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Utility Worksite Safety Articles

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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Randy Fabry and Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSP

Electrical Safety for Utility Generation Operations Personnel: A Practical Approach

Electrical Safety for Utility Generation Operations Personnel: A Practical Approach

Developing safe electrical work practices for generation personnel is an evolutionary process that can become extremely complex. South Carolina Electric & Gas Fossil/Hydro (SCE&G F/H), which includes nine large generation facilities and several other small peaking gas turbines and hydro units, quickly learned that even the choice of consensus standards – either the National Electrical Safety Code or NFPA 70E – can be a matter of debate when determining electric generation safe work practices. Although SCE&G F/H had an existing electrical safety program, updates in 2012 electrical consensus standards, along with a request from the company’s electrical safety committee for assistance, initiated a program update that eventually resulted in a total rewrite of the existing program.

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Great post..I have read your blog.Its really amazing.It is full of resourceful information for electrical safety.I did learn more ... Read More
Friday, 07 November 2014 04:28
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These tips are perfect for staying safe around electricity. Sticking to your training is the best way to be sure that nothing goes... Read More
Monday, 21 September 2015 11:25
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Ron Joseph, CUSP

Fact-Finding Techniques for Incident Investigations

Fact-Finding Techniques for Incident Investigations

If you've been a safety professional or an operational manager for any significant amount of time, you've probably had your share of safety-related incidents. The most significant incidents are usually measured by their consequences. These may result in death, serious injuries, lost or restricted workday cases, OSHA recordable cases, first aid treatment, and/or equipment or property damage. Other incidents are commonly referred to as near misses, where serious consequences like the ones previously listed could potentially have occurred, but, through luck or circumstance, did not. Regardless of the type of incident, there is always one question that is asked afterward: Why did this happen?

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Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CHST, CET

What OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Means to You

What OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Means to You

Airborne crystalline silica has long been discussed as a health hazard in the workplace. When inhaled, very small crystalline silica particles referred to as “respirable” particles are known to cause silicosis, a fatal lung disease, as well as other respiratory-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

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Loralee Pearson

The Singing Lineman

The Singing Lineman

Brandon Wylie grew up with line work in his blood from his father and music in his soul from his grandfather, so it was just a matter of time before the two parts collided. And when you cross line work with a passion for music, you end up with a song that can light up a room and help bring recognition to an entire industry. Wylie wrote the song “Highline Cowboy” to express his love of the electric utility industry, and he can be found working on his music when he’s not teaching safety to lineworkers in his role as a certified safety and training specialist for Electric Cities of Georgia.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Working On or Near Exposed Energized Parts

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l), “Working on or near exposed energized parts,” requires employees to adhere to very specific rules concerning the exposure of unprotected body parts to energized conductors and equipment. I am amazed at the different interpretations of this one paragraph. I have thought about what work practices were being considered by the advisory panel that made the suggestions about how the standard should read when it was being written in the 1980s. The standard is very clear that two qualified employees are required to be on the job site when work is being performed that exposes an employee to minimum approach distances (MAD) on equipment or conductors with nominal system voltage of 600 volts or greater. Why? Is it due to the type of task being performed, or is the second person there for emergency rescue or fist aid? Depending on the task, there may be a legitimate safety reason to require the second employee. Does that second person need to be in the air in a two-person bucket or second bucket to assist, or should they be on the ground observing and available to assist in rescue? The answer depends on whom you ask. I sometimes wonder what the original committee intended.

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Marcia L. Eblen and Rick Kennerly

Are Your Temporary Protective Grounds Really Protecting You?

Are Your Temporary Protective Grounds Really Protecting You?

National equipment standards constantly evolve due to near misses and incidents that occur in the field. This evolution results in electric utilities adopting different work methods and procedures, equipment, education and training to keep utility workers and the public safe as every electric utility company builds and maintains the national electric grid.

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Steve Hedden, CUSP

Ergonomics for Lineworkers

Ergonomics for Lineworkers

I am not an ergonomics expert. I am, however, a former lineman now in my 50s, experiencing aches and pains from many years of working in the field. I became interested in how ergonomics – the field of study that fits the job to the worker rather than the worker to the job – could improve line work after reading an article that explained how We Energies, an electric service provider headquartered in Milwaukee, had conducted a study in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute and Marquette University to determine why their employees were suffering so many hand, shoulder, knee and back injuries. It was like a light bulb came on. I thought back to co-workers who struggled with chronic pain resulting from their work as lineworkers and realized it didn’t have to be that way. I started the trade knowing it was a hard job, but I was young and strong. I wanted to impress co-workers and gain their acceptance on the crew, so I worked hard and didn’t concern myself with what I was doing to my body. The veterans who started this same way, and were now suffering the consequences, respected others who were willing to put in the hard work and sacrifice themselves just like they did.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Incidents and the Failure to Control Work

Flashes and contacts continue to happen throughout the electric utility industry. All sectors, from the smallest contractor to the largest investor-owned utility, report incidents every day. I have seen reports that one contractor working a 23-kV circuit locked out the breaker twice in one day. Other reports now indicate that 2013 is trending even higher than last year for the first four months of the year. The industry is on course to meet the average of 24 to 28 fatalities documented in the utility and contractor North American Industry Classification System codes reported to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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John Morton, CUSP

Starting From the Ground Up

Starting From the Ground Up

Whenever we are fortunate enough to see a competent climber working off of a pole or tower, it can be favorably compared to watching a well-oiled machine at work. Each part of the body is coordinated and working together. A person with no understanding of the business might think climbing is something anyone can do. It is not. That climber has, more than likely, spent numerous hours learning his craft and practicing it day in and day out during the course of his duties. Even that climber who looks so graceful had to start somewhere, and that is what we are going to look at in this article – how learning to climb at the bottom of a pole or structure can make you a more competent climber at the top.

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R. Scott Young, CUSP

Safety Awareness for Substations

Safety Awareness for Substations

There are a number of hazards unique to substations. The substation safety information found in this article is drawn from 30 years of personal experience as well as industry best practices, regulations, codes and company policies. During my time working in substations, I have seen some horrible accidents and hope the following lessons I’ve learned will prevent other people from having to experience injury or death.

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Ron Joseph, CUSP

Occupational Dog Bite Prevention & Safety

Occupational Dog Bite Prevention & Safety

According to The Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the country and about 40 percent of all households have at least one dog. Of course, the percentage of households with dogs is higher in suburban and rural areas than in cities, but the fact remains that dogs are nearly everywhere. Couple these statistics with the fact that most households with dogs also have electric service, and those of us who work in the transmission and distribution departments of electric utility companies have a potential problem. OSHA would consider dogs a recognized workplace hazard, right?

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Allen L. Clapp, P.E.

NESC and ANSI Z535 Safety Sign Standards for Electric Utility Power Plants and Substations

Both the NESC ANSI C2 rules and OSHA regulations require signs at appropriate places around utility facilities and workplaces. ANSI Z535 standards that specify the attributes of appropriate safety signs and labels for utility use include ANSI Z535.2: Environmental and Facility Safety Signs, ANSI Z535.3: Criteria for Safety Symbols and ANSI Z535.5: Safety Tags and Barricade Tapes (for Temporary Hazards). The coordinated ANSI Z535 criteria apply to every temporary or permanent safety sign or tag on a utility system.

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George R. Popovici, CUSA, CUSP

Public Safety and Our First Responders

Public Safety and Our First Responders

The threat of high-voltage electrical contact is very real for emergency first responders who are called to the scenes of accidents and other unplanned events. The safety of the public and our emergency workers should be a top priority.

“You fight the fires, we deal with the wires” is a theme that is stressed in the comprehensive outreach program created by NSTAR, a Northeast Utilities company based in Boston. Contacting the utility company first, before any actions are taken by responders, is essential when dealing with an invisible force that travels at 186,000 miles per second. If you make a mistake at the office, you can use an eraser or the delete key to correct it. In the field, there is no forgiveness and a split-second error in judgment will likely lead to an irreversible result.

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Joseph Saccaro, CSP, CUSA, CUSP, OHST

Implementing a Zero Injury Program

Implementing a Zero Injury Program

You’ve said it and heard it many times before: “Accidents happen.” It’s a phrase that essentially allows us to admit that accidents can’t be prevented. In business, that attitude has the potential to breed complacency when it comes to worker safety. A zero injury philosophy, however, maintains that there always exists some combination of tools, work practices and personal protective equipment that enables workers to carry out their assignments without being injured. Consequently, striving for zero injuries makes sense; it is a practical, achievable goal.

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Gary Zevenbergen

Detecting Shock Hazards at Transmission Line Work Sites

The line crew’s job for the day is to replace a 115-kV wooden H-frame transmission structure. No problem – this crew has done this type of work a number of times in the last few years. Upon arrival at the job site, the bucket truck and crane are arranged according to the job plan. A tailgate safety meeting is conducted, during which the clearance is reviewed and the points of isolation are identified. The work procedure is analyzed, including a discussion of the possible hazards and grounding plan for this work site. It is noted that, although not visible from this work site, this transmission line does share a right-of-way with two other high-voltage transmission lines about 15 miles from the work site. Induction could be an issue on this job. Maintaining a proper equipotential zone is emphasized.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Enclosed Space Rescue

Following is a treatment of the complex subject of enclosed space rescue and it's a lot of information. I would like to just tell you what to do, but there is no single solution. Your background understanding of the relative standards, interpretations and directives is necessary for you as trainers and administrators to mount an effective enclosed space program.

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