Utility Worksite Safety Articles

Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Underground Safety: Handling Neutrals and Rescue

Over the years I spent as a lineman, I did my share of underground installation and maintenance work. During my years in safety, I have seen the expansion of safety processes associated with underground, especially in response to the most recent OSHA changes. Not all of the changes have been effective, and that’s why we’re now going to spend some time addressing several underground safety questions Incident Prevention frequently receives. We’ll look at the rules and practices and what works from a practical perspective.

Handling URD Neutrals
This will not come as news to most of you, but for more than 60 years we have been splicing URD concentric neutrals during underground repairs without isolating the neutral or bonding across the open neutral in the ditch. That is something no lineworker would do on an overhead neutral, yet hardly any readers will be able to recall a time when someone was injured making neutrals in URD. Now, as OSHA’s language and expectations are more defined regarding grounding for personal protection, industry better recognizes current flowing in grounded systems, and employers are looking for ways to create equipotential and grounding during underground maintenance. For the most part, it’s not going well. The two questions I hear most are, why should we ground and how do we do it?

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: PPE Regulatory and Consensus Standard Requirements

OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I and 1926 Subpart E cover the requirements of personal protective and lifesaving equipment. With the publication of OSHA’s final rule in April 2014, the general industry and construction standards are now essentially the same for electric utilities, and there are few if any differences in the PPE required by each standard.

In addition to OSHA’s regulatory standards, there are ANSI/ASTM and other consensus standards that govern the manufacturing, type and ratings for all PPE. These consensus standards change as the industry evolves and PPE improves. All PPE should meet the most recent standard requirements. In the remainder of this article, we will examine OSHA’s PPE requirements for electric utility workers, as well as some of the latest consensus standard requirements.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

December 2015 Q&A

Q: I’ve been reading ASTM 855, IEEE 1048 and the National Electrical Code, and I’m a little confused by the practice of grounding through a switch. Can you help me better understand this?

A: In transmission/distribution applications, there is no issue with grounding through a switch. To explain, we always have to ask whether the issue is grounding through (in the path) a switch or grounding (by way of closing) a switch. The application may sound the same, but it depends on which standard you read. Our subject matter experts think the confusion lies in the well-known NEC rules, which require permanent installations to have a connection-free path for the ground electrode conductor at the service entrance of an electrical system. According to the code, grounds – except in some specialty connections – cannot be disconnected through operation of a switch or breaker contact. ASTM 855 is an equipment manufacturer's standard that has no application to utility practices in the field other than being used as a guide for shop construction, sizing, rating and assembly of personal protective grounds. IEEE 1048 does address the value of having the grounding switches closed when de-energizing a system for work; that ground switch is a very low-resistance path to earth at the feeder or transmission bus source that will lower fault current in an accidental or inadvertent energizing of the source. The ground switch in the station is also a path to ground that will divide and help reduce the amount of induction current on a circuit. Closing the switch can help reduce induction current at a work location, depending on how far apart the work location and the ground switch are.

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R. Scott Young, CUSP

Fundamentals of Substation Rescue Plans

Fundamentals of Substation Rescue Plans

I’ve worked in substations for most of my adult life, and I’ve picked up a few things along the way. Some were the result of good experiences, while others I learned through less than ideal circumstances. In this article, I want to share with you what I learned from my first experience with confined space rescue in a substation.

It was mid-August of 1983 in Florida and the outside temperature was in the high 90s. Inside the 69/13-kV transformer, the temperature was well over 100 degrees. Two journeymen were conducting an inspection inside the transformer when they discovered a problem in the winding. They called the lead man in to take a look. One of the journeymen climbed out of the transformer and the lead man climbed down to the bottom. He was in there for about 20 minutes, and as he began to climb out, his leg got stuck and he soon became claustrophobic and panicky.

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Randi Korte, CUSP

Investigating Industrial Hygiene at Salt River Project

Investigating Industrial Hygiene at Salt River Project

At Salt River Project, a large utility based in metropolitan Phoenix, there are a great variety of jobs, situations, risks and exposures that must be addressed, assessed and controlled. Journeymen lineworkers labor in heat approaching 120 degrees on the desert floor, while hydrologists trudge around in near-zero-degree weather to examine snowpack on the mountainous Mogollon Rim. A pressman needs a hearing assessment to judge the impacts of a six-color press, while electronics technicians must be evaluated for radio-frequency exposure from telecommunications equipment. A warehouseman at a power plant in the high desert prairie requires education about hantavirus exposure from deer mice, while a call center representative needs an ergonomic evaluation to guard against back and joint issues.

So, while the term “industrial hygienist” may conjure visions of a W. Edwards Deming-like technician scrutinizing manufacturing processes, nothing could be further from the truth at SRP. Industrial hygiene encompasses scores of jobs within the water, power and telecommunications utility that serves much of central Arizona. Employees work in and around dams, irrigation ditches, power plants, high-voltage lines, state-of-the-art facilities and legacy buildings dating back to the Truman administration. Industrial hygienists assess risks for jobs that didn’t exist a year ago as well as occupations that have been in existence since SRP was founded in 1903.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical MAD and Arc Flash Protection

Author’s Note: Before we get to the article, I want to thank the members of Incident Prevention’s editorial advisory board for their help in assembling this installment of “Train the Trainer 101.” They help me keep my head on straight, especially when I have ideas that are way outside the box. Even though I am also on the board, they still hold me to high standards of accountability and accuracy. These folks are a great asset to iP and make better writers of everyone who contributes to the publication.

Over the past year, iP subject matter experts have fielded many questions about how to meet the minimum approach distance (MAD) and arc flash (AF) rules published by OSHA in the 2014 final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V. The questions about MAD came from a variety of perspectives, but they were primarily submitted by contractors trying to facilitate the information transfer now required by 1910.269(a)(3) and 1926.950(c). Without information about a system’s fault characteristics, the contractor cannot determine MAD, either by calculation or via the tables in 1910.269 Appendix B and Appendix B to 1926 Subpart V. That means the contractors must fall back on the sometimes absurd provisions of alternative tables R-7 through R-9. In my work for a contractor, we have found that those alternative tables can make some work – particularly transmission work – very difficult, if not impossible, especially when faced with compact lattice structures or old construction standards on wood poles. For AF programs, that lack of information may be overcome effectively by experienced guesswork, but compliance by guesswork cannot be defended when the compliance safety and health officer asks how you determined the AF compliance requirements.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Clearing Up Confusion About 1910.269

It’s now been 18 months since OSHA’s final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V was published. For the most part, the dust has settled and the industry has started to adjust to the requirements of the new standard. However, questions still abound regarding certain issues, and I’d like to address two of them – employee training and host-contractor information transfer – in this installment of “Voice of Experience.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

October 2015 Q&A

Q: Is equipotential grounding now a personal protective grounding method required by OSHA?

A: The answer is yes, even though OSHA doesn’t specifically say so in terms we easily understand. The terminology isn't OSHA's fault. As an industry, we adopt certain familiar ways of describing or discussing things and simply don't recognize what OSHA is trying to communicate unless we do some diligent research. In 29 CFR 1910.269(n)(3), OSHA requires arrangement of grounds to protect employees without using the word “equipotential.” The title of the rule, however, is “Equipotential zone.”

The full text of 1910.269(n)(3) states, “Temporary protective grounds shall be placed at such locations and arranged in such a manner that the employer can demonstrate will prevent each employee from being exposed to hazardous differences in electric potential.” By definition, that is equipotential grounding.

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Jarred O'Dell, CSP, CUSP

N95 Filtering Face Pieces: Where Does Your Organization Stand?

N95 Filtering Face Pieces: Where Does Your Organization Stand?

When it comes to following health and safety standards, nearly every worker tries to do the right thing. And when workers deviate from standards and best practices, it is typically due to lack of knowledge and proper training. One industry topic that is not yet fully understood and continues to be heavily debated is the N95 filtering face piece, in particular its uses and program requirements. In response, this article seeks to assist those who are involved with the development and enforcement of their organization’s voluntary respiratory protection policy.

To begin, there are two reasons why N95 face pieces are especially relevant to readers right now.

First, OSHA is currently in the process of revising the standard on crystalline silica dust, which is a common utility and construction industry hazard that is oftentimes mitigated by N95 face pieces. OSHA’s fact sheet on crystalline silica (see www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/crystalline-factsheet.pdf) describes the substance as “a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals” that workers may encounter when sandblasting, jackhammering, drilling rock or working with concrete. Clearly, many utility industry workers are exposed to most of these activities – if not all of them – on a recurring basis.

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Keith Lindemulder

Stepping Up Steel Safety Education

Stepping Up Steel Safety Education

It’s estimated that between 2 million and 4 million utility poles are replaced annually in the U.S., and in almost every region of the country, many of those replacement poles are now made of steel. In fact, more than 1 million steel distribution poles have been installed by electric utilities across the country in the last decade. That number is expected to rise considerably as utilities strive to keep up with the need for new lines, replace aging and damaged poles and harden existing lines.

The increased use of steel utility poles in distribution lines has created a need for new training and coursework for student, apprentice and journeyman lineworker programs nationwide. For years, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) has developed training standards and guidelines, and in 2013 it teamed with several respected leaders in utility safety and line work training to update and bring new materials to the trade. Among the organizations SMDI collaborated with are the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction (ISPC), based in Alexandria, La., and Metropolitan Community College (MCC) in Omaha, Neb., which offers a leading utility line technician program. Through these partnerships, steel pole training programs have become well-established, and both coursework and program participation continue to evolve.

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Brian S. Hope, ASP, CSP, CUSA

Rigging Fundamentals for Utilities

Rigging Fundamentals for Utilities

Over the past 20 years I have had the great opportunity to travel the country observing everyday safety practices in the utility industry. During this time it has become clear to me that, more often than not, employees are practicing inadequate rigging techniques that put them and their co-workers at risk on a daily basis. These poor practices are being perpetuated from one generation of riggers to the next. Employees who learned improperly from previous trainers go on to train new employees in the same fashion. It seems that a number of workers have bought into the dangerous idea that unsafe practices are acceptable as long as they don’t result in a serious accident. This cycle of carelessness and endangerment is unacceptable and can only be stopped through adequate training and reinforcement of proper rigging techniques. We must revisit the most fundamental principles of rigging safety to build the foundation necessary to change our current culture. In this article I will discuss three of the most basic aspects of rigging – equipment selection, inspection and proper use – and I look forward to continuing the conversation when I present “Basic Rigging Fundamentals” on September 30 at the iP Utility Safety Conference at ICUEE.

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Samy Faried

Arc Flash Mitigating Technologies and the OSHA Final Rule

Arc Flash Mitigating Technologies and the OSHA Final Rule

On April 11, 2014, OSHA issued the final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V. The final rule included modifications that address minimum approach distances, fall protection systems and hazards of electric arcs. Since the publication of the rule, there have been an extensive number of articles published that detail changes to 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V. Those articles focus on explaining the changes but most lack information about arc flash mitigating technologies.

This article focuses on current technologies available to minimize and prevent exposure of workers to arc flashes. Employers must ensure workers are provided the necessary protection against these flashes, as it can mean the difference between life and death. According to NFPA 70E, arc flash incidents occur five to 10 times each day and account for 400 fatalities each year. Additionally, the Electrical Safety Foundation International has reported that more than 2,000 workers are treated annually for flash-related burns. The severity of a flash and the related severity of injury primarily depend on the magnitude of the arcing current and the duration of exposure. A typical three-cycle circuit breaker will interrupt fault currents in 50 milliseconds. Exposure to a temperature of 205 degrees Fahrenheit for 100 milliseconds may cause a third-degree burn, which will cause skin to fall off and may result in death.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Practical Personal Protective Grounding

In the last 10 years I have consulted on dozens of induction incidents, eight of which resulted in fatalities. There were commonalities in each one. Just about every Incident Prevention reader will agree that one of the topics that receives the most attention across the power industry – in writing, training and conversation – is personal protective grounding (PPG). Not a week goes by that I don't email or talk to someone about PPG and, in particular, about dealing with induction.

At iP we discuss and share information as well as news about incidents involving induction, and yes, they do occur at an alarming rate. I can't point to any empirical evidence, but my colleagues and I think we, as an industry, are the reason for the confusion over PPG issues. We have been slow to evolve from grounding for the purpose of stabilizing electrical systems and protecting equipment, to grounding for the protection of workers. Even the language of the OSHA standard, to some, seems vague, contradictory or too technical. The ANSI standards establish sound procedures for protective arrangements, but they are not training resources for craft workers. Now, as infrastructure loads and system voltages continue to increase, there are corresponding hazards that were not even discussed just a generation ago. Those hazards are resulting in incidents and, worse, preventable incidents that risk the lives of power-line workers.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Power Generation Safety and the OSHA Update

I have never worked in a generation plant, but I have visited many plants during my years of working with utilities. My experience has been in safety and skills training for transmission and distribution systems. I have also worked with generation employees on OSHA and DOT projects, and I am now in the process of helping a company revise their OSHA 1910.269 training program, including the portion that addresses 1910.269(v), “Power generation.” I have to say, I was surprised by the absence of changes to 1910.269(v) in the 2014 OSHA update. The revised section reads almost word for word the way it did in the original 1994 standard. As far as the changes that were made, they consist of a few clarifications and the addition of “the employer shall ensure” to several paragraphs. That language, which is found throughout the entire 2014 1910.269 standard, removes any implied directives and expectations. It also helps to ensure the employer’s accountability and responsibility for employee safety and safe work practices.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

August 2015 Q&A

Q: I'm wondering about an issue with a third-party safety analysis required by one of our clients. We are required to satisfy their safety requirements, including creating programs and safety manual changes worded to meet their criteria. I have issues with the required changes because they don't fit into our safety program.

A: You are not alone in your concerns. OSHA issued a warning about this exact topic, and it was a reason for changing the language in the proposed rules from June 2005. In the proposed rule, 29 CFR 1926.950(c) required contractors to follow a utility’s work rules as if they were statutory OSHA rules. Further, in the preamble to the proposed rules, OSHA clearly indicated the intent of the new rule’s language was to leverage utilities under the Multi-Employer Citation Policy in order to improve contractor safety. All of this created a concern for utilities that gave rise to third-party evaluations. The purpose seems to be both a means of qualifying the contractor and also providing a buffer between the contractor’s performance and the utility’s newly proposed responsibilities. For those readers who are not familiar with this process, the third party signs on to represent the utility in the evaluation of contractors. The utility also signs on to the process. The utility’s contractors, or proposed contractors, pay to join the third-party program and work to attain an acceptable rating for their safety program.

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Raffi Elchemmas, AEP, MBA

Making the Switch

Making the Switch

It is an undisputed and well-known fact that workers’ use of manual tools increases repetitive movement, introduces awkward working postures and elevates the risk of ergonomic injuries and illnesses. Throughout the past decade, the utility industry has done a great job of recognizing these ergonomic safety issues, and a number of utility tool manufacturers have responded by developing new battery-operated tools and tool features that address them. Slowly but surely, ergonomic safety is increasing in the workplace as investor-owned utilities, contractors, cooperatives and municipalities make the switch from manual to battery-operated tools.

However, even with the progress that’s been made, there are many workers who are still using manual cutting and crimping methods on job sites across the country, which means those individuals face a greater likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sciatica, sprains, strains, soft tissue damage and other injuries.

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among upper body injuries involving the repetitive use of tools, approximately 61 percent involve injury to the hands and wrists, 20 percent involve injury to the shoulders, 10 percent involve injury to the arms and 9 percent involve injury to the trunk and back. Signs of these of musculoskeletal disorders include decreased range of motion, decreased grip strength, swelling, cramping and loss of function. Other symptoms of these injuries include numbness, pain, tingling and stiffness.

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Derek Sang, QSSP, IASHEP, NASP

How to Navigate the FR Clothing Marketplace

How to Navigate the FR Clothing Marketplace

When the original version of the OSHA 1910.269 standard was published, flame-resistant (FR) clothing wasn’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known, but the standard only required that an employer not allow an employee to wear clothing that, when exposed to flames or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury sustained by the employee. This was covered under 1910.269(l)(6)(iii). The rule eliminated the use of garments constructed with synthetics such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate, which could melt and drip, and led to the adoption of clothing made with 100 percent cotton. The problem was that non-FR cotton – once exposed to thermal energies beyond its ignition point – will ignite and continue to burn, thus adding to an injury.

Now that the much-anticipated revisions to the 1910.269 standard have been published, they have introduced a number of new challenges to the electric utility industry and those entrusted with their employees’ safety. Specifically, page 20317 of the final rule (see www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-04-11/pdf/2013-29579.pdf) states that the “new provisions for protection from electric arcs include new requirements for the employer to: Assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flames or from electric arcs, make reasonable estimates of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed, ensure that the outer layer of clothing worn by employees is flame resistant under certain conditions, and generally ensure that employees exposed to hazards from electric arcs wear protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.”

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Laura McMillan

Arrive Alive

Arrive Alive

On a clear, sunny day following a fierce thunderstorm the night before, Mark drove off to work. The schedule for the day was busy with repairing downed lines in several heavily trafficked neighborhoods followed by some scheduled maintenance at a router station. Mark met up with his crew, reviewed the schedule and then the team headed out for what they expected to be a long day. The crew was experienced, though, so Mark felt confident they would be able to complete their list of tasks.

In the driver’s seat of the crew cab on the way to repairing the downed lines, Mark thought about the task ahead; it would pose a challenge, but he and his team knew the drill and felt comfortable navigating to the assigned areas. In fact, he had grown up in one of the neighborhoods on their route and knew a few shortcuts. They were somewhat off the mapped routes, but Mark and the rest of the crew felt they could save some time by following the shortcuts. Indeed, the crew did save some time and found themselves a bit ahead of schedule.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Back to Basics: ‘Gentlemen, This is a Football’

I recently spent several weeks studying an incident, trying to understand how it had happened and – more importantly – how it could have been prevented. Maybe the answer was associated with human performance, or maybe culture, or it could have been procedures, or ... well, maybe it could have been associated with any number of things. In other words, even with all of my experience and training, I had a hard time finding the singular root cause. This dilemma made me recall a question I missed on an engineer-in-training exam I took in the 1970s. The question had ladder diagrams and loop schematics and required me to determine why indicator light I-107 was off. After a long study of the supporting documents and employing all of my superior intellect, I proudly answered the question 100 miles off. Why? The correct answer was, “The lamp was burned out”; this is probably why I never became an engineer.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June 2015 Q&A

Q: Are there any changes to steel-toe boot requirements for lineworkers in the recently revised OSHA 1910.269 standard?

A: OSHA still leaves it to employers to decide whether hard-toe or protective footwear is required. As with all other PPE, the decision should be made based on risks and history. Wearing safety footwear is not required by the PPE rule. However, what is required in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.136, “Foot protection,” is a mandatory assessment of the work environment. The rule states that the employer “shall ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or when the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard, such as a static-discharge or electric-shock hazard, that remains after the employer takes other necessary protective measures.”

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