Utility Worksite Safety Articles

Allen L. Clapp, P.E.

The Importance of Matching Evidence Marks in Accident Investigations

I have personally investigated more than 800 incidents involving serious permanent injury, death, equipment failure and structural failure. Time after time, we were pulled in late to assist with investigations in which early investigators had failed to properly investigate the incidents. They had jumped to erroneous conclusions, thus resulting in incorrect admissions, strategies or other actions in the related litigations. When properly analyzed, each incident was shown to have occurred differently than originally assumed, and often a different party or action was the precipitative cause. Finding this out late in the game really hampered effective defense or prosecution, resulting in higher litigation and settlement costs, and even in improper jury decisions because the jury believed the earlier, confusing conclusions.

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Ken Palmer

Measuring, Planning and Cutting Methods for Chainsaw Operators

Measuring, Planning and Cutting Methods for Chainsaw Operators

The first two articles in this series discussed the risks of chainsaw operation as well as chainsaw safety, planning and precision felling techniques. In this final article, I will discuss several other topics that chainsaw operators should be knowledgeable about, including how to estimate tree height, make an open face notch and use felling wedges.

Estimating Tree Height
An important part of felling trees is the ability to estimate a tree’s height in order to determine its position as it falls, hits the ground and comes to rest. Accurate height estimation allows the operator to determine if felling the whole tree is truly the best approach in a given situation and, if it is, helps the operator to avoid hitting or brushing against obstacles, hanging up trees and leaving behind dangerous branch hangers. Remember that the height of the felling cut will affect the felling path and the position of the tree when it reaches the ground.

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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Recent PPE Changes and 2015 Trends

Recent PPE Changes and 2015 Trends

2014 was a year of changes in electrical safety. The new OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard has moved arc-rated (AR) clothing and PPE to the forefront, unlike the 1994 changes. Additionally, for facilities covered by NFPA 70E, the new 70E standard has added a level of complexity to PPE. This article will review changes in PPE as well as trends to expect this year.

NFPA 70E Changes
In the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E, the term “Hazard Risk Category” (HRC) has been replaced by “PPE level” or “arc rated PPE category” (ARC). As a result, manufacturers may start using “ARC” instead of “HRC” on labels to indicate their level of performance in an arc. One PPE manufacturer is also considering using “CAT” (category) with a level. Expect to see more emphasis on the cal/cm² rating in 2015 and less on categories as NFPA, OSHA, NESC and IEEE move toward matching the protection to the hazard and move away from categories of protection. The incident energy that defines the ARC levels will remain the same, but HRC 0 – natural fiber clothing – was eliminated and now PPE is required to be AR.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Addressing Anchorages

With the new OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 rules have come many questions, and one that Incident Prevention often receives is how to define an appropriate anchorage. There will be forthcoming interpretations as employers ask questions of OSHA, but the April 4, 2014 preamble, or “Summary and Explanation of the Final Rule,” does provide a good basis for interpreting the rules. You can read the preamble at www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: The Importance of Job Briefings

As I write this article, I am reflecting on 2014 and thinking about how many contacts and fatalities the electric utility industry suffered last year. There were fewer than in 2013, but the improvement was only slight. At present, the most accurate count for 2014 is approximately 40 fatalities and 45-50 electrical contacts. One serious injury or fatality is too many, and all of them can be avoided by planning and the proper use of training, tools, time and teamwork.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

February 2015 Q&A

Q: The issue of multiple snaphooks in a single D-ring and Incident Prevention’s stance on it have received a lot of attention, and we are pleased to address this topic once more in the Q&A section.

A: iP received two notable responses to our guidance regarding manufacturer approvals and OSHA’s requirement that prohibits the use of two snaphooks in a single D-ring unless (1) the snaphook is a locking type and (2) the snaphook is specifically designed for certain connections.

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Michael J. Getman, CUSP, MBA

Arc Flash and the Benefits of Wearing PPE

Arc Flash and the Benefits of Wearing PPE

Part of the recent OSHA updates includes increasing protection for employees who may be exposed to arc hazards. I am aware that there are many utilities that have proactively completed an arc hazard analysis for their systems, and that their employees are already wearing arc-rated clothing. Some of these utilities provide a full wardrobe of arc-rated clothing, including shirts and pants. Some utilities currently only provide tops. Still others have not completed their arc hazard analyses and do not provide their employees with any arc-rated clothing.

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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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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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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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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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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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