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which takes place April 26-30. This year’s theme is “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. Everyone plays a role in work zone safety.”

NWZAW is an annual campaign sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to raise public awareness about the need to drive safely in work zones. The campaign is held at the start of the highway construction season and draws attention to the safety of road workers as well as motorists.

The Georgia Struck-By Alliance encourages participants to recognize NWZAW by conducting safety stand-downs at their job sites. During a safety stand-down, all work is stopped for 30 minutes to one hour and a focused safety meeting on one specific topic is provided. AGC Georgia explained that “these types of meetings provide effective communication of safety policies, goals and expectations through all levels of a team.” They recommend that participants conduct toolbox talks, perform safety equipment inspections, develop rescue plans or discuss job-specific hazards during their safety stand-downs.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Minimum Approach Distances: What’s Required?

Let’s kick off this article with a definition of what “MAD” means in the utility sector – and it does not mean that we’re upset with you. The word is actually an acronym that stands for minimum approach distance, which is the calculated safe working distance that provides worker protection when working on or in the vicinity of energized lines and equipment.

As with other articles in this series, we must begin with the hazard. Remember, if you always begin by identifying the hazard, then the application of the OSHA standard becomes somewhat simplified. The hazard here is electricity that could result in electric shock or electrocution. Considering the consequences of the hazard, de-energization should remain the best safe work practice. When de-energization is not feasible, the hazard must be effectively controlled to provide a safe work environment. MAD has been developed to give workers a calculated safe working distance that will provide personal safety and operational security during energized line maintenance or while working in the vicinity of other energized lines. OSHA refers to MAD as “the closest distance a qualified employee may approach an energized conductor or object.”

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Steve Nash

Fire Extinguisher Use and Safety for Utility Workers

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Officer George Brentar, a 22-year veteran of the Euclid, Ohio, police force, died October 10, 2007, when his car skidded into a pole and caught fire on an entrance ramp to Interstate 90. Officer Brentar had spotted a speeding motorist and was attempting to catch up to the vehicle when his car hydroplaned. The right rear end hit a pole and the car immediately burst into flames, with Officer Brentar trapped inside.

If your job has you on the road much of the time, as it sometimes does in the utility industry, there always exists the possibility that you may come upon such a horrific accident. And if you are like me, you hope to be well-prepared and properly equipped to help ensure a more favorable outcome. A trained person with a fire extinguisher and seat-belt cutter could have made a difference in Officer Brentar’s life that day.

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Rating Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

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Employees who interact with electrical equipment and electrical installations may be exposed to electrical shock and arc flash hazards. A previous two-part article titled “Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities” (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities and https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities-part-ii) discussed the electrical hazard identification and risk assessment. If the employer has taken steps to reduce the risk of injury or death from electrical hazards but is unable to eliminate the hazard, then OSHA requires the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). For electrical hazards, both dielectric (insulating) and arc-rated (thermal) PPE is required. This article discusses some of the ASTM International and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for arc flash-related PPE. Many ASTM standards have equivalent International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. These standards reference the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, and so forth. While no one standard may claim superiority over another, it is a best practice to ensure that products meet the local performance specifications. Nearly all North American labs that work with arc-rated (AR) PPE are geared toward performing both local and international testing.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Why are Job Briefings and Risk Assessments Important?

When you hear the term “job briefing,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a meeting, a form to fill out or maybe even a complete waste of time? How we perceive job briefings has a huge impact on how we complete them. Per OSHA, job briefings are required to be completed before each job; however, for us to perform them effectively, it is critical that we understand the intent behind that requirement.

What Needs to be Covered?
A job briefing is intended to be used as part of the planning process to accomplish a job both safely and successfully. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(c)(2) requires that the following topics be covered, at minimum, during a briefing: hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions, energy-source controls and personal protective equipment requirements. All of these elements are essential to safely plan for the work that is to take place. By design, job briefings encourage us to slow down and think about the job we are about to perform. When we take time to think, we begin to identify desired outcomes as well as elements that can contribute to undesired outcomes.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

What are OSHA’s Training Requirements?

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In our first article in this series (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/when-osha-electric-power-safety-standards-apply), we discussed how to apply OSHA’s electric power standards. This article will review OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V training requirements relating to qualified and unqualified employees.

To determine training requirements, you must first ask the question, are my employees exposed to electric power system hazards? If so, the training portion of the OSHA electric power standards should apply.

OSHA requires all employees to be trained in the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and emergency procedures that pertain to their job assignments. This includes employees performing covered work, as discussed in the first article of this series, and employees who access areas restricted to qualified employees in order to perform nonelectrical work.

Examples of employees who access restricted areas include an employee spraying herbicide around underground enclosures, a warehouseman delivering substation equipment inside an energized substation, and a maintenance employee replacing “Danger” signs inside an energized substation. Each of these nonelectrical employees has potential electrical hazards and risks associated with their job tasks that must be identified. Unfortunately, nonelectrical employees are many times exposed to unknown electrical hazards, such as step and touch potentials they do not know exist, which emphasizes the importance of effective training.

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Michael Stremel, CUSP

Are You Using Your Five Senses to Stay Safe?

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All of us have experienced mishaps in our daily lives, both at home and at work. An accident typically is defined as an unwanted incident occurring unexpectedly and unintentionally, usually resulting in damage or injury.

In our work lives, proper training develops our mindset as well as our knowledge. Increasing our knowledge allows us to identify known hazards and to recognize unknown hazards. Training value is understood and incorporated into workplace law. OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to furnish to each of their employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In addition, each employee shall comply with OSHA rules, regulations and orders that are applicable to their own actions and conduct. We assure employees can follow the law by training them with the necessary knowledge and intangible tools to make them more effective.

The job hazard analysis or job briefing is an effective tool for identifying hazards. A job briefing is required by OSHA rules that employers and employees must abide by (see 29 CFR 1910.269(c) for general industry and 1926.952 for construction). The briefing is an intangible tool that uses recognition and reasoning through knowledge and experience. Here is where the human brain is leveraged to be successful. Guidance from OSHA requires that a job briefing discuss hazards associated with the job; the work procedures involved; special precautions; energy-source controls; and personal protective equipment requirements.

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Alden B. Davis

I’ve Got Your Back: Lessons in Socio-Biomimicry

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Creating a safety mindset and a culture of caring can be facilitated using the process of socio-biomimicry. Simply put, biomimicry is a way to solve engineering and other problems by looking to nature. The term was popularized in 1997 by Janine M. Benyus in her book, “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.”

Nature can also be used to inspire a fresh look at social systems and how other life groups manage safety. I developed the Safe-ari process of socio-biomimicry to solve a client’s problem of fading situational awareness. Fourteen learning points on situational awareness were distilled from safari photos – some of which we’ll take a look at in this article – and woven into employee meetings. In one representative session with a group of 48 people, using pre- and post-surveys with the Likert scale (1-7 rating) plus comments, the following results were delivered:

  • 30% improvement in understanding what situational awareness means
  • 90% improvement in listing three situational awareness concepts
  • 40% improvement in helping other people think about their own awareness
  • 50% improvement in comfort of leading a toolbox talk on situational awareness
  • 90% improvement in generating a year’s worth of situational awareness topics
  • 50% improvement in listing three ways people are not situationally aware
  • 50% improvement in knowing how to incorporate situational awareness into daily actions

Results such as these suggest that socio-biomimicry is a successful methodology for raising safety consciousness and creating touch points for easy recall of safety messages.

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Jace Kerby

Safety Success During an Insulating Boom Flashover

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Salt River Project, or SRP, is a power utility located and operated in the greater Phoenix area. Created as part of the federal Reclamation Act of 1902, it was originally established to help secure a reliable water source to the desert valley. Today, SRP not only provides reliable water – it also supplies reliable power to over 1 million customers, operating and maintaining all of its own assets, including generation, transmission and distribution.

The utility has a successful 500-kV barehand/live-line program that dates back to the late 1970s. In the fall of 2018, SRP experienced a boom flashover event during preparation for 500-kV barehand work. The procedures the utility had developed over the history of its barehanding program, and the crew’s careful execution of those procedures, saw everyone return home unharmed on the day of the incident.

Safety procedures sometimes are developed following an injury or incident that may have occurred a long time ago. In our industry, we often adhere to procedures without having personally witnessed why they exist. The 2018 event is one case where we got to see up close and personal why SRP’s safety procedures are so valuable. We have a very tight-knit group where you don’t just know the crew members; you know their families, too. Our safety culture exists in service to a broader community.

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Roger Crom and Jim Olson, P.E.

Best Practices for Using Your Aerial Device Jib to Handle Transformers

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When it comes to lifting transformers, aerial devices equipped with jibs are one of the handiest tools available to lineworkers. Compared to old methods for transformer replacement – which required workers to climb the pole and use a pulley to manually lift the transformer – using a jib is safer, easier and more productive.

Most aerial devices sold to companies in the utility industry are equipped with jibs. However, not all jibs are the same, and the user should evaluate the type of work to be done when choosing the equipment for the job. Consider whether the tasks are construction or maintenance work on distribution or transmission lines. Before dispatching to the job, workers should know how the lines are situated relative to where the vehicle can be located. In addition, the weight of the load will determine the capacity of the aerial device and jib needed.

In the remainder of this article, we will provide an overview of the four key areas that inform good practice for using jibs: knowing your equipment, inspecting your equipment, knowing the load and understanding proper setup.

Know Your Equipment
There are many different styles of jibs with varying capacities available on different boom and platform configurations, including side mount, underslung, end mount and jibs that rotate with the platform. There also are fixed-length jibs, jibs that can be manually re-pinned to provide various extensions, and jibs with one or more sections that are hydraulically extendable. Some units are designed with the load line above the jib boom and some are below. Other jibs are equipped with sheaves that allow only non-overcenter lifting, while some can do either overcenter or non-overcenter lifting.

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Derek Sang, CSHEP, QSSP

Mother Nature vs. FR/AR Clothing

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The company I work for receives a lot of questions about flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing, including inquiries about what should be worn on extremely hot summer days and very cold winter days. We’re always happy to answer those questions because it’s our business and – in the electric utility industry – donning FR/AR apparel often is necessary for workers’ personal safety.

The fact is, extreme weather doesn’t appear to be stabilizing anytime soon. Both NASA and the American Meteorological Society have predicted that we can expect both more intense and more frequent heat and cold events across the country in the coming decades, with implications for both indoor and outdoor workers.

Given that information, it’s important that workers know what heat stress and cold stress are and what those types of stress can do to their bodies. So, let’s discuss some definitions of heat and cold stress, what can contribute to them, and what employers and workers can do to address them – including participating in a strong FR/AR clothing program. 

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Eric M. Fell

Working in Switchgear Cubicles Just Got Safer

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All of us who work with electricity know how hazardous it can be. During a stint with my previous employer, a co-worker and good friend was electrocuted and killed when he made contact with energized switchgear components. Another co-worker at the company also was seriously injured. Safety is always a part of our job; it’s something we talk about and practice every day, but given what happened to my two former co-workers, I felt that more needed to be done to establish a zero-accident workplace – more than just job briefings, using human performance tools and “living safely.” When it came to working with switchgear, it was necessary to develop a tangible safety device that could be paired with work practice improvements.

Several years later, after starting my current employment at Con Edison – a regulated utility that provides electric, gas and steam service to customers in New York City and suburban Westchester County – a simple request to pursue a solution prompted an effort to reform switchgear work practices. The result has made those practices both safer and more efficient – not just at Con Edison, but potentially for the industry.

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Luis Ortega, CUSP

Take Your Time and Follow the Rules – Or Pay the Price

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The last time we met Bob the foreman and his crew, they saved the day when a vehicle hit a utility pole on a busy roadway in Safety County, New York (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/safety-concerns-when-setting-wooden-utility-poles).

These days, Bob and his crew are still in action, working for Sunshine Electric Co. At Sunshine, following company safety rules and industry best practices is as normal as breathing air. On this particular day, we find Bob prioritizing the unending string of planned field work assigned to his crew. His first priority for Sunshine’s customers is the list of new services and reliability jobs. As a supervisor, he also has priorities for the safety of his crew. But that’s not all. Because of his training, he knows that safety compliance to protect his employer is another one of his responsibilities as a supervisor. That is a lot of responsibility, but Bob and his crew were safely trained by Sunshine, and Bob has communicated his expectations to the crew for their safety.

Bob selects a job from the list that involves installing a new transformer on a replacement pole. The existing pole is too short to accommodate the additional facilities that must be attached, including the new transformer to feed a customer’s premises. A new, taller pole must be installed. Bob gathers his crew and explains what the job is all about. He then releases the paperwork so that the linemen can gather the new pole and all the other materials necessary for the job. He will meet them on-site in a little bit.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Are You Taxing the Variables?

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Planning is a critical part of our work in the electric utility industry. Inevitably there will be unknowns in each plan we put together; the more variables there are, the less control you have over your intended outcomes. So, it’s worth spending the time to identify and address those unknowns. In the remainder of this article, we will cover how to identify the critical elements and variables in your projects as well as how to weigh the consequences of those variables to help ensure the best possible outcomes for your plans.

A friend of mine who is a psychologist once shared a story from her childhood with me. She said that whenever she had a plan for something that appeared overly complicated, her father would say, “Be careful – you are taxing the variables!”

What did my friend’s father mean by that? To put it simply, taxing the variables occurs when there are too many variables that depend upon the success of other parts of your plan. Let’s say you have to check in for a flight at the airport. The flight leaves at 7:30 a.m. Boarding begins at 6:30 a.m. You live two hours from the airport and want to arrive two hours before departure. Leaving your house at 3:30 a.m. should get you there at 5:30 a.m., so you set the alarm on your cellphone for 2:30 a.m. That plan sounds simple enough, right? But what are some of the unknowns in the situation, those variables that may arise and interfere with your plan? For starters, the battery in your car has been a bit weak lately and it’s going to get very cold later today. Will your car start when you need to leave for the airport? You set the alarm on your cellphone for 2:30 a.m., but did you remember to put the phone on the charger, too, so that the battery doesn’t die? Oh, you just remembered it’s also a holiday weekend. Is two hours still sufficient to make it to the airport, or should you factor in extra driving time because of traffic concerns?

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Dennis Childress

When OSHA Knocks

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Les Prudent was sitting at his desk on a Monday morning, savoring a cup of coffee and reflecting on his solar farm transformer company’s crazy year of growth. From four people three years ago, the company now employs 112. A friend from a local business group recently suggested Les hire a full-time safety coordinator, but he’s been comfortable handling those matters on his own. He just put some of those “Safety First” posters on the fabricating area’s walls. That should do it.

His wife, Linda, who is also the company’s office and accounting manager, just stuck her head in the door and said, “Les, there’s a man here from OSHA. He says there’s been a complaint and he wants to conduct an investigation.”

Shocked, Les wonders who could have complained. He remembers what his buddy Frank told him about OSHA’s visit to his plant. Frank hadn’t done anything wrong, but they still fined him thousands of dollars because one of his employees slipped and fell from a truck bed. Isn’t that why he carries workers’ compensation insurance? Anyway, Frank said he’d never let OSHA back into his plant without a warrant.

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Jim Willis, CMAS, CHS-V

Using Situational Awareness to Enhance Field Security

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Recently I was on a conference call during which a client and I discussed aggression aimed at the client’s line crews and service technicians. As I hung up, I came to the realization that hostility toward utility workers isn’t a passing storm – it’s a bellwether of change in the public attitude. Aggression directed at utility workers is a critical issue that we must deal with effectively before more people are hurt.  

The truth is, a growing number of people no longer see investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities as benevolent service providers. Instead, they see adversaries who are blocking access to service entitlements and ruining the environment. Much of this growing animosity is aimed at utility office staff and field crews. In fact, the client that I was speaking with on the conference call I mentioned had seen a significant jump in the number of threats to their field employees, and they were looking for ways to mitigate the hostility and keep the workers from harm. As we talked, the need for sharper skills in identifying and responding to threats became evident. The client and I decided to move toward that goal, starting with awareness and baseline training.

What is Situational Awareness?
Awareness – or more precisely, situational awareness – is the foundation of effective security. Today, there are as many approaches to situational awareness training as there are security trainers. The problem for utilities is determining which training technique and which trainer to use, but we’ll get to that issue a little later. First, we’re going to talk about what situational awareness is and why we need a baseline of what’s normal in our specific working environment.

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Jeff Steiner

The Safe Use of Outrigger Pads for Equipment Stability

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An outrigger pad is a safety tool that can be used with any equipment that has outriggers, down jacks or stabilizers. It is a must for stability when a piece of equipment – such as a crane – lifts loads or personnel aloft. This article will provide an overview of outrigger pads, including how to use them safely and what kinds of pads are available on the market today.

The Basics
Outrigger pads are placed on the ground under the equipment’s outrigger, shoe, float or foot. The size and thickness of the outrigger pads to be used should be selected based upon the type of equipment, soil conditions of the work site and type of lift being performed.

When working with outrigger systems, it’s important to understand that the point of contact between an outrigger and the ground is quite small. Because of the pressure of the outrigger, the ground underneath may shift, be displaced or collapse if an outrigger pad is not used. If any of those things happen, there is the potential for the equipment to shift or tip the load, which could lead to the equipment toppling over. In fact, approximately half of crane lifting accidents are caused by improper use of outriggers.

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Guest — Chris Bluethman
Does anyone make some type of sensor where machine won't operate unless outriggers are completely down?
Thursday, 23 July 2020 15:33
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Mark Werndorf, CUSP

Emergency Response Training for Electric Utility Workers

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In my 40 years of electric utility experience, I have investigated and documented dozens of work-site incidents that required immediate emergency medical response from a crew. One pattern has become clear after debriefing workers who have rendered assistance at a scene: Workers who responded well to rescuing their co-workers used effective communication and competent delivery of job-site first aid, including CPR. Time and again, nearly all workers involved in successful emergency responses said, “I was just doing what I was trained to do.”

Looking back on the history of the electric utility industry, competent emergency responses have not always occurred. In the late 1970s through the early 1990s, the utility I worked for suffered a series of fatal and serious accidents. Most were electrical contacts, but the list also included arc thermal exposures, falls from poles and traffic accidents. With each incident, we learned about the value of providing appropriate emergency training for the work performed as well as the value of refining our annual emergency response training drills.

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