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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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Marilyn M. Velez, MPH

Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.

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Members of the OSHA Georgia Struck-By Alliance and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia Inc. (AGC Georgia) will join thousands of employers and workers during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which takes place April 26-30. This year’s theme is “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. Everyone plays a role in work zone safety.”

NWZAW is an annual campaign sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to raise public awareness about the need to drive safely in work zones. The campaign is held at the start of the highway construction season and draws attention to the safety of road workers as well as motorists.

The Georgia Struck-By Alliance encourages participants to recognize NWZAW by conducting safety stand-downs at their job sites. During a safety stand-down, all work is stopped for 30 minutes to one hour and a focused safety meeting on one specific topic is provided. AGC Georgia explained that “these types of meetings provide effective communication of safety policies, goals and expectations through all levels of a team.” They recommend that participants conduct toolbox talks, perform safety equipment inspections, develop rescue plans or discuss job-specific hazards during their safety stand-downs.

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Mack Turner, CUSP

Overcome ‘Burnt Toast Syndrome’ to Improve Safety and Training Results

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I have a beautiful and caring better half. She is always there for me. One of the things she does for me is make breakfast. Now, I am an old country boy, so any old breakfast won’t do. I want meat, eggs, potatoes and toast, and she is happy to prepare them for me.

One morning as I sat down for the breakfast she had prepared, I looked at my plate and right on top was the toast … and it was burnt. Now, I do not like my toast burnt. How dare she, after all these years, try to feed me burnt toast? So, what did I do? I grabbed the jam and smiled, I thanked my better half for my breakfast, and I ate the burnt toast.

After breakfast that day, I got up from the table and left for work. While I was driving, I could not help but think that my burnt toast was somewhat symbolic of our employee safety programs and the behavior and culture of our employees.

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Sharon Lipinski

The Biological Basis of Complacency

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The adverse effects of complacency in the workplace have long been an ongoing source of concern in the safety community. What is not agreed upon is the reason for this problem. In my own experience, I have noticed that safety professionals use the term “complacency” in different ways to refer to different kinds of events.

The ability to address and solve a problem is greatly increased when the problem is properly understood, so I embarked upon a research effort to better understand this hazard. As a result, I produced a paper that explores a previously undiscussed component of complacency: basic brain design. Given how the human brain has evolved to operate, I argue that complacency is an unavoidable risk factor that can be managed but not eliminated. With this scientifically based understanding of complacency, safety professionals can more effectively prevent complacency from posing a risk to their employees’ safety.

The Symptoms of Complacency
Complacency is not an easily observable condition, and objective criteria can be elusive. Based on interviews with safety professionals, I compiled a list of anecdotal clues these professionals use to gauge the presence of complacency:

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Minimum Approach Distances: What’s Required?

Let’s kick off this article with a definition of what “MAD” means in the utility sector – and it does not mean that we’re upset with you. The word is actually an acronym that stands for minimum approach distance, which is the calculated safe working distance that provides worker protection when working on or in the vicinity of energized lines and equipment.

As with other articles in this series, we must begin with the hazard. Remember, if you always begin by identifying the hazard, then the application of the OSHA standard becomes somewhat simplified. The hazard here is electricity that could result in electric shock or electrocution. Considering the consequences of the hazard, de-energization should remain the best safe work practice. When de-energization is not feasible, the hazard must be effectively controlled to provide a safe work environment. MAD has been developed to give workers a calculated safe working distance that will provide personal safety and operational security during energized line maintenance or while working in the vicinity of other energized lines. OSHA refers to MAD as “the closest distance a qualified employee may approach an energized conductor or object.”

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

A Practical Guide to Using Outrigger Pads

I’ve met a lot of people over the years while working in the utility industry. One of those people is in management with a respected manufacturer of aerial devices. Back when OSHA published 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes and Derricks in Construction,” he and I and a few others were discussing how a utility operation could best comply with some of the standard’s requirements. The OSHA rules were formed with the perspective of typical construction sites in mind. In particular, we discussed the rule’s expectation that the site’s general manager will tell the crane operator about underground obstructions that might collapse and cause a crane to become unstable. It’s obvious that a crane operator setting structures on a right-of-way doesn’t have that luxury, so we were thinking about things we could do. The discussion landed on auxiliary outrigger pads. At the time, my friend from the aerial device company had this to say: “We have occasionally been sued by folks who turned over one of our cranes or aerial devices, but we have never been sued by anyone who had set up on auxiliary pads.”

I don’t know if that’s still the case with that company, but at the time I began to research why auxiliary pads appeared to be an important part of stable setup for aerial devices. Basically, it’s because sometimes even a few square inches of additional pad dimension can increase ground support by tons per square foot. When it comes to the four-point support of an aerial device that weighs in at tons, tons-per-square-foot increases are a good thing.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

System Operations: Who’s in Charge?

System and utility operators are required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(m) to have a procedure to de-energize their systems for protection of the employees working on those systems. The rules in 1910.269(m) do not specifically require a written procedure, but it is hard to imagine how an effective procedure could be maintained if it weren’t written. Unlike lockout/tagout, we refer to these programs as switching and tagging. Switching and tagging apply to transmission and distribution, including substations. The 1910.269 standard has a paragraph (d)(2) on energy control procedures for power plants that is much less rigorous than the traditional lockout/tagout for general industry found in 1910.147, “The control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout).” Part 1910.147 specifically exempts “installations under the exclusive control of electric utilities for the purpose of power generation, transmission and distribution …”

Most substation entry and system control centers also have additional rules they must adhere to per the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), including those pertaining to security and reliability of the bulk power systems across the U.S. and Canada.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

April-May 2021 Q&A

Q: I read the article “A Practical Review of the ANSI A92.2 Standard” in the October-November 2020 issue of Incident Prevention magazine (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/a-practical-review-of-the-ansi-a92-2-standard), and I’d like to know, is there a standard for the construction of electrically insulating bucket liners? We have problems with the geometry of a bucket. Because the walls of the bucket and the bucket liner are separated, I need to know the tolerance or maximum distance between the walls of those elements. Can you help?

A: We don’t know of a standard for liners other than the paragraph for buckets with liners in the A92.2 standard. That rule covers the requirements that the liner be rated and capable of passing the appropriate test. The liner also must be supported by the bottom of the bucket, leaving fit in the bucket up to the manufacturer and the buyer of the liner.

Liners are not required if workers are comfortable with that. Many workers have been brought through the industry with liners and believe they are mandatory and safer than buckets without liners. Again, however, liners are an option, and many utilities and contractors use them as a secondary level of protection. If you are gloving from a Category B bucket, the bucket itself is not required to have any primary insulating value because your primary means of protection are gloves, sleeves and cover-up. The bucket and boom are secondary barriers for the protection of the worker. As to the liner, the rule only requires that it be supported by the bottom of the bucket; therefore, it must be tall enough that it is not supported by the lip of the bucket. In the same way, the sides must be narrow enough that they do not support the liner on the sidewalls.

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

How Common is Common Sense?

How did you learn that a stovetop could be hot and burn you? Some would say that’s common sense, that human beings have an innate awareness of hazards, yet I’m guessing many of you learned the hard way – by touching a hot stove.

What about brushing your teeth? Have you ever hurt yourself doing that? When was the last time you locked your keys in your vehicle or slipped on a patch of ice? Have you ever run into a stationary object while driving? If you have common sense, none of these things should ever happen, right? Yet they do.

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Steve Nash

Fire Extinguisher Use and Safety for Utility Workers

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Officer George Brentar, a 22-year veteran of the Euclid, Ohio, police force, died October 10, 2007, when his car skidded into a pole and caught fire on an entrance ramp to Interstate 90. Officer Brentar had spotted a speeding motorist and was attempting to catch up to the vehicle when his car hydroplaned. The right rear end hit a pole and the car immediately burst into flames, with Officer Brentar trapped inside.

If your job has you on the road much of the time, as it sometimes does in the utility industry, there always exists the possibility that you may come upon such a horrific accident. And if you are like me, you hope to be well-prepared and properly equipped to help ensure a more favorable outcome. A trained person with a fire extinguisher and seat-belt cutter could have made a difference in Officer Brentar’s life that day.

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Zarheer Jooma, P.E., and Hugh Hoagland

Arc Rating Standards for Personal Protective Equipment

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Employees who interact with electrical equipment and electrical installations may be exposed to electrical shock and arc flash hazards. A previous two-part article titled “Arc Flash Considerations for Utility and Construction Activities” (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities and https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/arc-flash-considerations-for-utility-and-construction-activities-part-ii) discussed the electrical hazard identification and risk assessment. If the employer has taken steps to reduce the risk of injury or death from electrical hazards but is unable to eliminate the hazard, then OSHA requires the provision of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). For electrical hazards, both dielectric (insulating) and arc-rated (thermal) PPE is required. This article discusses some of the ASTM International and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for arc flash-related PPE. Many ASTM standards have equivalent International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. These standards reference the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists, and so forth. While no one standard may claim superiority over another, it is a best practice to ensure that products meet the local performance specifications. Nearly all North American labs that work with arc-rated (AR) PPE are geared toward performing both local and international testing.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Why are Job Briefings and Risk Assessments Important?

When you hear the term “job briefing,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a meeting, a form to fill out or maybe even a complete waste of time? How we perceive job briefings has a huge impact on how we complete them. Per OSHA, job briefings are required to be completed before each job; however, for us to perform them effectively, it is critical that we understand the intent behind that requirement.

What Needs to be Covered?
A job briefing is intended to be used as part of the planning process to accomplish a job both safely and successfully. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(c)(2) requires that the following topics be covered, at minimum, during a briefing: hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions, energy-source controls and personal protective equipment requirements. All of these elements are essential to safely plan for the work that is to take place. By design, job briefings encourage us to slow down and think about the job we are about to perform. When we take time to think, we begin to identify desired outcomes as well as elements that can contribute to undesired outcomes.

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Lito Wilkins, CUSP

My Shocking Awakening: Lessons Learned From a High-Voltage Contact

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Why is this happening? It hurts! Don't let go!

These are some of the thoughts that ran through my mind on a day in late 2015 when an induction contact surged through and around my body for roughly 30 seconds. What was supposed to be a typical workday quickly turned into a fight for my life as I was held captive 130 feet in the air by an insulated optical ground wire (OPGW) charged with inducted voltage off two energized 500,000-volt circuits. Why did it happen? Did I miss the warning signs? Could the incident have been avoided?

The Event
Before we get to those questions, let me describe what happened the day of the event. I started work at 4 a.m. when I arrived at the yard early to inspect new fall protection gear before I issued it to the crew. The project that day was to replace insulators and hardware on two suspension towers on an energized 500-kV circuit using barehand work procedures. The job site was two-and-a-half hours away, and I was to drive the flatbed truck carrying the insulators to the landing zone.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Understanding Radio Frequency Energy Exposure

Are you concerned about cellular antennas? Decades of research on cellphones and cancer have not found a link between the two, but that hasn’t stopped some communities from creating laws and public service campaigns regarding protection of the public from cellular system threats. What these actions have done is created a sense that the risk exists, leading to much concern and confusion for the public. There are risks, and they are not to be ignored, but many of them are misunderstood.

As communications technology continues to develop, its next iteration – 5G – is already here. The idea of 5G is better coverage using smaller, low-power, overlapping range with multiple antennas. This is the same technology used in large offices and hospitals to overcome the cellphone signal shielding caused by buildings. The buildings have numerous low-power, overlapping antennas that ensure cellular signal communications. The communications industry needs more mounting locations, and utility poles are the obvious answer. 5G is more of a physical hazard than a radio frequency (RF) hazard because it includes a powered cabinet on the pole wired to the antenna above, creating more congestion on the structure for climbers. I receive lots of questions and rightly so because line personnel are finding themselves looking at antenna installations where they have never seen them before. 5G is very low energy compared to other RF emitters but should not be ignored. Most of the 5G hazard is the antenna at the top of the pole, which can be anything from a 30-foot light pole to a 60-foot transmission pole. The obvious precaution, as with any antenna, is to not put yourself in the antenna beam. So, a 360-degree 5G antenna is like any 360-degree antenna: Don’t put your body in the beam.

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Danny Raines, CUSP

Sharing My Story: I’m a Male Breast Cancer Survivor

It was a beautiful October day in Captiva Island, Florida, where my family and I were on a short vacation at the end of the summer season. I was in a room of the condo we had rented. Housekeeping had recently damp-mopped the tile floor in the room, and as I walked across it, I slipped and took a fall that resulted in a concussion after my head hit the tile. Thankfully, the concussion was minor, the embarrassment of the fall was short-lived, and my bruises healed quickly.

While assessing my injuries, however, I found a mass on the left side of my chest that seemed odd to me. Thinking it was an internal bruise, I ignored it for a few weeks, but the mass didn’t go away. I started monitoring the area, which was on my left breast on the outside edge of the nipple. After a few weeks of watching it closely, I made an appointment with my family doctor. He examined the area, declared it a fatty mass, and I went on my way. That was in November. Around the first week of December, I asked my wife, Vicki, to examine the mass to see what she thought. She did and immediately suggested I make another appointment to see the family doctor. That visit ended up being different since the doctor was no longer focused on my head injury. He felt the mass several times and eventually told me I needed a mammogram. And thus began my journey of addressing what was suspected to be breast cancer.

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

February-March 2021 Q&A

Q: Why do some experts say ground rods won’t work to trip a circuit?

A: The experts say this because they are right depending on the conditions, which we’ll soon discuss. But let’s start with a definition of the idea of “remote ground” as the point at which we connect a protective system to earth. The lower the resistance of that remote ground connection to earth, the more current flows and the faster a fault clears. So, what we should be doing as a rule is using the best available ground to remote earth. The problem is that we often overlook a key element in this debate, which is that the ground source is not what protects the worker. The ground path trips the circuit. Bonding the worker into the ground scheme – the path between the fault and ground – is what provides reliable protection for workers using personal protective grounds. For example, if you ground to a system neutral, you have connected to a very low-resistance path, but you also are connecting to a current-carrying conductor. If workers are not bonded into the ground scheme, they can be exposed to current from the neutral that can result in voltage rises across the ground scheme, especially if a fault current rises on the neutral from some remote event on the system. If you are on a delta primary system at a transformer bank, that neutral on the secondary side is derived from the ground rod at the foot of the pole. Nobody would take their truck ground up to the neutral bushing of a 300-kVA 277/480 bank, but that’s no different than connecting to the ground rod bonding that 480-VAC neutral to earth. That is why delta system workers use ground rods, and to good effect if the conditions are right.

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

Hazards Do Not Discriminate – Nor Should We

Hazards do not discriminate – nor should we. We do not necessarily have to like each other to work safely, but we do have to maintain professional working relationships based on mutual appreciation, caring, respect and trust.

Picture this: It’s January 25, 2021. At 9:15 a.m., Curtis, who is working his second day on the job, expresses concern that the outriggers on a crane are not properly cribbed. Carla, the site supervisor, tells Rich, the certified operator, to exit the crane and join her, Curtis and Becky, a signalwoman, for a discussion about the concern. At 9:20 a.m., the crane overturns, and the boom lands where Carla and Becky had been standing just moments before. The crane is a total loss, and there’s no chance of the job being profitable or completed on time.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

What are OSHA’s Training Requirements?

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In our first article in this series (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/when-osha-electric-power-safety-standards-apply), we discussed how to apply OSHA’s electric power standards. This article will review OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V training requirements relating to qualified and unqualified employees.

To determine training requirements, you must first ask the question, are my employees exposed to electric power system hazards? If so, the training portion of the OSHA electric power standards should apply.

OSHA requires all employees to be trained in the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and emergency procedures that pertain to their job assignments. This includes employees performing covered work, as discussed in the first article of this series, and employees who access areas restricted to qualified employees in order to perform nonelectrical work.

Examples of employees who access restricted areas include an employee spraying herbicide around underground enclosures, a warehouseman delivering substation equipment inside an energized substation, and a maintenance employee replacing “Danger” signs inside an energized substation. Each of these nonelectrical employees has potential electrical hazards and risks associated with their job tasks that must be identified. Unfortunately, nonelectrical employees are many times exposed to unknown electrical hazards, such as step and touch potentials they do not know exist, which emphasizes the importance of effective training.

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Bill Martin, CUSP, NRP, RN, DIMM

A Lineworker’s Three Safety Superpowers

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Workplace safety requires each of us to do our part to keep ourselves and our co-workers free from injury and illness. To meet this goal, we must understand the tools we have and know how to use them. Let’s look at a lineman’s life, for example. He can climb poles, float through the air in a bucket, safely touch energized conductors, balance poles and transformers, and construct all of these items into a working system. The skills needed to accurately accomplish these tasks are a result of training and repetitive practice, but these skills are only partially responsible for the lineman’s success because the lineman is part of and works in a team. True success occurs when the team members who perform the dance are connected to each other.

How do team members connect with one another? You may not know it, but human beings have superhero powers that have evolved over thousands of years. And when we understand how to successfully tap into them, we can improve our connections with others and change outcomes. This article will identify three of your superpowers – reading minds, reasoning and looking into the future – and how to tap into them to improve safety on the job.

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Jesse Hardy, CSP, CIT, CUSP

Leading Change Through Faith, Hope and Tough Love: Part II

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As we discovered in the first part of this two-part series (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/leading-change-through-faith-hope-and-tough-love-part-i), people are fallible, sometimes lessons aren’t learned, and improvements aren’t always made. This can leave leaders and team members feeling frustrated or apathetic because they don’t know how to right the ship. The simple truth is that your team should be able to succeed today and learn what they need to improve tomorrow. The simple solution is to speak from vision through faith and hope, and lead with tough love. However, simple rarely equals easy.

In the previous article, we discovered that if we have confident trust in our people, it leads to hope, which allows us to keep our current reality in proper perspective and stay future-focused – not yesterday-paralyzed. And with faith in our people solidified in our minds, we’re now free to focus on hope and tough love.

So, without further ado, let’s jump into the first part of the hope mindset.

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Michael Stremel, CUSP

Are You Using Your Five Senses to Stay Safe?

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All of us have experienced mishaps in our daily lives, both at home and at work. An accident typically is defined as an unwanted incident occurring unexpectedly and unintentionally, usually resulting in damage or injury.

In our work lives, proper training develops our mindset as well as our knowledge. Increasing our knowledge allows us to identify known hazards and to recognize unknown hazards. Training value is understood and incorporated into workplace law. OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to furnish to each of their employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In addition, each employee shall comply with OSHA rules, regulations and orders that are applicable to their own actions and conduct. We assure employees can follow the law by training them with the necessary knowledge and intangible tools to make them more effective.

The job hazard analysis or job briefing is an effective tool for identifying hazards. A job briefing is required by OSHA rules that employers and employees must abide by (see 29 CFR 1910.269(c) for general industry and 1926.952 for construction). The briefing is an intangible tool that uses recognition and reasoning through knowledge and experience. Here is where the human brain is leveraged to be successful. Guidance from OSHA requires that a job briefing discuss hazards associated with the job; the work procedures involved; special precautions; energy-source controls; and personal protective equipment requirements.

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