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Utility Worksite Safety Articles

Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP, MBA

Closing the Safety Gap

Closing the Safety Gap

The safety gap is that dimly lit space between what is and what should be, between the expectations set forth by your safety program and the actual work practices that take place on your work sites. Within that gap lurks all that we hope to avoid. As safety managers, one of our primary objectives is to close the safety gap by identifying and eliminating risk in our work environments. To do so, however, requires clarity. Without a thorough understanding of our risks, both historical and present, we are left with a static, generalized program that is not responsive to the dynamics of our work.

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Ken Palmer

Chainsaw Safety, Planning and Precision Felling Techniques

Chainsaw Safety, Planning and Precision Felling Techniques

Chainsaw operators have to be able to think on their feet and adjust to their surroundings. Accidents and injuries can be dramatically reduced, and productivity increased, when workers have the knowledge, training and skills they need to properly operate a chainsaw. In the following article – the second part of a three-part series – I will discuss a variety of components related to safely operating a chainsaw, including what operators need to know about PPE, body positioning and reaction forces. I will also detail a five-step felling plan used by chainsaw operators around the world that you can adopt for your company’s use.

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Guest — le trong linh
To know about chainsaw and its all features including safety measurements, this article is mostly suitable.
Friday, 17 April 2015 12:51
Guest — Olin Robinson
What a very helpful post with many useful information! When considering the safety of the chainsaw, users usually just pay attenti... Read More
Sunday, 09 August 2015 05:43
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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Substation Entry Policies

Every utility and every contractor that works for a utility should have a substation entry training program. These programs are primarily written for non-electrically qualified workers, but there are many line personnel who do not have substation training or who do not understand the risks inherent in a substation. Hazard awareness training for substation entry is necessary for anyone who enters electrical substations to perform work tasks. Following are some recommendations for the type of content that might be appropriate for an entry awareness program. This material may not be all-inclusive and some information may not apply to your stations. Most of this content is necessarily basic, but it is also suitable as pre-entry hazard review and training for experienced electrical workers.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

December 2014 Q&A

Q: In regard to work boots and arc flash protection, what does OSHA mean by “heavy-duty work shoes or boots” in 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(8)(v)(B)? Are boots made of synthetic material acceptable if they are work boots?

A: As with all OSHA rules, it is up to the employer to understand the risks and the necessary protections. In many cases the consensus standards give guidance that can be used to satisfy the OSHA standard. Even though NFPA 70E exempts utilities, OSHA has clearly used the NFPA as a source of material to assist utility employers in protecting employees, and the clothing standards in 70E may be a good place to start. NFPA 70E is not an adopted standard, but as OSHA stated in an October 18, 2006, letter to Michael C. Botts (see www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=interpretations&p_id=25540), “A national consensus standard … can sometimes be relevant to a general duty clause citation in the sense that the consensus standard may be used as evidence of hazard recognition and the availability of feasible means of abatement.” In Table (C)(10), NFPA 70E requires leather boots as needed.

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Jeff Court, CUSP

Photovoltaic Solar Safety Management for Utilities

Photovoltaic Solar Safety Management for Utilities

Most people who have worked in the electric utility industry are familiar with the safety concerns and applicable safety regulations associated with conventional nuclear and fossil electric power generation. Over the past several years, however, there has been an increase in the number of new generating facilities constructed across the U.S. that incorporate renewable technologies such as solar, wind and biomass. This article will provide a basic overview of one of these technologies – utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar – along with discussion of related safety considerations.

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Thursday, 11 December 2014 05:44
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Ken Palmer

The Risks and Rules of Chainsaw Operation

Welcome to the first in a three-part series about arborist safety. In the second and third parts of the series, we will take a look at tree-felling and cutting methods as well as storm response techniques for utility workers. This first article, however, will give readers a broad overview of chainsaw safety, including powerful statistics, reasons why chainsaw operators struggle to follow safe work practices, and the essential education and training for workers who engage in chainsaw-related activities.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Stringing in Energized Environments

Stringing wire in any environment can quickly go wrong. Dropped conductors can wreak havoc if precautions are not taken. In an energized environment, the result of losing control or dropping conductors has a greatly magnified risk.

Guard structures are the first type of protection conventionally used to prevent contact with energized lines. Ideally, guard structures are positioned so that whether it’s the unexpected loss of stringing tension or something as major as a dropped conductor, the conductor being pulled will not make contact with the energized lines. There are other requirements, too, one being non-automatic setting of breakers for the lines being crossed if it is not possible to de-energize and ground them.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Flame-Resistant Apparel is Now PPE

It’s official: Flame-resistant clothing is now considered PPE, and employers are required to furnish it to employees when there is a chance that they may be exposed to electric arcs or flames. This change has been a long time coming as the industry has been in limbo for years. A number of forward-thinking companies have been furnishing arc-rated FR clothing to their employees for some time, while others have waited for regulations to require them to do so. The company from which I retired as well as other large investor-owned utilities have uniform policies that incorporated arc-rated FR clothing years ago.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

October 2014 Q&A

Q: I can't seem to clarify what U.S. Department of Transportation hours-of-service rules apply to utility workers. Are we exempt from the rules?

A: The university studies and experience of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that prompted the hours-of-service rules do have some value to us as an industry with drivers. The data used to form the rules shows that fatigue affects performance. This is a model that can help us to establish safe practices with our drivers. However, there is good reasoning for exemptions when the work we do ensures electrical service for users that helps keep them safe and healthy. And because of this reasoning, there are utility exemptions for driver logs as well as hours of service, which include time behind the wheel as well as other work performed by a driver. By the way, FMCSA clarifies that when calculating hours of service, line work or any other work for the employer – including work not associated with driving – is classified as on-duty not driving time.

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Randi Korte, CUSP

SRP Rope Access Program Addresses Towers of Power

SRP Rope Access Program Addresses Towers of Power

You’re working 120 feet above the desert floor on a high-voltage transmission line. A crewmate slips out of part of his rigging and hits hard against the skeletal metal superstructure of the lattice tower. The work site is miles away from town and emergency first responders. Your crewmate dangles perilously, dazed and perhaps critically injured. What do you do?

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Hey dear, Thanks for your helpful post. We are also working on rope access.Global Rope Access operates in the world's most challen... Read More
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How can i get the job as a roper i am a level one with 2 year experience i have worked in a power station medupi
Thursday, 11 February 2016 14:01
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Jim Boyd, CUSP, and Craig Lohrey

Responding to Pole Fires

Responding to Pole Fires

From time to time, most utilities with high-voltage systems have to deal with the problem of pole fires. While causes vary, fires always affect system reliability by damaging facilities and resulting in outages. Worse, it is hard to define the risk to workers dealing with a pole fire, especially when the fire’s cause is not easily determined.

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Responding to pole fires requires the same caution and hazard analysis that the most hazardous electric trouble complaint requires... Read More
Monday, 27 October 2014 21:49
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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Fall Protection and the New Rule

With the publication of OSHA’s new final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, the fall protection rules have changed – somewhat. Both the general and construction industries have had fall protection rules in place since the advent of workplace safety rules, including the duty to have fall protection found in 1926.501. However, provisions specific to the industry have enabled utilities and their contractors to operate under fall protection exemptions for poles and similar structures. That is no longer the case.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: OSHA Eye and Face Protection Standards

In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” we will take a look at the wording in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.133, “Eye and face protection.” A review of this standard is a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of what OSHA requires of both the employer and employee in order to properly protect these vital body parts in the workplace.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

August 2014 Q&A

Q: Can a boom truck be used as a manhole rescue device? I’ve heard that OSHA rules prohibit boom truck use because the truck has too much force, resulting in greater harm to the employee in need of rescue.

A: There may be issues with a boom truck as a rescue device, but its use is not prohibited in the situation you mention. Based on the criteria for rescue, however, it’s possible that the use of a boom truck may not be your best option. Incident Prevention does not advocate this method nor any other particular method of rescue from a manhole, but we do make every attempt to give you the information you need to make the right decision.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

The Final Rule

We have been expecting it since 2005. It's here, and it's big. The OSHA final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V was announced April 1, popularly known as April Fools’ Day. The significance couldn't have been missed by those at the U.S. Department of Labor. Who says they have no sense of humor? The unofficial PDF version published April 1 has 1,607 pages. The official version – published April 11 in the conventional three-column Federal Register format – has a mere 429 pages. The final rule becomes effective July 10.

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Jim Phillips, P.E.

NFPA 70E Arc Flash Protection for Nonexempt Industry Workers

NFPA 70E Arc Flash Protection for Nonexempt Industry Workers

Editor’s Note: As defined in the scope of NFPA 70E, electric utilities, with the exception of certain commercial electrical installations, are exempt from the standard. If, as a safety professional, you have installations covered under OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart S, “Electrical,” you are subject to NFPA 70E.

In the recently published 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V final rule, OSHA prominently mentions NFPA 70E as a beneficial informational resource for employers regarding arc flash programs. NFPA 70E is referred to numerous times throughout the final rule’s preamble, demonstrating that even as an exempt industry, the 70E standard has an effect. OSHA makes reference to the value of the arc flash incident energy calculation methods as well as ways to protect employees from arc flash hazards (see Federal Register, Vol. 79, No. 70, page 20324).

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June 2014 Q&A

Q: Can you help us with regard to fall protection practices while working on top of a roof or in areas near substation transformers? We are aware of the exceptions for qualified climbers in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269. How does that affect us?

A: Most utilities will tell you that they don't require fall protection to work a weatherhead on a roof. Many have no fall protection requirements or programs for working on top of transformers. I am aware that some utilities use the definition of a working surface issued by OSHA – at least once every two weeks or for a total of four man-hours or more during any sequential four-week period – as proof that a roof or transformer top is not a work surface and therefore an exception. (See December 18, 1997, OSHA interpretation letter to Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. at https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=22508.)

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Understanding Enclosed and Confined Spaces

What is the difference between an enclosed space and a confined space? Many companies do not acknowledge 29 CFR 1910.269(e), “Enclosed spaces.” Instead, they handle all spaces as confined under 1910.146, “Permit-required confined spaces,” and a few companies even handle them all as permit-required spaces. There may be some confusion and there certainly is much industry discussion about the spaces in which employees are asked to work. In this article, I will highlight several of the major differences between the spaces, as well as provide an overview of each of the OSHA standards.

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Allen L. Clapp, P.E.

Accident Analysis Using the Multi-Employer Citation Policy

OSHA regulations are promulgated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as amended. In accordance with the regulations, employers are obligated to provide both safe work and safe workplaces. They must adhere to requirements for training, supervision, discipline, retraining, personnel protection, job planning and job control.

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Phillip Ragain

Understanding and Influencing the ‘Bulletproof’ Employee

Understanding and Influencing the ‘Bulletproof’ Employee

Some employees are regrettably willing to take risks, as though they believe that they cannot be injured. This is the challenge of the “bulletproof” employee. To influence these kinds of employees, we first need to understand why they take the risks that they do, and our approach to understanding these employees, as it turns out, is where the challenge starts. By breaking a handful of old habits and adopting a more useful model for understanding others' decisions and actions, we can become better equipped to tackle this challenge head-on and positively influence these employees.

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