Incident Prevention Magazine

Incident Prevention is on a mission to be a major player in the reduction of job related accidents within utilities and telecommunications. The publication, our iP Safety Conferences and this site are dedicated to providing utility safety and operations professionals the resources to build safety programs and implement processes that lead to reduce...d work-related incidents.
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Bart Castle

Three Overlooked Processes for Increasing Safe Work Practice

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Have you ever seen or heard a restaurant, vehicle dealership or retailer claim, “We care little about service”? On the contrary, don’t many of these businesses – if not most – make bold claims about the quality of their services? How many, though, take the time needed to do the work, pay attention to the details, and become known for meeting or exceeding their claims?

Now, think for a moment. Have you ever seen or heard an electric utility organization of any variety claim, “We care some about safety performance”? I doubt it. If you look at 100 electric utility website landing pages, it’s likely you will see slogans about safety. Investigate those sites further and it is common to see safety listed as a company value or guiding principle. Yet just as some retail establishments tout their high-quality service while acting in ways that make it clear that “service” is more a buzzword than a business practice, so, too, are there electric utility companies and contractors that publicly state their concern for safety while their day-to-day actions don’t back up those claims.

Job descriptions, job safety analyses, tailboard meetings, PPE and training are important components of an effective safety program. But even for companies that are truly focused on providing a safe working environment for their employees, there are at least three other components that contribute to a consistently safe workplace, yet tend to get overlooked: effective interviewing, onboarding and mentoring processes.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

How to Develop a Contractor Safety Management Standard

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Have you ever questioned whether a contractor or subcontractor was qualified to perform electric power work? If so, you should consider developing a contractor safety management standard. This type of standard defines minimum safety requirements that contractors must adhere to when they perform work for your company.

Years ago, many electric power organizations used contractual language and a hands-off approach to establish contractor safety responsibilities. In fact, organizations hired contractors to perform work they felt was unsafe because they knew the contractor would do whatever it took to complete the job. These work practices have significantly changed throughout organizations that recognize employers share responsibility for working conditions and safety at multiemployer worksites. Utilities and contractors are adopting a shared commitment to worker and system safety within their organizations.

Regulatory Requirements
In the preamble to 29 CFR 1910.269 – the electric power generation, transmission and distribution standard – OSHA states the following: “When OSHA promulgates new safety and health standards, it does so against this background principle that employers share responsibility for working conditions, and thus for OSHA compliance, at multiemployer worksites. Therefore, when the Agency issues a new safety or health standard, it is with the intention that creating, exposing, and controlling employers at multiemployer worksites will exercise their respective responsibilities to ensure that affected employees are protected as required by the standard.”

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Hugh Hoagland and Zarheer Jooma, BSEE, M.S.

Using Arc Protective Blankets as an Engineering Control Method

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While engineering controls are preferred over personal protective equipment for worker protection, many engineering controls, such as arc-resistant switchgear, require the purchase of new electrical equipment in order to fully implement them. When replacing equipment, this type of installation makes total sense, but it rarely can be the only company policy to mitigate arc flash in all facilities.

OSHA always prefers that organizations use the highest option possible on the hierarchy of controls. This is clear in the preamble to 29 CFR 1910.269, in which OSHA states the following: “NFPA 70E-2004 warned that ‘[d]ue to the explosive effect of some arc events, physical trauma injuries could occur’ … OSHA expects that the hazard analysis required by paragraph (g)(1) in the final rule will identify nonthermal hazards, including physical trauma hazards posed by flying debris, associated with employee exposure to electric arcs. … [OSHA requires] employers to address [these hazards] … [and] provide shields and barriers necessary to protect employees from physical trauma hazards. However, as noted by NFPA 70E, not all arc events pose physical trauma hazards from flying debris; therefore, this protection will not always be necessary …”

The 2018 NFPA 70E standard rightly took out the reference to 40-cal/cm² exposures posing a hazard from arc blast, since arc blast is more a function of containment and current than calories. In fact, our recent research surveyed the literature on arc blast pressure waves and found that many of the formulas did not come close to predicting our lab data from 4,000A to 12,000A (E. H. Hoagland, C. Maurice, A. Haines and A. Maurice, "Arc Flash Pressure Measurement by the Physical Method, Effect of Metal Vapor on Arc Blast," in “IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications,” vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 1576-1582, March-April 2017). New work continues to expand this knowledge and will be presented to the IEEE Electrical Safety Workshop this March in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Dan Brenden

Using Technology to Eliminate Aerial Device Overloads

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Knowing bucket capacity and understanding how to read a jib load chart are two critical elements of aerial device operation. While both tasks are fairly straightforward, it is crucial to stay within the allowable capacity of the unit. The platform capacity and material-handling capacity provided by the manufacturer are not recommendations – they are absolute maximum capacities that ensure the machine is not overloaded. Overloading equipment can result in overturning or boom failure. Equipment damage also may occur, resulting in costly repairs and a shortened usable life for the aerial device.

A fully equipped lineworker with PPE plus tools and materials for typical line maintenance can quickly add up to 700 pounds or more for distribution work, and upward of 1,000 pounds for transmission work. Bucket capacity is identified on the ID plate and inside of the basket on most aerial devices. In addition, be aware of dual-rated buckets with different capacities based on configuration and use as a material handler; these types of buckets are available from some manufacturers. Before climbing in, lineworkers should verify that their weight – in addition to the platform liner, if used, and all of their tools and equipment – doesn’t exceed the bucket’s capacity.

“Don’t forget to account for boots, harness, tools and any components you may add to the bucket once you are elevated,” said Kyle Wiesner, aerial products engineering manager for Terex Utilities. “Tools such as phase lifters, crimpers, hydraulic drills or chain saws all add up. Weight of personal clothing can change with the weather, so don’t forget to recalculate come winter. If a component is in the bucket while work is being performed, that weight needs to be factored in as well.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Lessons from Puerto Rico

I read the menu board and placed my order through the drive-through speaker. In her native Spanish, the employee assisting me rapidly confirmed my order and asked several follow-up questions; I answered “yes” to each question even though I didn’t understand what she was asking me. In the end, the order totaled $9.62. When I opened the contents of the bag, it was like opening a Christmas present, since I had no idea what I had just ordered. And, well, it was Christmastime after all, even though I happened to be in Puerto Rico.

That experience was my first lesson as an American who only speaks English in a place where – although both Spanish and English are official languages – Spanish is the dominant language. Over the years I had wondered why non-English-speaking workers would indicate understanding during training when they didn’t understand. Now I realize it’s a case of assumptions. I thought I knew what the employee at the fast food restaurant was asking, but I was way off. I had never been on that end of the conversation, and now I have a fresh perspective on non-native English speakers and training in the U.S.

I also have a new appreciation for the people of Puerto Rico. While there recently, I was in daily contact with people who’d had no power for 12 weeks. And for some of them, they knew it would be many more weeks before they did have power – and that might be a little optimistic. Not one person was rude or even expressed aggravation at their plight. In contrast, I am aware of utilities that had their front-office glass shot up by angry customers three days after a storm passed.  

Even in Puerto Rico’s larger cities, such as San Juan in the northern part of the island and Ponce in the south, where some power has been restored, there are still few working streetlights or traffic signals. Driving outside of San Juan, where there is no working traffic control, has become a mix of jousting and bluff. The practice is to speed up to the intersection and see if anyone slows. If they do, you are in. If they don’t, you wait and surge forward at the next driver. Yet this contrived system of driving is absent the aggression and manic reaction you might expect. No one blows their horn, points a gun at you or even gestures. It’s how you get around, and everyone is simply working it out.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Can Human Error Be a Root Cause?

In light of some recent incidents in the electric utility industry, numerous root cause investigations have been conducted to determine why those events occurred. The frequency of the events and their similarities are alarming. Some of the more recent cases involved induced voltages from nearby energized lines to de-energized lines and equipment. In one instance, an employee opened a system safety ground and got in series with ungrounded and grounded equipment and conductors, which resulted in severe burns to the employee. Another incident involved an uninsulated boom truck contacting primary conductors. The truck was not grounded or barricaded, and the event resulted in one fatality and one severe injury.

When all the final numbers are tallied, 2017 may wind up being one of the more devastating years in the electric utility industry’s recent past. So, why is our industry suffering the same types of incidents today as in previous decades? There are many contributing factors associated with each event. Among those named in many incident-related reports – including reports on the incidents I referred to in the previous paragraph – is human error. Some have even said human error is the root cause of some of these events, but I don’t agree. There typically is a more direct root cause of an incident than any mistakes made by employees.  

Human Error and Normalization of Deviation
Before we go any further, let’s review what is meant by the term “human error.” If you search online, you’ll come up with a variety of sources that define the term, but to put it briefly, human error is an individual’s deviation from intention, expectation or desirability.

Speaking of deviation, one related phenomenon that is suspected of playing a role in many incidents is normalization of deviation. This occurs when humans become used to, for instance, executing a task in such a way that does not meet defined performance standards; over time, however, even though this inferior execution does not meet the standards, it nonetheless becomes an accepted practice. When this behavior is endorsed by others, some may recognize it as poor or unacceptable performance, but they may not feel comfortable intervening, or they may not be permitted to intervene.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

February-March 2018 Q&A

Editor’s Note: This installment of “Q&A” addresses some common questions Incident Prevention receives throughout the year. Most are misunderstandings of the wording or intent of OSHA standards. From time to time iP has addressed the following scenarios – or similar ones – because they never seem to go away. In the following answers, the research or interpretation methods employed have been summarized to help readers become more familiar with interpretation and construction of the standards.

Q: Does OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(12), “Opening and closing circuits under load,” prohibit the use of non-load-break dropout fused switches or lifting of hot-line clamps to break loads? The rule reads as follows: “(i) The employer shall ensure that devices used by employees to open circuits under load conditions are designed to interrupt the current involved. (ii) The employer shall ensure that devices used by employees to close circuits under load conditions are designed to safely carry the current involved.”

A: This rule often is mischaracterized as prohibiting opening or closing under load using a non-load-break switch or a bare hot-line clamp. The rule does prohibit opening or closing a switch or hot-line clamp (“device”) under load if the employee performing the task could be injured by the act. If the employee can safely perform the act, there is no violation. To explain, there are two keys to properly interpreting this rule. One is the location of the rule; it is found in 1910.269(l), “Working on or near exposed energized parts.” The purpose of the paragraph is protection of employees, as stated in the section following the title: “This paragraph applies to work on exposed live parts, or near enough to them to expose the employee to any hazard they present.”

When OSHA reviews potential violations of the standard, they typically consider three issues: if there was a rule in place, if the employer knew about the rule and if an employee was exposed to danger by violating the rule. OSHA also will review consensus standards and best practices, as well as unadopted consensus standards, which sometimes are used in de minimis conditions and General Duty Clause violations. We know this because when we read public notice citations, we find unadopted consensus standard language used in the notice of violation without reference to the unadopted standard.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: HP Principle One: People Screw Up

The first principle of human performance (HP) is that people are fallible and even the best make mistakes, or in simpler terms, people screw up. How error-prone are we? Studies vary, but for our purposes, we will use an average of five mistakes per hour. That’s a lot of mistakes, and a scary thing to think about is we often are not aware of our mistakes.

Let’s consider how this relates to safety, and more specifically, how HP Principle One needs to be incorporated into your safety and health management system. Safety programs tend to be based on the concept that if there is a rule and the rule is good, people will always follow the rule and perform perfectly, which simply is not the case.

While it would be fantastic if no one ever made another mistake – no one tripped and fell in the right-of-way, no one skipped a step in a switching procedure, no one dropped a tool from a bucket, no one forgot to look before backing – that is not realistic, and it is irresponsible to assume mistakes will not happen.

Executives, managers, supervisors and safety professionals, you need to acknowledge that mistakes will happen, and ensure safety by design and defense in depth are being utilized to protect your employees from their mistakes. Utilize these concepts, and the consequences of errors will have little impact on the safety and health of the workforce. If you are responsible for investigating incidents, don’t forget to put yourself in employees’ shoes as you examine motivation, perhaps thinking about what you might have done in a similar situation. People rarely intend to hurt themselves, and part of your job during an incident investigation is to think about employees’ decisions, which likely made sense to them at the time. Be careful about the tendency toward Monday morning quarterbacking that starts with, “Here’s how I would have done that job and that would never happen to me.” If you haven’t already, educate yourself on organizational HP tools such as benchmarking, observations and self-assessments. Being critical of people does not engender appreciation of the value of investigations and cooperation.

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Kate Wade

Chris Grajek Honored at 2017 USOLN Safety Award Ceremony

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On October 2, the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network (www.usoln.org) held its annual award ceremony at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Louisville, Ky. During the event, USOLN board members presented the John McRae Safety Leadership Award to Chris Grajek, CRSP, CUSP. Grajek currently serves as safety and work methods director for Allteck Line Contractors based in Burnaby, British Columbia.  

The John McRae Safety Leadership Award was created to honor McRae, a fourth-generation lineman who enjoyed a 42-year career before passing away July 27, 2010. He was active in the military reserves for nearly 30 years and instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts Municipal Lineman’s Association. McRae, a member of San Diego’s IBEW Local 465, spoke across the country about electrical training and went on to assist in the launch of Incident Prevention magazine.

“The John McRae award is a great honor, and even more so coming from an industry full of great leaders and professionls,” Grajek said after winning the award. “I never had the opportunity to meet John, but he sounds like an incredible leader and mentor. I take comfort in surrounding myself with those types of people whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

Grajek was selected to receive the award due to his commitment to the USOLN and its work. “Chris has dedicated himself to the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network by serving on the CUSP exam development committee and, more recently, the CUSP governing board,” said Carla Housh, USOLN executive director and publisher of Incident Prevention magazine. “He, along with other Canadian CUSP credential-holders, recognizes the benefits of the program and has worked to support and advance CUSP growth for Canadian utilities. Chris’ safety leadership knowledge, along with his passion for advancing the CUSP program, has had a significant impact on the success of the Northern program, and we are sincerely appreciative of his efforts.”

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Steve Willis

Avoiding the Silent Danger: Three Skills for Improving Your Safety Culture

The other day my oldest son cooked himself a batch of steaming hot Rice-A-Roni. He didn't even wait until he’d found a place to sit before the first spoonful hit his mouth. And I’m guessing the deliciousness overpowered his cognitive abilities because he then staggered into the TV room and plopped down on one of the couches – a definite “no Rice-A-Roni zone.” Now here’s where things get interesting.

First of all, my son knows the rule. His mother and I explained it, we demonstrated it, we had a group discussion about why it’s important to obey it, we practiced taking food to acceptable eating areas within the house, we posted warning signs – you get the idea. In other words, he definitely should have known better.

So, here’s the crucial moment: I walked into the TV room that day to find son, bowl and rice exactly where they shouldn’t be. What made this a crucial moment was that I knew what happened next would set the tone for either success or failure in the future. Recognizing that opportunity, my brain kicked into gear with five possible responses:

  1. Get upset and yell.
  2. Give my son the “You know you shouldn’t be doing this” look and wait for him to take corrective action.
  3. Remind him of the rule and ask him to come back into compliance.
  4. None of the above – he’s almost done, no rice has spilled and confronting him won’t make a big difference anyway. In fact, it might even make things worse.
  5. Some of all of the above in just the right combination to come off as passive-aggressive.

When it comes to a situation like this, and you’re removed from the actual event, it’s easy to see the right answer. But in the moment, we often choose poorly and set ourselves up for “Groundhog Day,” reliving the same exact scene over and over again. In other words, what you permit is what you promote.

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Molly Hall

What Changes When You Put a Face on Safety?

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As an experienced lineman, Gary Norland was typical of many workers: big and strong, physically tough, unafraid of any challenge. That was before he came into contact with a 12,500-volt line. That’s when everything changed. He is not alone, as many others also have experienced serious electrical contacts on the job.

The well-known fact is electrical line work can be hazardous and potentially deadly. Based on high fatal work injury rates, the U.S. Department of Labor puts it in the top 10 high-risk occupations.

In the industry, there is continuous lineworker safety training, a heavy focus on OSHA regulations and requirements, and a variety of procedural checklists. With all this emphasis on ensuring safety knowledge, one might think the serious electrical contact and flash rate among lineworkers would be declining. Yet it appears to be moving in the other direction.

One utility insurer reported a 40 percent overall drop in OSHA reportable incidents from 2006 to 2016; however, lineworker electrical contacts, particularly serious injuries and fatal contacts, are increasing. In 2016, the number of lineworker contacts grew 23 percent compared to the previous year. The number of those that were serious incidents, characterized by a fatality or an injury costing more than $100,000 in medical expenses, went up by 50 percent.

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Luis Ortega, CUSP

Safety Concerns When Setting Wooden Utility Poles

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On an invigorating and beautiful late-spring Sunday afternoon, Frank decides to take his young family for a drive in his brand-new van. Frank, his wife and their two young daughters are cruising along with a scenic view of the mountains. He is enjoying this priceless quality time with his family. While listening to some good music on the radio, the van approaches a tight curve on the road. Suddenly, Frank notices a large wooden utility pole ahead that is carrying lots of wire and leaning excessively toward the road. Frank jams on the brakes, but he cannot stop in time. He hits the pole, and the impact splits the pole and damages the van. All wires are hanging low, but they’re not touching the van or the ground. Frank parks on the side of the road and then checks on his family. Thankfully no one is hurt. However, Frank gets a headache just thinking about the deductible he is going to have to pay his car insurance company to fix the vehicle.

Later, police and emergency personnel arrive on the scene. Frank’s family is taken to the nearby hospital for checkups. Everyone is OK. The police summon the local electric utility to the accident site. The utility responds immediately and assigns the emergency to Bob’s crew. Bob is a foreman with many years of experience; he is known to be tough and demanding yet compassionate. Over the years, his co-workers have nicknamed him “By-the-Book Bob” and “S&P Boss” – “S&P” standing for “safety and productivity.”

Bob assembles his crew and instructs them on the situation. He then reminds them of his basic “CSS” rule that applies while any utility employee is behind the wheel. The three components of the rule are as follows:

  • Cellphone use is banned while driving.
  • Seat belts must be worn when the engine is running.
  • Speed limits must be obeyed.
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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: No Windows

Two U.S. Navy ships recently were involved in collisions at sea. It seemed impossible that one event, involving the USS Fitzgerald, would even occur. Then, a second collision occurred in the same region. In fact, in the last year, the Pacific fleet has experienced four serious navigational awareness errors, which has raised a question: Could the Navy have become so slack in discipline and readiness that these events were destined to happen?

We all know that, just as in the military, frontline leadership in the utility industry has a direct bearing on performance in the field. Yet after-action analysis indicates that when the Navy incidents occurred, the front line performed above expectations, indicating their competency and competency in their training as demonstrated by the actions of sailors. As was expected of the military, a quick response by Command relieved the ships’ leaders of their duties, citing loss of trust. Was Command correct? Did the ships’ leadership lose trust, or was it something else?

Some speculation arose among naval defense analysts that hackers may have caused electronic mayhem. A naval ship’s protection system depends on its electronic eyes and ears. Systems have evolved greatly since the days of the direct-wired blip from the antenna to the screen interpreted by a trained radar man. Early radar sent out a specific frequency wave that was several meters wide. The return wave depended on density of mass to return a reflection of that same frequency wave. The blip was interpreted by a trained observer to differentiate between an enemy bomber and a flock of geese. Today’s electronic radar frequency wave shifts are as small as 1 millimeter. A radar reflection comes back as thousands of bits that are interpreted by a computer. The radar screen now delivers an information-laden message to the radar man, who reads and reports the information displayed to him – by the computer. Some reports suggest that contemporary radar used by the military can detect a suitcase-sized drone that is miles away. The same types of systems scan for other threats, such as missiles and warplanes. If a hostile force wants to disable such protection, hacking a ship’s digital protection capabilities would make it vulnerable.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Electric Utility Accidents and Injuries: Why Are We Regressing?

I travel frequently for work, and everywhere I go, I hear conversations about injuries and accidents that have occurred in the electric utility industry. Many of those conversations have included comments about how dangerous or hazardous our industry is. And in several articles published on Forbes.com based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job title of electrical power-line installer and repairer is consistently listed as one of the 10 deadliest occupations in America.

What is helping to keep this title listed as one of the deadliest jobs in the country? Many of us who have worked in the industry for years agree on a theory that it’s the people who are changing – not the job itself. The equipment we use has advanced and improved over time, and now it’s safer than ever before; however, the number of workers in the industry also has increased over the past 10 years.

A project led by the Electric Power Research Institute – known as the Occupational Health and Safety Database program – “enables the electric energy industry to monitor annual injury/illness trends, perform benchmarking, evaluate intervention programs, and investigate occupational health and safety research,” according to the institute’s “Occupational Health and Safety Annual Report 2008” (see www.epri.com/#/pages/product/1015630/). In the 2008 report, 13 years of personnel, injury and claims data – from 1995 through 2007 – from 17 utilities was integrated into a single data system. Findings in that report include the following:

  • More than 60 percent of employees were between 41 to 60 years old. Nearly 35 percent were in the 41-50 age group.
  • Workers aged 21-30 – approximately 10 percent of workers – had the highest observed injury rate.
  • Lineworkers, mechanics and meter readers had the greatest proportions of injuries among electrical energy occupational groups; these three types of workers also had among the highest injury rates.
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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

December 2017 Q&A

Q: I understand OSHA has made a final announcement on minimum approach distances. Can you explain the latest information?

A: On December 22, 2016, OSHA issued a memorandum to regional administrators regarding the enforcement of minimum approach distance requirements in 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V (see www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=31079). The memorandum had an effective date of July 1, 2017. Readers will recall that concerns about the rising risks of transient over-voltages were the basis for the increased minimum approach distances published by OSHA in 2014. The bottom line is that OSHA has accepted an industry engineering analysis – an IEEE paper titled “Practical Approaches to Reducing Transient Overvoltages Factors for Live Work” that was delivered at IEEE’s 2016 ESMO conference – as a basis for the final guidance of the memorandum. The guidance for enforcement is simple, but it is divided for above and below 72 kV. Following are the choices spelled out in the memorandum.

New Transient Table
The IEEE paper established a new Table A with standard transient multipliers based on voltage. The employer may still calculate their own minimum approach distances utilizing an engineering analysis approved by the standard using transients published in the new Table A.

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David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Frontline Fundamentals: Human Performance: What Is It and Why Should We Study It?

Please take a few moments to think about the following questions:

  • Should a vice president tell his employees, “I only want new mistakes”?
  • Is telling a 10-year-old baseball pitcher to throw strikes a good way to teach him how to pitch?
  • When is the last time you provided positive reinforcement for safety behavior, or do you consider safe work a part of the job that shouldn’t be praised?
  • How do your frontline workers feel when you say zero injuries is the goal and nothing else is acceptable?
  • Do most of your post-incident corrective actions involve administrative controls such as retraining and targeted observations?
  • Imagine one of your employees rear-ends another vehicle and does $100 in damage to an older-model sedan with high mileage. Another employee does the same thing but hits a new luxury SUV and does $10,000 in damage. Are both vehicle collisions investigated? Do both employees receive the same disciplinary action?
  • Would you spank your child because they spilled their milk? Would that keep them from spilling it again?
  • How does it help someone when you say, “Be safe,” and are you doing it for them or yourself?

Here are two additional questions you should carefully consider, as they are the ultimate test of your safety program’s effectiveness. If your answer to either one is yes, there is room for improvement and an opportunity to add human performance (HP) principles into your program.

  • Do the same kinds of incidents continue to occur at your organization?
  • When incidents happen, are you left in disbelief that they happened, about how they happened and about who they happened to?
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Hugh Hoagland and Stacy Klausing, M.S.

Secondary FR Garments: Practical Solutions for Protection

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Cleanup of potentially hazardous materials and flammable contaminants can sometimes be a part of an electrical job. When workers arrive on a scene, they cannot always be sure of the exposures or contaminants they will face. In electrical work, it could be oil that contains a small number of PCBs. This oil, and other contaminants, is flammable and can affect the flame-resistant properties of garments until it is washed from the garments. Working around flammable contaminants, as well as flame and thermal hazards like arc flash potentials and flash fire potentials, often requires a PPE safety system that can be difficult to balance. Some workers may need chemical protection, flame protection or both. Secondary protection used in such circumstances, like disposable garments, can create a fast and effective way to decontaminate and clean a scene – by removal and disposal – without soiling or degrading the primary protection underneath. Because of this, disposables often are useful over daily wear. Many workers and managers assume that a chem suit is a chem suit and use the common polyester/polyethylene suits to cover their arc-rated/flame-resistant (AR/FR) gear. This can be a disaster if one of the suits ignites, melts and continues to burn, or if part of the suit becomes molten and melts onto a worker’s hands or face.

In the AR/FR PPE industry, however, disposable garments are few and far between, and the standards aren’t quite in place to help make the distinction between garments that are truly flame resistant in specific hazards versus marketing. The lightweight, thin materials typically can’t pass some of the harsh requirements set forth for garments to be used as primary materials. And even though most are not intended for primary protection, there are limited standards to guide manufacturers on appropriate tests and claims for these types of products. This is especially true for those needing multihazard protection in the outermost disposable garment. There are disposable garments on the market that boast protection from a variety of hazards, like blood-borne pathogens, dry particulates and chemicals. When flame resistance comes into play, there are even fewer options on the market.

How Far Have We Come?
Disposables have come a long way in the past few years, but we are still lacking in standards on the AR/FR side. Initially, polyester spunlace disposable garments were used for chemical protection, and they revolutionized the industry in providing secondary, fast protection that could be doffed and disposed of without concern of contamination of primary clothing; these products add extra protection to the worker at a low cost. Later, coated and sealed-seam garments on the chemical protection side were made to withstand even higher-level exposures, including chemical warfare, an unlikely scenario in the workplace. Disposables for chemical protection worked well for chemical hazards, but they were not adequate or intended for the risks from flash fires or electric arcs. Flame resistance of disposable garments still hadn’t been adequately addressed from a standards perspective, and there were misunderstandings in the market regarding FR PPE, including PPE intended to be disposable.

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Arthur Seely and Steve Andreas

Understanding Hypothermia in the Outdoor Work Environment

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Outdoor workers – including lineworkers and communications technicians – routinely work in hazardous environments. Most of these hazards are well-recognized and understood by the workers and their management, but that is not always the case with cold-weather injuries, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Until workers receive specific and relevant training from medical professionals with cold-weather experience, they may lack the basic understanding of just how suddenly cold weather can kill.

Although there are numerous types of cold-weather injuries, this article will address the most common one: hypothermia, or the human body’s attempt to manage a drop in its core temperature. The core includes the brain, heart, lungs and neck. When managing body core temperatures, keep in mind that more blood flows closer to the skin in the neck than anywhere else in the human body.

Any drop in the temperature of the core blood will trigger a response from the hypothalamus in the brain, which is responsible for all body thermoregulation. The hypothalamus has three separate and unique methods that it will use, in sequence, to respond to a lowered core temperature, referred to as stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3. Failure to recognize the differences between the stages can immediately be fatal to a hypothermia victim.

The Three Stages
Stage 1 hypothermia occurs when the body’s core blood temperature first drops. The hypothalamus initiates two major responses to this temperature drop, only one of which the victim is aware. The first response is the hypothalamus triggering the major muscle groups – those in the arms, legs and face – to shiver. This is mild at first but then progresses to severe and uncontrollable shivering. The second response, which the victim is unaware of, is the brain triggering the release of larger quantities of sugars and insulin into the bloodstream. This is necessary to support the hard muscular work involved in shivering.

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Debbie Dickinson

Overcoming Barriers to Crane and Rigging Skills Development

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The utility industry has high expectations for employing safe work practices and readily invests in equipment and training. Maintaining a workforce with the right skills is a herculean task. Crane operation and rigging skills development presents greater challenges than some other areas because these skill sets typically are not part of the routine work schedule. Individuals with crane operator certification may have fewer than 100 hours of actual operating time in a year, or go more than a year with no seat time or hands-on practice time.

OSHA requires employers to ensure that crane operators are trained and competent without exclusion for any industry. Even while safe crane operation and rigging are critical to utilities, the lack of seat time and skills maintenance is a growing concern among utility safety departments. A strategic approach to developing those skills across business units is essential to maintaining the industry’s above-average safety record.

However, utilities, like most large, complex organizations, battle the 5 C’s: complex corporate culture causing complications. Different groups within the utility may, out of necessity or for other reasons, operate as silos, with little shared knowledge or resources. Construction groups, T&D and emergency response crews have different needs when it comes to crane operation skill levels. The differences between operating boom trucks or digger derricks and large telescopic or lattice boom cranes must be recognized when training individuals for typical or emergency response work environments. Yet the reality of maintaining skill levels may require staff and budget that conflict on the surface with corporate cultures that thrive on efficiencies.

To maintain qualifications in the various areas of responsibilities, utilities need to plan for and schedule practice time with cranes and rigging to reinforce and verify skill ability. Relying on a weeklong refresher training course once every five years is not sufficient for retaining competent crane operation skills.

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Michael Stremel, CUSP

Safety Concerns When Working In and Around Manholes and Vaults

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Some utilities – including electric, cable and communications providers – have had both underground and overhead applications for many years. However, more and more of these utilities now are either primarily installing their services underground or relocating overhead services underground, for a variety of reasons. These include reliability and protection from weather conditions, as well as minimizing exposure to equipment, vehicular traffic and farming operations. In addition to these safety concerns, utilities are installing services underground due to customer requests to improve the general appearance of the communities served by the utilities.

There are many beneficial reasons to install services underground, but there also are some downsides. Among them is the risk of personnel exposure to hazards when improper excavation practices are used. It is critical to adhere to OSHA 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P excavation practices as well as 811 and Dig Safe procedures. Another risk associated with underground facilities is that they often incorporate vaults or manholes that may be classified either as confined spaces or permit-required confined spaces. In either case, there are a number of safety concerns for which OSHA has implemented specific regulations that must be enforced to keep employees safe while working in these areas.

Safety should always be No. 1 on any job site. OSHA 1910.269(a)(2) states that all employees shall be trained in and familiar with the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and other safety requirements that pertain to their respective job duties. The agency goes on to say that employees who work in and around manholes must be trained on manhole rescue each year in order to demonstrate task proficiency. Proper documentation should be completed for the manhole training, as with any other training. The standard also states that the employee in charge shall conduct a job briefing or tailgate with all employees involved before the start of each job. At a minimum, the briefing should address the five areas required by the OSHA standard: hazards associated with the job, special precautions, energy-source controls, work procedures involved and personal protective equipment requirements.

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