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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...

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 reduced work-related incidents.

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Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CHST, CET

Establishing and Evaluating a Value-Driven Safety Culture

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“Safety” is a word many of use daily in our line of work. Within our organizations, we have safety manuals, safety procedures, safety meetings and even entire safety departments. But I often wonder how many times workers have truly considered the question, “What does safety mean to me?”

Safety is “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury or loss,” as defined by Merriam-Webster. If you were to come up with your own definition of safety, what would it be? Some common responses I’ve heard include having the ability to go home at the end of each day, not getting injured and following all of the rules.

Whatever their definition of safety happens to be, most people don’t head to work each day planning to get hurt – but it does happen. And the reasons why often reflect the safety culture of the workplace. Relatedly, how an organization’s leadership team defines safety has an enormous impact on the company safety culture.

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Chip Darius, CUSP, OHST, CET, CSHO

Investigating and Documenting Slips, Trips and Falls

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People are affected by gravity at every moment of their existence. There is an ongoing struggle between this planet, which never stops trying to pull things to its center, and humans who are trying not to be overcome by the pull. In the battle against gravity, humans rely on balance, coordination, traction and decision-making. In work environments, employers are responsible for managing hazards; reducing or eliminating hazards that could cause slips, trips and falls; training employees; and investigating incidents to prevent recurrence. The remainder of this article will focus on the investigation and documentation of slips, trips and falls in the utility work environment.

Terminology and Goal
Clear definitions help guide us to clear outcomes, improved safety and reduced risk. People may refer to “slipstripsandfalls” as a single thing, but they are each distinctly different. Slips, trips and falls can occur alone or in combination.

The employer’s goal is to reduce risk of injuries and incidents by maintaining clean, dry, well-lit workplace walking surfaces with appropriate traction that matches the user’s expectations; managing footwear; eliminating trip hazards; avoiding slippery contamination; and training workers. 

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Skylar Ely

Building and Delivering Effective Safety Courses

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At some point, you most likely have heard a co-worker say, “Alright, it’s time for the safety meeting.” Immediately after that, you typically have heard grumbling from other co-workers who were not looking forward to a meeting they believed would be slow and painful. If you’re a safety trainer, you’re probably somewhat familiar with this response and routinely wonder, “What can I do to make my safety training sessions both informative and enjoyable?”

While there is no magical solution or formula, there are a few strategies that trainers can use that will allow trainings to become valuable events that engage trainees and deliver meaningful content.  

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: OSHA, Training and Certification

The occupational safety and health industry and civil authorities require that employers provide training to employees. In the U.S., OSHA mandates safety training related to tasks assigned to employees. The agency often also requires the employer to certify that the training has been completed. In fact, if you have an incident requiring OSHA notification, the first question that will be asked is, “Was the employee trained for the task?” The second inquiry will be a request for documentation of the training, usually followed by an enforceable subpoena for those training records.

Training and certification of training are important for two reasons. The first is that training has clearly been demonstrated to reduce incidents and injuries to workers. Second, OSHA will hold employers accountable for the training they conduct. The penalties for willful violation of training requirements are rarely discussed, and I hesitate to do it here, but the record shows that if an employer does not train, and OSHA can show the employer knew training was required, the penalties are based on willful violation. Penalties for willful violations that result in fatalities can include jail time for the employer. In addition, if OSHA wins a willful violation case, the employer can expect charges of negligence under both civil and criminal liability standards. Don’t take this training responsibility lightly. I, like OSHA, would prefer employers be compliant for the welfare of the workforce because they are ethical and care about their employees. But if the threat of prosecution works, we still accomplish the desired outcome: a safer workplace.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: Saved by the Bond

In this edition of “Voice of Experience,” we’re going to examine a recent incident that helps to illustrate the point that when workers follow the rules of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(n), “Grounding for the protection of employees,” it can save lives.

Background Information
A transmission crew was assigned the task of transferring conductor and guys on the inside phase of a 115-kV three-pole angle. The pole had been set by another crew and was ready for the transfer; the three-pole-angle structure was sitting in a swampy area not accessible by trucks that day. The crew went in on a Marsh Master with tools to work on the structure.

A clearance had been arranged by the crew leader to de-energize and ground the 115-kV line. The switching order was reviewed and dispatched by a system operator at the origination point of the 115-kV line, about 25 miles west of the work location. There was a three-way GOAB switch approximately 25 miles east of the work location. The system operator was to initiate the switching order at the power plant. A crew person was assigned to open the GOAB switch. Two bucket trucks were assigned to ground on either side of the three-pole-angle midspan when the line was de-energized.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

August-September 2019 Q&A

Q: What is considered a forklift? We use wheel loaders equipped with accessory forks on our rights-of-way to unload and move poles and pole sections. We were told by our client’s safety inspector that the loader operators have to be certified as forklift operators because the loaders are equipped with forks. We have always used loaders and loader operators and never had an issue. Where do I find the information to resolve this issue?

A: OSHA refers to forklifts as powered industrial trucks or PITs, while the industry commonly calls them forklifts. OSHA’s construction standard has a section on material-handling equipment. The very last rule is 1926.602(d), “Powered industrial truck operator training.” The rule consists of a single note that states, “The requirements applicable to construction work under this paragraph are identical to those set forth at §1910.178(l) of this chapter.”

I have had people tell me that this rule means that operators of construction equipment using forks, like a loader, are required to be licensed or certified as a PIT operator. That is not the case. The PIT standard that contains forklift operation and training rules is found in the general industry rules. The second sentence of paragraph 1910.178(a)(1) states the following: “This section does not apply to compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas-operated industrial trucks, nor to farm vehicles, nor to vehicles intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road hauling.” Wheel loaders are designed to move earth. They are not PITs even if they are equipped with forks.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: Coaching and Feedback that Maximize Performance

When I think of the truly great leaders I have had in my life and career, there is one common characteristic they share: the ability to effectively provide coaching and feedback with the primary goal of improving performance and the secondary goal of making me and the team better. Coaching and providing feedback are essential skills you must possess as a leader. They are critical to the success of your team and probably two of the best ways to gain influence and demonstrate C5 leadership (for a refresher on C5 leadership, visit https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/frontline-fundamentals-developing-a-complete-definition).

Demonstrating C5 Leadership
My son and I got involved with the Pinewood Derby when he was in Cub Scouts. Luckily for me, I have a friend whose son never lost a heat during his tenure as a Cub Scout. So, every year when it was time to make the derby car, I would call my friend and ask for advice on how I could help my son build his car (we all know the scouts do most of the work in Pinewood Derby construction). We would also seek his feedback during the construction process.

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Jeremy Verrillo, ATC, CEAS III, CWcHP, CMMSS

Strength and Conditioning Strategies to Prepare the Next-Generation Utility Worker

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Apprenticeships in the utility and construction fields often serve as a transition point for individuals from sedentary or light work to heavy or very heavy jobs. As more individuals seek jobs in the trades, many may have little to no experience with regular physical activity. Injury-free performance of heavy or very heavy job tasks strongly corresponds to an individual’s physical abilities and health habits. While the electrical utility industry strives to engineer the risk out of jobs, many tasks still require a minimum amount of strength, endurance and flexibility.

Strength and conditioning principles have long been used in sports to ensure that would-be players achieve the specific demands of their desired position while also optimizing performance. Similarly, hiring managers, training specialists and safety professionals can implement these same principles into apprenticeships to enable new employees to achieve the physical ability needed to perform their work safely. This creates a win-win scenario that helps to prevent workplace injuries and increase the health and wellness of employees.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

Exploring Human Judgment and Its Impact on Safety

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As a human being, you depend on your own good judgment and the good judgment of others in everything you do. For example, in order to avoid an accident, you depend on your good judgment and driving skill as well as those of the driver in the car approaching you. To create and maintain a safe working environment, you rely on the good judgment of all crew members – including yourself – to carry out tasks with skill and precision.

In part, every individual’s safety depends on the safe decisions of others. When things go well, it often is assumed that everyone involved made good decisions. And when something goes wrong, it sometimes is said that the person at fault used bad judgment. But what exactly drives human judgment? Are there ways that human beings can strengthen their ability to make wise, safe decisions? In the remainder of this article, we will explore the topic of human judgment, including insight on the human brain and some tips to help you improve your decision-making abilities in the future.

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Michael Kleinpeter, M.Eng., CUSP, CHST

Organizational Safety Roles and Responsibilities

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Safety personnel are not the only individuals responsible for safety in an organization. Executive management, operations management and workers also have roles to play in establishing and maintaining a safe working environment.

However, specific roles and responsibilities for each of these groups are not always understood, and they may never have been introduced. This means there may be employees in an organization who do not realize how vital their influence can be on safety – for better or for worse.

The four groups listed below typically comprise a safety team; your organization’s team may vary somewhat. Each group has a specific role and responsibilities for safety in their workplace, as well as some common responsibilities that they share as part of the safety team.

  1. Executive management are owners, presidents, CEOs and the like. They are the final decision-makers.
  2. Operations management are operations managers, project managers, supervisors and foremen. These individuals usually are overseers of an organization’s projects, jobs, crews and/or workers.
  3. Workers are those directly involved in the day-to-day work of the company.
  4. Safety personnel are those employees dedicated to providing safety support.
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Derek Sang, CSHEP, QSSP

Understanding, Selecting and Caring for FR/AR Clothing

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When the original version of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 standard was published in the 1990s, flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) clothing weren’t even mentioned. The dangers associated with electric arcs were known at the time, 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 eliminated use of garments constructed with synthetic materials – such as polyester, nylon, rayon and acetate – so the default was for employees to wear clothing made of 100% 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 the employee’s injury.

It has now been a little over five years since FR/AR clothing requirements were incorporated into the 1910.269 standard. The 2014 final rule (see www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2014-04-11/pdf/2013-29579.pdf) states the following: “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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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Manufacturer Warnings and OSHA-Compliant Safety Performance

Over the past few weeks I have received several inquiries regarding horizontal directional drilling (HDD). It’s not unusual in our industry for questions to make the rounds of utilities and contractors, generating interest and often controversy. I also have recently received several inquiries regarding OSHA allegedly canceling the digger derrick exemption in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes & Derricks in Construction.” OSHA hasn’t done that, but somebody said they did, and folks started asking around. Soon after, I received calls for clarification on the matter. In the digger derrick case, there was nothing to it; OSHA has not changed anything about the exemption. However, concerning HDD, there is an issue that raises an interesting question for those who administer compliance.

The point of the rest of this article is not to recommend or criticize any safety procedure associated with HDD. The point is to examine the role of manufacturer warnings and OSHA-compliant safety performance in the workplace. There is no doubt that I will get emails from HDD machine manufacturers and adherents of overshoe use, as well as overshoe sales or manufacturing representatives. I invite your response. To be clear, both Incident Prevention magazine and I are solely interested in providing an opportunity for perspective and analysis of a process that will help individuals learn how to deal with challenges in the workplace.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Voice of Experience: What Do New Employees Need to Know?

As I’ve recently traveled around the U.S. speaking to different utilities, contractors and municipals, I’ve found that attrition is greatly affecting the workforce. And as more and more workers retire, the industry will need to hire new workers to fill those vacated roles – new workers who will need the appropriate training to safely and effectively perform their jobs.

I’ve written about the value of training in the past, specifically about how the quality of training and performance management has a direct effect on the safety of employees and the productive abilities of the workforce. In this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I want to take the opportunity to review some of the basic skills a lineworker should possess in order to help ensure quality construction for the employer and decrease safety issues for everyone working in field.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

June-July 2019 Q&A

Q: We experienced an event that has caused some confusion among crew and supervisors about what we thought we knew about grounding. We were working midspan on a de-energized 345-kV circuit. We drove a ground rod, grounded our trucks to it and grounded the phases to it. Almost immediately, we smelled hot rubber, and then tires started to smoke. Can you help us understand why this happened?

A: That was likely much more serious than hot tires. For the benefit of readers, we spoke with you on the phone, got details and shared opinions. Here is what happened: Your crew was in a right-of-way with very high induction. The ground rod you drove was very high resistance. When you connected your trucks, essentially you made a radial connection from phase to truck through the ground rod connection. In doing so, you loaded very high induction current onto the truck, which passed into the earth across the tires and outriggers. Many utilities by procedure use ground rods at midspans, and often it goes without problems. This is why we stress learning the principles of current flow in grounded systems. If you can ground phases to the very low-resistance static, the induction load is handled without much risk to workers on the ground. If you do have to ground your truck, and there is high induction, a well-driven rod isolated from the phase grounds might be a good choice. If grounding to the same ground electrode as the phases can energize the truck, as happened in your case, dangerous gradients can occur around the truck, and touch potentials between earth and truck can be deadly.

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

Frontline Fundamentals: Valuing Your Team and Developing Relationships

Developing relationships is a huge topic, especially in today’s world of generational differences, cultural sensitivities, political divisions, and a general us-versus-them attitude between organizations, leadership, and frontline workers. It starts with how you onboard new employees and encompasses everything from conflict resolution to codes of conduct. While relationships often are overlooked or ignored, they may be the most influencing factor in the success of your team.

Let me tell you about an experience I had that infuriated me. It’s probably the angriest I have been in my professional life. A trainer was about to go into a crane certification preparation course. Right before he walked into the room, he looked at me and said, “None of these guys are going to pass. They’re all too stupid to do the math.” I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that quite a few of them passed. What’s important is how this exemplifies the value – or lack thereof – that leaders place on their teams.

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Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP

Five Essentials of Successful Safety Programs

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Recently my teammates and I were given the opportunity to evaluate the safety programs of a cross-section of contractors conducting potentially hazardous work for a large utility. It was our goal to help those contractors identify the vulnerabilities of their safety strategies and to help them become even more reliable partners to the utilities they serve.

In my line of work, I am often asked what commonalities I see among the most effective safety programs. The temptation is to think that bigger is better, or that world-class safety requires an enormous investment of resources. I wrote this article to dispel some of those notions, and to let smaller contractors know that they, too, can have highly reliable safety programs without huge investments.

Following are five principles my teammates and I have observed in every effective safety program we have evaluated. Please note that none of the following ideas are originally mine. I am indebted to my team and the contractors with whom I have worked. The ideas are theirs, and so the credit must be as well.

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Pam Tompkins, CSP, CUSA, CUSP

Are Compliance Grungs Taking Over Your Organization?

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Do you have a safety culture that focuses solely on safety compliance and the use of personal protective equipment? If so, you probably also have the dreaded Compliance Grungs, which can secrete poisons throughout your organizational safety culture.

What exactly are Compliance Grungs, and how do deadly creatures relate to anything associated with safety? Deadly creatures kill, destroy, and cause suffering and pain. They wreak havoc and generate a great deal of harm. Individuals who work for organizations that promote safety only as a rule or compliance issue may experience similar phenomena without understanding why their safety culture is suffering.

To put it simply, Compliance Grungs are rules, policies or procedures that are considered more important than their application. They destroy a culture by promoting safety as a rule instead of a personal value, thereby strongly devaluing the importance of safety. Statements like “They don’t care about me,” “Management only wants to cover their own behinds” and “That rule is so dumb – they don’t know anything about our work” are sure indicators that you are suffering from an invasion of Compliance Grungs.

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David Clark

Using Simulators to Standardize Utility Operator Training

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The Missouri Valley Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training Program has supplied a steady stream of qualified workers to the electrical industry of the American Midwest since the mid-1960s.

Operating out of seven locations in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, Missouri Valley Line Constructors has approximately 600 apprentices enrolled in the lineman, traffic signal technician and substation technician programs at any given time.

“We offer a four-year, 7,000-hour apprenticeship program for the power-line industry,” said Robbie Foxen, executive director for the Missouri Valley Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training Program. “We start from scratch, teaching apprentices how to climb poles, work on transformers, build high-voltage power lines and maintain electrical grids.”

The training center owns two digger derrick trucks, a bucket truck, a skid-steer loader and a boom truck. In the past, with dozens of apprentices vying for time on the machines, scheduling was difficult. “We just hoped they got some hours on the equipment,” Foxen said.

So, to standardize equipment operator training, as well as expand seat time for apprentices, Missouri Valley Line Constructors decided to turn to simulation-based training.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

Overcoming Conflict on the Right-of-Way

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A news helicopter circled overhead as the two ambulances left the job site. The deputy sheriff looked at the superintendent and said, “Tell me again, how did this happen?” The superintendent removed his safety glasses with a sigh as he surveyed the devastation left behind by the 345-kV contact. “Well, we had to set up for work directly under these lines because some local environmentalists wanted the wildflowers protected,” he said. “So, we did what we were asked. If you notice over there, those flowers are still looking beautiful, but it seems that the now-deceased landowner still didn’t like us being here, so he ran onto the right-of-way and tried to climb up onto the boom truck to stop our work. This must have caught our groundhand off guard, because instead of just stopping the work and notifying his supervisor, he attempted to intercept the man. All this commotion distracted the operator, causing him to contact the line. Once that happened, 345 kilovolts of electricity killed the landowner instantly, and our ground worker was severely shocked by what we call step potential.”

Although the preceding paragraph is an extreme worst-case example of how right-of-way (ROW) distractions and conflicts can impact our job sites, it’s not unrealistic. In this article, we will look at how members of the public and our own workers can create distractions and conflicts that jeopardize our ability to do our jobs well, and we will also consider safe ways to handle these types of distractions and conflict.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Train the Trainer 101: Root Cause Analysis, Training and Lessons Learned

I’m not sure how I became an analyst. I don’t think it’s a career goal you necessarily plan for. My understanding of the analyst role is that it’s an individual who studies the elements of an event or occurrence. Analysts break down the elements of an event to learn how those elements are related. The purpose of analysis is to understand the nature of the event being studied. Through effective analysis, we ultimately create or assure desired outcomes and prevent or minimize the likelihood of undesired outcomes.

Over the past 10 years I have analyzed a half-dozen training accidents that occurred in apprentice training yards. Recently I also have seen a couple of videos of incidents involving apprentices in which no one was hurt; they were actually kind of funny to watch. But to an analyst, those videos have a lot more to offer than the lighthearted “been there” sympathy. Lineworkers often learn the hard way how not to do things. It’s that hard way that I want to eliminate because sometimes the hard way becomes the final act to what might have been a great life.

I was once engaged to write an opinion on a root cause analysis (RCA) that OSHA and a utility performed based on an incident that hospitalized three apprentices in a single event. OSHA only performs RCAs to identify where the employer may be at fault, but in this situation, the RCA listed all kinds of physical conditions and procedural mistakes that caused the incident. All of those items were causally related, but none were the real root cause. Before we move ahead in this edition of “Train the Trainer 101,” readers need to understand RCAs and how they fit into the lessons learned from training accidents.

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