Utility Worksite Safety Articles

Kate Wade

Partnering to Increase Work-Site Fire Safety

It’s a warm summer day in San Diego. The temperature is 85 degrees, the relative humidity is 30 percent, and winds are out of the west at 10 to 15 miles per hour. A utility crew from San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) is performing maintenance on a broken cross-arm on a wooden 69-kilovolt transmission pole. Suddenly, a phase-to-phase contact causes a shower of sparks, igniting the dry grass below. The fire grows quickly and blackens several square feet of grass around the pole. A crew from SDG&E’s wildfire contractor, Fire Stop, has been working next to the utility crew. As a precaution, the Fire Stop crew had already positioned a dry hose line within 25 feet of where the fire started and had placed firefighting hand tools and a dry chemical extinguisher nearby.

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Michael Stremel, CUSP

No Substitute

Hydraulic tools and equipment have come a long way over the past several decades and even over the last several years. Utilities and many other industries rely on hydraulic tools, equipment and systems to get the job done. Getting the job done is always a big concern, but the priority should always be on getting the job done safely.

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Lee Marchessault, CUSP

How Safe Are Your Ground Grids?

Ground grids provide a fundamental safety feature in substations and should be tested periodically. Unfortunately, some are approaching 100 years old and haven’t been tested in many years.

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Victor L. Petrovic, Ph.D.

Arc Suppression Blanket Installation

Use of arc suppression blankets can help reduce arc flash/blast injuries. When properly installed, arc suppression blankets absorb or deflect heat and blast energy emitted from an arc event, reducing the event's impact on workers.

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Patricia Seeley, CPE

A FULL Commitment

We all know the data. Typically, one third to one half of our field injuries are musculoskeletal disorders such as strains and sprains, rotator cuff syndrome, lower back disorders and tendonitis. Workers’ compensation costs for these injuries far exceed those for acute incidents such as burns, cuts and even fractures.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

What Do We Do About Arc Hazard?

To be absolutely clear – there is an arc hazard in the utility workplace. There is also a need for protecting employees with arc protective clothing. If you are responsible for hazard mediation, you should have an arc protection program or at least a plan to begin a program. Regularly, people call me and ask what they should do about NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace; and therein lies the problem. NFPA 70E is not the solution to utility arc flash hazards.

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John Boyle

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses

With the summer upon us, one concern that always seems to sneak up on workers during high heat periods are heat-related illnesses. Working in a hot, humid environment can be difficult or even fatal if you ignore the signs and symptoms of heat-related disorders.

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John Boyle

Floodwater Hazards and Precautions

Storms and heavy rains can produce significant flooding in some areas. These conditions can pose several unique hazards for injury and disease. This Tailgate Topic is intended to help you recognize and avoid these potential dangers to protect your health and safety.

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Tim O'Brien

Making the Right Choice

Choosing the correct fall protection equipment for climbing transmission structures

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John Boyle

Hidden Traps of Generator Use and Backfeed

The small generator is a godsend to those who need electric power where no electricity is found and the popularity of generator use by homeowners is growing by leaps and bound. Unfortunately, not everyone who owns a generator uses it in the safest manner. As a result, they create hazards for utility workers who may be working in close proximity to homes and equipment that may be fed or – even worse – backfed from a personal generator.

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Steve Jervis

Going With the Wind

Despite the economic downturn, the wind energy industry is growing rapidly and establishing itself as a prominent, sustainable solution that will help generate enough power to help meet current and future demands for renewable energy. Global leaders recognize that wind power can and will be one of the largest sources of new electricity generation. The United States is taking a strong position in this industry; the Obama administration is supporting wind power with an aggressive renewable energy stimulus to back it financially and foster continued growth within the industry.

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Alex Marcoux

Aerial Rescue

The Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, says tower climbers have “the most dangerous job in America.” Steve Fleming, Director of Antenna & Tower Training at Safety One International (www.SafetyOneInc.com), says that on average accidents on towers and cranes lead to 25 deaths per year. Fleming further suggested that close to 80 percent of the deaths at communication towers over the period of 1992-2001 were attributed to falls.

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John Boyle

Stuck in the Mud

With the winter thaw occurring in many parts of the country, this TailGate Topic focuses on changing field conditions. Many times our tasks require us to work off the beaten path, placing us in muddy locations. Getting stuck becomes a reality when heavy vehicles are driven over muddy ground.

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Hugh Hoagland

High Visibility and Arc Ratings for Flame Resistance

High Visibility and Arc Ratings for Flame Resistance

Two standards are needed to specify clothing for high visibility and flame resistance. Most companies in the U.S. choose ANSI 107 (for high visibility) and ASTM F1506 (for flame-resistance clothing complying with NFPA 70E or OSHA 1910.269). Citing both means you will have clothing (shirts and vests primarily) that are highly visible and arc- and flash-fire resistant. However, the flame-resistance side is often a weakness because of manufacturers or marketers who push “flame-resistant” standards that are misleading or outright deceptive.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

What You Need to Know About Substations

What You Need to Know About Substations

Beyond information peculiar to technical crafts, every person who enters a substation has a common need to understand substation grounding. This includes things to look for that might indicate problems in the station’s grounding system.

Substation grounding plays the primary role in several key aspects of fault clearing, equipment preservation and, most importantly, personnel protection as well as protection of the passing public. In fact, if the ground grid in a station were not in place, anyone standing next to a breaker that operates stands a good chance of being shocked, if not killed.

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Kate Wade

Meeting the Challenge

Progress Energy is a Fortune 250 investor-owned electric utility company that comprises generation, transmission and distribution businesses and a general services company. Progress Energy’s 11,000 employees serve 2.9 million customers over a 50,000-square-mile retail service area in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

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Carla Housh

How to Choose and Use Ergonomic Hand Tools

Drop into any hardware store or home improvement center, and you’re likely to find aisles full of tools labeled “ergonomic.” But what exactly does that mean? Simply put, ergonomics is the science of designing and producing tools and other work-related implements that improve a worker’s efficiency while reducing discomfort, fatigue, and risk of injury.

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Kate Wade

Strategies for Safety in the Wind Industry

For the wind power industry, practicing safety has always been more than a mission—it’s required. After all, a wind technician may be working in a space the size of a bathroom located on a tower 80 meters tall, surrounded by massive mechanical and high voltage electrical equipment, in a harsh climate, far from medical services.

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Carla Housh

Preventing Underground Damage

Construction professionals understand the importance of not damaging buried utilities while performing any type of new construction and maintenance work. Even so, accidental strikes of underground utility lines continue to interrupt essential services, cause millions of dollars in damage, result in serious injuries, and in some cases, loss of life.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Arc Flash - Are You in Compliance?

Some utility personnel have resisted arc-flash compliance with the presumption that arc flashes and blasts are not a major issue for the utility industry. Organizations and standards committees such as IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), NFPA70E (National Fire Protection Association), EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute), CRN (Cooperative Research Network) and others confirm this as a false statement. An IEEE study concluded, “To decrease the number and severity of non-fatal electrical burn injuries, direct worker exposure to electrical arc energy must be reduced.”

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