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OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

OSHA’s requirements apply when tasks are performed on or near energized overhead power lines and equipment.
Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required controls for worker safety. Note: Live-line barehand work, […]

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, there […]

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Author Ken Sheridan explains what an organization needs to do to get safety right – including the how and the why.
Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I […]

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Leveraging technology can help utilities face the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand. 
Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org), all energy sectors reported hiring difficulties: “Lack of experience, training, or technical skills were […]

Thermal Protection for Electrical Work

Subject matter experts provide an update on recent changes and emerging research in the thermal protective world. 
Thermal protective apparel for electrical work appears to have reached a point of inflection from “What needs to be done?” to “How can it be improved?” Looking at the safety standards recently approved for publication,

Understanding Wind Speed Limitations on Utility Equipment

Wind conditions can create hazards that must be effectively managed to ensure worker safety. 
The question about what’s permitted for operating aerial devices and digger derricks in high winds is one that comes up frequently with users. Utility crews often must deal with working in wind. Trouble trucks responding during storm recovery, transmission operations to place visibility balls on lines and working above rooflines in urban locations are just […]

The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture

Developing these habits helps to create a safety culture in which it is safe for employees to fail.
I began writing my new book – “The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture” – in 2004 while working as a civilian contractor for Kellogg Brown & Root in Iraq. I was the area HSE manager for a large portion of the Logistical Civilian Augmentation Program #3 Project. Our contract required us to […]

5 Safety Factors to Consider in Unfamiliar Territory

On a routine workday, it’s likely that you are in a familiar place. The people and the system around you? They’re probably familiar, too. But when we as lineworkers are asked to respond to storms or other emergencies via mutual aid or a storm call, all that can change quickly. Suddenly, we may find ourselves […]

FR/AR Protective Wear

Stay safe out there with Lac-Mac’s R.MOR Protective Wear, delivering waterproof, windproof, breathable, FR/AR-rated protection. Heavy rain in the morning and rising temperatures in the afternoon can be challenging conditions. The risk of an electric arc incident can put electric utility workers in extreme danger every day. Our high-performance R.MOR Protective Wear, made using high-visibility […]

Tool and Asset Tracking System

In an effort to provide its customers with new and innovative solutions, Ring Power Utility Equipment has partnered with Aware Innovations to offer a groundbreaking product known as ItemAware. ItemAware is a unique tool and asset tracking system that uses RFID and other technologies to tag tools and other items and pair them with a […]
OSHA’s requirements apply when tasks are performed on or near energized overhead power lines and equipment.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required c…

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, there was one foreman in particular who we all thought was one of the best to work for. His name was John Lane, and he’d been a lineman before I started with the company in 1967. I worked with him as an apprentice on a cut-in truck that he referred to as “South Macon Power and Light.” John was the most …
Author Ken Sheridan explains what an organization needs to do to get safety right – including the how and the why.

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to…
Leveraging technology can help utilities face the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand. 

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org),…

Subject matter experts provide an update on recent changes and emerging research in the thermal protective world. 

Thermal Protection for Electrical Work

Thermal protective apparel for electrical work appears to have reached a point of inflection from “What needs to be done?” to “How can it be improved?” Looking at the safety standards recently approved for publication,
Subject matter experts provide an update on recent changes and emerging research in the thermal protective world. 

Thermal Protection for Electrical Work

Wind conditions can create hazards that must be effectively managed to ensure worker safety. 

Understanding Wind Speed Limitations on Utility Equipment

The question about what’s permitted for operating aerial devices and digger derricks in high winds is one that comes up frequently with users. Utility crews often must deal with working in wind. Trouble trucks responding during storm recovery, transmission operations to place visibility balls on …
Developing these habits helps to create a safety culture in which it is safe for employees to fail.

The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture

I began writing my new book – “The 8 Habits of a Highly Effective Safety Culture” – in 2004 while working as a civilian contractor for Kellogg Brown & Root in Iraq. I was the area HSE manager for a large portion of the Logistical Civilian Augmentation Program #3 Project. Our contract required…

5 Safety Factors to Consider in Unfamiliar Territory

On a routine workday, it’s likely that you are in a familiar place. The people and the system around you? They’re probably familiar, too. But when we as lineworkers are asked to respond to storms or other emergencies via mutual aid or a storm call, all that can change quickly. Suddenly, we may fi…

FR/AR Protective Wear

Stay safe out there with Lac-Mac’s R.MOR Protective Wear, delivering waterproof, windproof, breathable, FR/AR-rated protection. Heavy rain in the morning and rising temperatures in the afternoon can be challenging conditions. The risk of an electric arc incident can put electric utility workers i…

Opinion

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

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

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Danny Raines, CUSP
Danny Raines, CUSP

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM
David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Christa Fairchild
Christa Fairchild

Video

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required co…

Featured Topics


OSHA’s requirements apply when tasks are performed on or near energized overhead power lines and equipment.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required c…

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, ther…

Author Ken Sheridan explains what an organization needs to do to get safety right – including the how and the why.

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to…
Leveraging technology can help utilities face the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand. 

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org),…
Subject matter experts provide an update on recent changes and emerging research in the thermal protective world. 

Thermal Protection for Electrical Work

Thermal protective apparel for electrical work appears to have reached a point of inflection from “What needs to be done?” to “How can it be improved?” Looking at the safety standards recently approved for publication,
Wind conditions can create hazards that must be effectively managed to ensure worker safety. 

Understanding Wind Speed Limitations on Utility Equipment

The question about what’s permitted for operating aerial devices and digger derricks in high winds is one that comes up frequently with users. Utility crews often must deal with working in wind. Trouble trucks responding during storm recovery, transmission operations to place visibility balls on …

OSHA’s requirements apply when tasks are performed on or near energized overhead power lines and equipment.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required controls for worker safety. Note: Live-line barehand work, also found within the standard, is not addressed in this article. Pole and Tower Failures Pole and tower failures can easily occur due to additional or unbalanced stresses created during climbing and the installation or removal of equipment. Workers are required to check for structure safety and stability before work begins. Critical injuries and deaths have occurred when workers have been located on poles or towers that broke or collapsed. If a pole or structure cannot withstand the imposed loads, it must be braced or reinforced to prevent failure before work begins. A pole must withstand the weight of a worker (a vertical force) and the forces resulting from the release and replacement of the overhead line (a vertical and possibly a horizontal force) when work involves removing and reinstalling an existing line on a utility pole. The additional stresses may cause the pole to break, particularly if it is rotten at its base. OSHA refers employers to Appendix D to 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, “Methods of Inspecting and Testing Wood Poles,” for ways to check the condition of a wood pole to determine the presence of decay or other conditions adversely affecting its strength. Setting, Moving or Removing Poles Ground workers have exposures to electric shock when setting, moving or removing poles near exposed energized overhead conductors. OSHA has identified electrocutions that have occurred when ground workers who were not wearing PPE were guiding poles into holes when a power line was contacted. To prevent these exposures, workers must wear electrical protective equipment or use insulating devices when handling a pole. It is important to remember workers cannot contact a pole being set, moved or removed near exposed energized overhead conductors with any uninsulated body part, so employers must ensure the methods used prevent contact. Additionally, workers must be protected from pole holes, including during the installation and removal of poles. Pole holes must be physically guarded or attended to protect workers from falling into them. What does OSHA mean by the word “guarded”? It is important to utilize definitions found within the OSHA electric power standards to better understand the application of the standard. OSHA’s definition of “guarded” is as follows: “Covered, fenced, enclosed, or otherwise protected, by means of suitable covers or casings, barrier rails or screens, mats, or platforms, designed to minimize the possibility, under normal conditions, of dangerous approach or inadvertent contact by persons or objects.” Installing and Removing Overhead Lines This section of the standard addresses a multitude of requirements when overhead lines are installed or removed near exposed energized overhead conductors. When installing lines parallel to existing energized lines, employers must determine the approximate voltage to be induced in the new lines or ensure work is performed with the assumption that the induced voltage is hazardous. Additionally, the automatic reclosing feature on a protective device must be rendered inoperable when conductors being installed or removed cross over energized conductors greater than 600 volts. The OSHA standard also requires workers to utilize a method that can prevent contact of energized parts when installing or removing overhead lines. Methods include the tension stringing method, or barriers or other equivalent methods that will prevent contact of energized parts. The tension stringing method keeps the conductor being installed under tension to prevent it from contacting the existing energized electrical circuits, which may cross over or under or be parallel to the conductor being installed. The standard addresses areas related to the safe operation of reel-handling equipment, load ratings of stringing and pulling lines, conductor grips, load-bearing hardware, other rigging equipment and reliable communications. Barriers, if used as a method, include rope nets and guards, which physically prevent one line from contacting another. Refer to the OSHA definition of “barrier,” which is a “physical obstruction that prevents contact with energized lines or equipment or prevents unauthorized access to a work area.” Hazardous Differences in Electrical Potential Workers operating equipment, performing ground duties or completing other tasks on or near energized lines and equipment during stringing operations can experience hazardous step and touch potentials should the equipment contact the energized lines. Fatalities have occurred due to ground workers walking near stringing equipment at the time of energization. OSHA requires employers to protect workers from hazards that might arise from equipment energization. Employers must be able to demonstrate that the methods in use protect each worker from the hazards that might arise if the equipment contacts an energized line. If they can’t, the measures used shall include all the following techniques:
  • Using the best available ground to minimize the time the line remains energized.
  • Bonding equipment together to minimize potential differences.
  • Providing ground mats to extend areas of equipotential.
  • Employing insulating protective equipment or barricades to guard against any remaining hazardous potential differences.
Towers and Structures Workers cannot be positioned under a tower or structure while work is in progress unless the employer can demonstrate that the working position is necessary to assist employees working above. Additional requirements include tag lines or other similar devices used during construction to maintain control of tower sections while being raised or positioned. Summary It is extremely important to have a good understanding of hazardous differences of electrical potential when work is performed on or near overhead power lines. Too many electric power fatalities occur due to a poor understanding of the step and touch hazards that can be present during overhead power-line installation and removal. OSHA offers an excellent resource in Appendix C to 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, “Protection from Hazardous Differences in Electric Potential.” If you have not read this appendix, it provides a great overview of the hazards and mitigation required to protect workers.  
  About the Authors: Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, is president and CEO of SET Solutions LLC. She is a 40-year veteran of the electric utility industry, a founding member of the Utility Safety & Ops Leadership Network and past chair of the USOLN executive board. Tompkins worked in the utility industry for over 20 years and has provided electric power safety consulting for the last 20-plus years. An OSHA-authorized instructor, she has supported utilities, contractors and other organizations operating electric power systems in designing and maintaining safety improvement methods and strategies for organizational excellence.  Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST, is vice president of SET Solutions LLC. A published author with over 15 years of safety management experience, he also is an OSHA-authorized instructor for general industry and construction standards. Edmonds provides specialty safety management services for electric power organizations throughout the U.S. He has been instrumental in the development of training courses designed for electric power organizations, including OSHA 10- and 30-hour courses and SET Solutions’ popular OSHA Electric Power Standards Simplified series.  About OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified: Topics in this series are derived from SET Solutions’ popular OSHA electric power course offered through the Incident Prevention Institute (https://ip-institute.com). The course is designed to help learners identify standard requirements and to offer practical ways to apply the standards.

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, there was one foreman in particular who we all thought was one of the best to work for. His name was John Lane, and he’d been a lineman before I started with the company in 1967. I worked with him as an apprentice on a cut-in truck that he referred to as “South Macon Power and Light.” John was the most likable guy you could ever meet. We hit it off and always worked well together. The First Event Ed Lunsford and I were the linemen on John’s crew. We had a series of apprentices and helpers come and go in the three years or so that I was on that crew, which was known as the “Bull Gang” because John would ask for – and get – the toughest jobs of all. Once, we reconductored a double circuit of 4/0 copper to one circuit of 750 MCM out of the South Macon substation down off 7th Street in Macon, Georgia. One of the lessons I learned on that job was to never use black plastic tape to hold a jumper in place, which I had done so I could use a set of ratchet bolt cutters to cut a conductor. We had the new 750 pulled in, and I taped the conductor to a down guy to hold it in place until I cut the wire. As it turns out, tape will not properly hold a conductor under that much strain, or I didn’t wrap it enough. The tape turned loose when I cut the wire, and the strain brought the tail close to me – swinging freely out to the end of my cover. The grounded phase locked out the breaker. This event was so embarrassing and dangerous. Ed was on the other end, and he was the first person I thought of. Thankfully, everything worked out and we just made the breaker back hot. From then on, I started to add more cover to expand my work zone and offer protection for any other judgment errors I might make. A Salcor line hose (gut) is only 5 feet long, so I added an extra one on all the phases to give me a 10-foot-wide working area. The Second Event It wasn’t much more than a year later that a man named Gene Conger and I were working together, and we went in one morning to find that our job was to cut a set of gang switches in between two 1,000-MCM riser poles so that circuits could be switched to give them an alternate feed to some switching cubicles. We would have four 2500-kVA transformers in a row feeding one metering point. This was a huge customer, and reliability was always an issue because they were a 24/7 location that never shut down. The job went smooth as silk. We cut the switch hot in a 750-MCM AAAC conductor circuit, kept the new switch jumped out, and adjusted the operations so all the blades closed and could be properly locked. Sometime between 2:30 and 3 p.m., we finished up and congratulated each other on a safe, well-done job. As we were leaving, however, we received a call from a dispatcher about trouble with a three-phase slack span pull-off near our location; they asked if we could look at it and possibly take a little slack out of the conductors. The poles had shifted, and the conductors had gotten together in windy conditions and operated the circuit – the same circuit we had just cut the switch in on. Naturally, we said, “No problem, we will look at it.” The pull-off was at the corner of Cochran Short Route and Weaver Road, near the GEICO office, another important customer. Upon inspecting the pole, we found a three-phase vertical pull-off to a flat horizontal dead-end. I’m not sure who engineered that one, but that is another story for another time. The problem was the roll from vertical to flat in that short 20-foot span of wire. The guys on the flat horizontal pole were incorrectly installed; the pole was leaning, not the angle of the pull-off. The phases had sagged way too close and were not far apart at all without any wind. Gene and I looked at it and then talked it over with Ed Lunsford, who was the crew supervisor that day because John Lane was on vacation. We decided that the slack span was too slack to apply rubber cover. We also determined that I would install a split blanket on the slack span insulator sitting vertical on a steel arm. Gene was to hold the phase with his hand to prevent too much vibration as I took the air wrench and loosened the nuts on the slack span clamp. We could then just slide the 1/0 primary in the clamp, take up about 6 inches of slack and tighten the clamp back up. That would keep it from cross-phasing again until we could get a switching order to switch the load, make a permanent correction to the guys and re-sag all the conductors. Again, it was a great plan. I covered the steel arm at the base of the slack span insulator with a 36-inch-by-36-inch split blanket. I moved the wrench and socket to the clamp, which was lying inverted on top of the insulator. I eased the wrench in place and was watching Gene holding the 7.2-kV phase, so I did not notice that the corner of the steel arm was exposed. The wrench contacted the steel, and a fireball completely engulfed the top of the pole. The guys on the ground could not even see the Hi-Ranger buckets, just their upper booms as they entered the ball of fire. We also never noticed that whoever framed the horizontal dead-end pole allowed the pole ground to get under the gain on the steel arm. So, when the drill made contact, it was a direct path to neutral, and a terrible phase-to-ground flash occurred. We were five spans from the East Macon 115/12-kV substation, and we had the breaker on one shot with the reclosing switch disabled. I was told that the breaker operated one time to instantaneous lockout. There were an estimated 8k amps of fault current at the substation, and we were only 1,000 feet away. The breaker took about eight cycles to clear, but it seemed like two minutes when we were inside the ball of fire. I was wearing a non-FR cotton T-shirt that you could almost read a newspaper through and sunglasses that weren’t ANSI rated and didn’t offer any UVA or UVB protection. That was in June 1973, if I recall correctly. I can still hear the sound and feel the heat, and that was almost 50 years ago. The experience made a believer out of me about how important proper coverup really is. A Puzzling Question The one thing that puzzled me for years – until I met industry expert Hugh Hoagland and later started working for him after my retirement, presenting arc flash training – was why I wasn’t burned worse during the second event. I had a small second-degree burn between the cuff of my rubber glove and the bottom of the sleeve of the T-shirt I’d been wearing. I had a first-degree burn on the right side of my face, plus my retinas suffered minor burns, but the sunglasses kept the glass and metal out of my eyes. I also had porcelain fragments embedded in my chest and stomach because I received the brunt of the flash; Gene, who had been to my right, didn’t suffer much damage at all. I learned later in my career that distance is inversely proportional to the heat and energy levels in an arc flash. The worst of the flash was not at the drill and arm but 5 feet away where the ground wire contacted the gain on the steel arm. The 8k amps of fault current vaporized the #6 copper for some distance down the pole toward the neutral. It was then that I realized the flash was far enough away – 5 to 6 feet – that I didn’t receive the maximum amount of arc flash available. If there was 8 to 10 cal at 18 feet, I only had a quarter of that because of the distance to the gain. That was bad enough, but the flash could have set my clothes on fire and seriously injured both me and Gene. Conclusion I learned many lessons the day of that second event. I had kept those memories inside my head since then, but now I am determined to share my mistakes so that we can prevent similar events from happening in the future. Part of what contributed to my lack of attention on this job was that Gene and I had just completed a very complex task with absolutely no issues. We were so focused on the obvious – the slack span – that we failed to see the bigger picture. I really believe that a lack of focus and attention to detail plays a large role in many of today’s accidents. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed for everyone’s safety. About the Author: Danny Raines, CUSP, is an author, an OSHA-authorized trainer, and a transmission and distribution safety consultant who retired from Georgia Power after 40 years of service and operated Raines Utility Safety Solutions LLC for nearly 15 years. 
Author Ken Sheridan explains what an organization needs to do to get safety right – including the how and the why.

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to chapter five. On top of that, I just published my second book – “Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle: Innovative and Practical Insights on the Art of Safety” – which I was really excited to promote in this issue of Incident Prevention magazine. Because of you, I can’t do that; instead, I …
Leveraging technology can help utilities face the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand. 

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org), all energy sectors reported hiring difficulties: “Lack of experience, training, or technical skills were again cited as the top reasons for hiring difficulty by employers across all five surveyed sectors. The need for technical training and certifications was also frequently cited, implying the need for expanded investments in workforce training and closer coordination between employers and the workforce training system.” One solution is to improve efficiencies in training processes and implement training systems that are attractive to women and racially diverse people, two of the groups the report recommends increasing recruitment of. Efforts of organizations like the Electrical Training Alliance (ETA) are demonstrating how successful new training technologies and methods can be used in battling the workforce problem. The ETA is a joint initiative between the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Its educators provide workplace safety materials, curriculum and training to more than 55,000 electrical apprentices and 700,000 journeymen. Embracing Training Technology Training based in technology is shown to measurably increase interest, effectiveness and retention. CM Labs worked with the ETA to incorporate simulation-based equipment operator training into their program. Such methods eliminate or greatly accelerate the time between learning a skill and applying it in the workplace. Simulation-based training is a staple in many industries, including construction, forestry and material handling. Today it is gaining momentum for utility applications. Like many education-based organizations, trade unions and vocational schools, the ETA’s blended learning approach has seen a recent shift from paper and lectures to technology, with a growing emphasis on simulation. Equipment Safety Cranes, bucket trucks and other forms of lifting and earthmoving equipment are used daily by utilities and utility contractors. Operational competency is central to safety. A 2022 study by the International Powered Access Federation (see www.ipaf.org/en-us/news/ipaf-global-safety-report-analyses-ten-years-incident-data) provides a glimpse of the types of aerial device accidents occurring in the utility sector, which represented 2% of all the industries reporting data but accounted for about 23% of all lost-time accidents. Reports by machinery category show that bucket truck-style equipment (static boom type 1b) was the third most common type of mobile elevating work platform to be involved in incidents, across all industries. In response, training organizations continue to place an emphasis on equipment operator training. Believing that crane safety was too important for simply traditional training methods, Virgil Melton, director at the ETA, was heavily involved in the purchase of a CM Labs crane simulator. The ETA also purchased boom truck and earthmoving equipment simulations along with an Instructor Operating Station. With CM Labs’ embedded smart training technology, they are the only simulations that accurately replicate machine behavior, helping to accelerate learning and delivering measurable productivity and safety gains. But simulators aren’t exclusive to heavy-equipment operators; rounding out the ETA’s training arsenal are simulators that provide hands-on instruction for electrical grounding applications and those individuals who service or install transformers and work on or with other hazardous equipment. Building Confidence The opportunity to engage in simulated interactions with equipment, controls, landscapes, structures, people, weather conditions and challenges means that all senses are invoked as trainees are immersed in a strikingly realistic environment. Complete with all the pressure and distractions, sessions can be intense. However, simulators allow mistakes to be made without costly or dangerous consequences. “As an instructor, you take a student out to the field, and when they see this huge piece of sophisticated equipment, they’re understandably intimidated,” Melton explained. “But when they begin learning on a simulator, their comfort level and confidence increase dramatically. With a simulator, if somebody doesn’t do something correctly, you just hit the reset button. On the work site or in the training yard, if a piece of equipment is turned over, there is a good chance for injury, and you’re out hundreds of thousands of dollars. And you can buy a lot of simulators and put a lot of people through training for half a million dollars.” Ensuring Success Some advanced simulators allow instructors to interact directly with trainees, set scoring targets, adjust weather, trigger random mechanical faults, and monitor the actions and progress of each operator – from the beginning through certification/recertification. Simulation directly addresses health and safety metrics by reducing injury and allowing trainers to track the number of accidents and near-misses during exercises. For the ETA, this ability to objectively capture unsafe equipment operation – such as collisions and contacts with power lines, personnel and vehicles – provides succinct and immediate feedback to help operators avoid such hazards on the physical work site. The ETA’s crane simulator is quickly becoming a key part of the organization’s learning plan to prepare operators for the certification program through the Electrical Industry Certifications Association. The simulation exercises, inspired by the certification requirements, mirror exact applications – such as auger control and pole control and setting – rather than generic scenarios. This translates directly into higher success rates as trainees are better prepared for both written and practical exams. According to Melton, since incorporating simulators into its curriculum, the ETA has seen a real change in engagement. “Moving from reading materials to hands-on simulators, we’re seeing a surge in excitement and time spent learning,” he said. “While someone might have spent maybe a couple of hours reading documentation, it’s not uncommon to see them spending all day Saturday on a simulator. As a result, our apprentices have fewer accidents than our journeymen. We sometimes hear how an apprentice helps a journeyman avoid danger because of what was learned in class.” Cost Savings Employing simulators reduces training hours spent on physical equipment. This saves costs associated with fuel consumption and equipment maintenance. Similarly, contractors often face the dilemma of removing a piece of revenue-generating equipment from service for training purposes. By mirroring actual equipment controls, performance and working conditions, simulators provide the advantages of training on actual equipment without sacrificing profitability. For All Levels Somewhat surprisingly, the fatal work injury rate within the utility industry increases as workers age. This could indicate that as they settle in, workers become overly confident or complacent. Replicating real-world scenarios is shown to increase learning and retention over classroom instruction or printed materials alone, and this translates into higher certification exam success. Similarly, journeymen operators benefit with respect to recertification, cross-training, upskilling and keeping current with best practices and new equipment features. Simulators also allow operator competence to be assessed quickly and accurately. For most organizations, this is an important aspect of the hiring process, and for training organizations, this helps to benchmark a starting point and track progress. Often, simulators can be a humbling experience for even the most tenured industry veteran. “A lot of experienced operators think they know everything,” Melton said. “But when you sit them down on a simulator, they quickly understand that they have a lot to learn.” This self-awakening is important in an industry where hazards are often literally inches away, and it helps employees of all paygrades to remain vigilant, apply safety best practices and respect the hazards. Continuous Improvement Thanks to organizations like the ETA, the electrical industry is making real strides in preparing utility workers for the industry and improving safety. And because the flexibility of simulators allows users to respond to feedback from the field with custom training scenarios, the ETA is well-equipped to meet the changing needs of the utility industry workforce. However, despite measurable improvement, the electrical utility industry remains inherently hazardous. Working with and near high-voltage equipment, power lines and machinery always includes risks. For this industry, the days of paper-based instruction are over. Leading organizations like the ETA are continuing to set the pace in advancing safety by leveraging technology for the most effective training solutions. About the Author: Christa Fairchild is the Construction Division product marketing manager for CM Labs Simulations, developer of Vortex training simulators.
Subject matter experts provide an update on recent changes and emerging research in the thermal protective world. 

Thermal Protection for Electrical Work

Thermal protective apparel for electrical work appears to have reached a point of inflection from “What needs to be done?” to “How can it be improved?” Looking at the safety standards recently approved for publication,

OSHA’s requirements apply when tasks are performed on or near energized overhead power lines and equipment.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required c…

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, ther…
Author Ken Sheridan explains what an organization needs to do to get safety right – including the how and the why.

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to…
Leveraging technology can help utilities face the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand. 

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org),…

OSHA’s requirements apply when tasks are performed on or near energized overhead power lines and equipment.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Overhead Lines Unique fall and electric shock hazards can occur during the installation and removal of lines and during tower and structure work. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(q) and 29 CFR 1926.964, both titled “Overhead lines and live-line barehand work,” address these hazards as well as the required c…

The Importance of Proper Coverup: Two Real-Life Tales

Very early on in my career as a lineman, I was involved in two events that taught me some important lessons about proper coverup and how critical it is to worker safety. Both events occurred between 1972 and 1973. I was working on a big line crew, and while there were different crew foremen, ther…
Author Ken Sheridan explains what an organization needs to do to get safety right – including the how and the why.

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘No Compromise’ 

Dang you, Ken Sheridan. I had a life and a job that I enjoyed, and I thought I had safety figured out. Then you wrote “No Compromise: The Truth About Workplace Safety & Business Success.” I couldn’t put it down, and worse yet, chapter four is so good I read it three times before I ever got to…
Leveraging technology can help utilities face the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand. 

Advancing Workforce Skills Using Simulation-Based Training

Like nearly all industries that require skilled workers, the electrical utility industry currently faces the challenge of having enough trained and qualified workers to meet demand and changing market conditions. According to a 2020 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (see www.usenergyjobs.org),…

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