Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to […]

June – July 2022 Q&A

iP Q&A Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any facility can do is to […]

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize these two words often accounts […]

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of […]

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Data from one utility company’s recent training initiative indicates that positive feedback helped to improve safety, collaboration and productivity.
Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, […]

Mitigating Heat and Cold Stress with FR/AR Clothing

Maximize worker protection while minimizing the risks of heat- and cold-related illnesses.
Within the utility industry, employers have long looked to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) garments to help protect workers from injury due to flash fire and arc flash. Because these garments are designed using specially engineered, self-extinguishing fabrics and are certified to rigorous testing standards, they can help prevent or lessen the severity of injury. […]

Best Practices for Bucket Truck Rescue

Are your workers prepared to perform a rescue when the time comes?
Bucket trucks are among the most frequently used pieces of equipment in a utility’s fleet. Because of the common use of the trucks, it becomes easy for operators to become complacent in their equipment, inspection, operation and rescue plan – often defaulting to the last job safety analysis with limited consideration for the task at […]

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘It’s Your Ship’

The book teaches leaders to see the ship through the eyes of the crew, communicate purpose and meaning, and listen aggressively.
During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on the bestselling “It’s Your Ship” by Captain D. Michael […]

Designing a Safe and Reliable Electrical Maintenance Program

Begin the process by adopting a monitor-inspect-manage approach.
The critical importance of power to every aspect of our world cannot be overexaggerated. It must be generated and distributed effectively to end users, and any disruption in that process means loss of operations, money and, in extreme cases, life. Therefore, the reliability of power creation and distribution must be continually safeguarded and improved. This […]

Cooling FR/AR PPE

At BUFF Safety, we have gone a step beyond worker safety and comfort, including HeiQ SMART TEMP technology with our Arc Protect + FR products (arc flash rated PPE Class III certified under different European and American regulations). Electric power industry technicians often work under extreme heat conditions with the best FR/AR clothing and gear, which […]

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to touch a hot stove, a…

June – July 2022 Q&A

iP Q&A Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any facility can do is to consult a chemist, chemical engineer or fire science specialist to survey and equip your flammable operations. The simple explanation has to do with volatility, which is how easily a chemical vaporizes and then how flammable that vapor becomes and at what temperature. Every ch…

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize…

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection w…

Data from one utility company’s recent training initiative indicates that positive feedback helped to improve safety, collaboration and productivity.

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, and welcoming bad news as an opportunity for improvement, not for implementing discipline. The company is well on their way to that destination, and it’s due in no small part to their employees’ dedication to their j…
Data from one utility company’s recent training initiative indicates that positive feedback helped to improve safety, collaboration and productivity.

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Maximize worker protection while minimizing the risks of heat- and cold-related illnesses.

Mitigating Heat and Cold Stress with FR/AR Clothing

Within the utility industry, employers have long looked to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) garments to help protect workers from injury due to flash fire and arc flash. Because these garments are designed using specially engineered, self-extinguishing fabrics and are certified to rigorous…
Are your workers prepared to perform a rescue when the time comes?

Best Practices for Bucket Truck Rescue

Bucket trucks are among the most frequently used pieces of equipment in a utility’s fleet. Because of the common use of the trucks, it becomes easy for operators to become complacent in their equipment, inspection, operation and rescue plan – often defaulting to the last job safety analysis with …

The book teaches leaders to see the ship through the eyes of the crew, communicate purpose and meaning, and listen aggressively.

From My Bookshelf to Yours: ‘It’s Your Ship’

During the research and writing process for my new book – “Frontline Leadership: The Hurdle,” published by Utility Business Media Inc. – I read a lot of books, and I want to share some highlights from a few of my favorites. This article will focus on the bestselling “It’s Your Ship” by Captain D….
Begin the process by adopting a monitor-inspect-manage approach.

Designing a Safe and Reliable Electrical Maintenance Program

The critical importance of power to every aspect of our world cannot be overexaggerated. It must be generated and distributed effectively to end users, and any disruption in that process means loss of operations, money and, in extreme cases, life. Therefore, the reliability of power creation and …

Opinion

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

Jeffrey Sullivan
Jeffrey Sullivan

June – July 2022 Q&A

Jim Vaughn, CUSP
Jim Vaughn, CUSP

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

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Jim Vaughn, CUSP
Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Video

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to […]

Featured Topics


Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to touch a hot stove, a…

June – July 2022 Q&A

iP Q&A Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any fa…

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize…

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection w…
Data from one utility company’s recent training initiative indicates that positive feedback helped to improve safety, collaboration and productivity.

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safe…
Maximize worker protection while minimizing the risks of heat- and cold-related illnesses.

Mitigating Heat and Cold Stress with FR/AR Clothing

Within the utility industry, employers have long looked to flame-resistant (FR) and arc-rated (AR) garments to help protect workers from injury due to flash fire and arc flash. Because these garments are designed using specially engineered, self-extinguishing fabrics and are certified to rigorous…

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to touch a hot stove, and, as they get older, we caution them not to drink too many happy hour specials. We have been there, done that, and we know the results were not always ideal. But, as with most things, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, I am currently teaching my youngest child to drive. This is my second time around this particular block; I taught my oldest child to drive about six years ago. Now, I went into this exercise with my youngest child with the mindset that it would be similar to my time in the field teaching younger apprentices. I thought I was going to use my lessons learned during decades of driving, combine that with my experience in teaching a new driver six years ago, add in a few heaping tablespoons of formal driver training tidbits, and voilà: I’d have a safe teenage driver. It turned out that was wishful thinking. Thus far during our lessons, I have made numerous exclamations of “Cover the brake!” “Easy!” “You need to move over, you’re too close to my side of the road!” and a common favorite, “You’re taking this corner too sharp, you’re going to run over the cur- – yup, that curb.” I have been able to remain calm in the car with my son, so as not to add to his anxiety, but I was not nearly as prepared as I expected to be while taking on this endeavor. That got me thinking: If I feel this unprepared, how is my child feeling? And in terms of the workplace, how do our workers who take on different training opportunities feel about their post-training preparedness? Are we giving them what they need to be successful on the job? Here’s another question: Have you asked your employees lately how prepared they feel to complete the tasks assigned to them? I am assuming your organizational chart contains a group of employees who lead other employees in some capacity. In my specific employment situation, we have employees who lead, teach and train newer and/or lesser trained employees. We provide them with training and then send them out into the real world. They get in a vehicle, drive to a job site, formulate the job plan, identify hazards and execute the task. But are they truly prepared to do so? If you answered yes, let me ask you: Why do you think that? Why do you consider them ready? Is it because they have been around for a handful of years or perhaps decades? Is it because they have done the job you are sending them to do a few times or maybe even countless times? Is it because they have passed some online training courses and you watched them in the field once or twice? I would argue that these things don’t make anyone wholly prepared. As leaders, I believe we need to do more to prepare our employees – and I believe we need to do it STAT. Simplify The Actual Task By STAT, I mean Simplify The Actual Task. Almost everyone in the utility safety industry has heard about and practiced situational awareness, the art of being aware of what is around us. But we can take it a step further when we think in terms of STAT. For example, think of a photo you have saved on your smartphone. You can see the photo in your gallery, but when you want to be able to look at it more closely, you zoom in. We need to do the same thing with situational awareness. Zoom in on it. Break it down. Get into the details. When we talk situational awareness, the conversation is almost always high level (e.g., cover for minimum approach distance, watch the traffic and so on). We should be zooming in on that conversation and asking questions. What is the actual task being performed? Have we broken it down into smaller segments? Do we understand the situational awareness needed for each of those segments? Covering for MAD is great, but when covering, did we also notice the insulator that is cracked or the tie that is broken? Or let’s say we are walking through a backyard, noticed dog toys and made sure there is no dog – but did we see the wasp nest near the transformer? Absolute safety is in the details. Breaking down a complex process into more simplified tasks can help us identify hazards more easily. And being able to identify hazards more easily – whether it’s a broken tie wire or, in the case of my earlier story, a high curb that my son might hit with the car – could mean the difference between safe execution of a task and an incident occurring. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about applying this method to your own work and preparing your employees to do the same. About the Author: Jeffrey Sullivan works as area operations support manager for Duke Energy in Largo, Florida. He has been employed in the electric utility industry for over 20 years at various companies.

June – July 2022 Q&A

iP Q&A Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any facility can do is to consult a chemist, chemical engineer or fire science specialist to survey and equip your flammable operations. The simple explanation has to do with volatility, which is how easily a chemical vaporizes and then how flammable that vapor becomes and at what temperature. Every chemical in the workplace should have a safety data sheet that lists the material’s vapor point and relative flammability. The issue then is the material’s vapor flash point. Transferring liquid materials from a drum or container into a receptacle for use is one of the frequent points at which fires begin in industrial operations, and that’s because of static. Bonding of the transfer area controls static. Static is generated when the fluid flows through the nozzle. It will build up on the drum unless it has a path to ground, which collapses the static. The issue is the fluid vapors that become flammable or ignitable at typical ambient temperatures. A full drum is not likely to reach that heat. The lower the drum’s fluid level, the greater the air temperature in the drum since there is no liquid to keep the drum cool. Daily air temperatures are not adequate to assess potential issues. Sun exposure and duration of sun exposure can quickly raise the temperature in a drum, creating hazardous vapors. Every industrial worker has had the experience of opening a valve on a 55-gallon drum and hearing air rush out or air being sucked in. If I were at a threshold or concerned about it, I would ground and install a bonding strap. Transfer station grounds tend to be isolated from a facility electrical system ground and are usually an 8-foot-by-5/8ths ground rod. If the drums are on a steel rack, ground is typically connected to the rack. If the rack has bolted joints, the joints often – but not always – bond across the mechanical joint with a #12 bonding wire, depending on volatility and vapor generation potential of the material. Bonding is the key to ignition of vapors as bonding equalizes static charges so that no static spark can be generated. The ground rod leads and/or bonds are usually flexible #6 or #10 equipped with spring-loaded clamps for attachment to the drum. Your company engineers can guide you through bonding of the transfer area. Last and most importantly is the transfer or filling area itself. This is where the incident usually begins. The nozzle must be bonded to whatever can the fluid is being dispensed into, including plastic cans. Plastic will create static and be at a different static potential than the nozzle. If the nozzle and the receptacle receiving the fluid touch during or after filling, there will be a static discharge. Bonding the nozzle to the can/receptacle will prevent that static from building up during transfer of fluid. Static is pretty easy to control, but just in case, don’t forget to put a fire extinguisher near the drums. Q: Why isn’t an aerial lift’s tested, cleaned fiberglass boom considered insulated? A: First, being insulated from ground is not the basis of the category classification system detailed in ANSI A92.2, “American National Standard for Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices.” Second, we need to qualify the terms “insulating” and “insulated.” The industry technically agrees that there is no pure insulator as all insulating materials do have some leakage. To keep the application of high-electrical-resistance materials pure, we regard all high-resistance materials used to create isolation of the worker as “insulating.” Only those in Category A are considered insulating from ground for the purposes of protecting the worker. In the Category A system, the insulating boom is the primary means of worker protection. These are barehand trucks with leakage monitoring systems. The boom is designed as the primary insulating system for worker protection because it is equipped to constantly monitor leakage and designed to be in contact with uninsulated energized conductors during the work method. All other categories of booms – B, C and D – do not have constant leakage monitoring. Category B booms are equipped with test electrodes for periodic testing. Category B through D insulating booms are considered secondary protection, with the primary protection being the insulating work method, sticks, gloves, coverup and so forth. By the way, the buckets on insulating lifts have no insulating ratings regarding protection of the worker. The categories, except for B, also have voltage limits. Category C is designed for use below 46 kV. Category D is designed for use at a maximum of 20 kV, 5 kV or 1 kV. Q: I am looking for information about pole tongs in the transmission/distribution industry, such as best practices for use. Can you help? A: Many pole tongs are not rated or approved for overhead lifting of poles. They are better referred to as “skidding tongs.” Rigging appliances for overhead lifting must meet ASTM standards for safe use. Pole tongs are useful, especially for snagging a pole off a pole pile. The tongs drape themselves over the pole and grip when placed under strain. This keeps us from having to put a worker on those pole piles and the risks associated with that task. There are some pole tongs marked and approved for overhead lifting, and that would be legal as far as the standards require. Most employers limit pole tong use to picking poles off a pole pile or for skidding poles across the ground. Lifting is limited to where no workers will contact the pole or be in any line of fire. Some employers simply don’t allow the use of pole tongs. There are many good reasons to use slings for the lifting of poles. The issue is that tongs can skin a pole if the hook points do not properly cradle the pole, even when the pole tongs are approved for overhead lifting. Lift-rated tongs are rated by strength. Strength does not ensure grip. As with any rigging, users of tongs should assess the hazards of use and train workers to use them in a prescribed manner. Q: What is ferroresonance, and why is it so dangerous? At our cooperative, we have a fourth switch that temporarily grounds the tie between the transformers on our wye-delta banks. There is very little information out there dealing with this topic, so we thought you might be able to offer some. A: Ferroresonance is a runaway voltage in the core that occurs in transformers under three very particular conditions. Grounding the floating tie on a wye-delta bank helps to change the very particular conditions required to cause ferroresonance. Rural electric associations (REAs) have a fourth switch to temporarily ground the tie to limit the possibility of faulting one or more of the transformers should ferroresonance occur. Ferroresonance is more common in REAs because there are often very long feeders to remote three-phase banks on farms and with some small industrial customers. The three conditions required to cause ferroresonance in a transformer bank are (1) a capacitance created by the long parallel conductors in the feeder, (2) in series with the inductive reactance of the transformer bank, (3) in a no-load condition. On the high side of the bank, each primary coil is in series with the adjacent transformer through the floating tie. When the tie is grounded, the coils are still in series, but they are also in parallel with each other from phase to neutral. The second condition necessary is equal capacitance and reactance in the series path. If the feeder KVAR in capacitance (by percentage) is the same or very close to the reactance of the transformer coil in percentage, the second condition is now present. If there is no load on the bank, the third and final condition is present – and boom. The result is superheating of the transformer core and oil-blistering exterior paint within seconds. A runaway voltage, usually in the primary voltage range, appears in the laminated core, typically showing up on the secondary terminals. Sudden heating in the laminated core results in magnetostriction (i.e., sliding of the laminated plates, breaking the bindings), creating a sound similar to shaking a coffee can full of bolts. The transformer can explode, but typically the damage is related to the secondary. Ferroresonance is characterized by high voltage, not current, so transformer fuses rarely blow when this occurs. The way to prevent the damage caused by the ferroresonance is to change any of the three conditions. You can create an imbalance by changing either of the reactances that are in the series, or add load to the bank before you close it in. Most REAs don’t want to add load as the customer is single-phasing in the process of energizing the bank, risking damage to the customer’s three-phase motors. It’s not easy to change capacitance, and it’s impossible to change the reactive impedance of the transformer coils. A solution is to temporarily ground the tie, interrupting the series connection between the phase capacitance and coil inductive reactance. Grounding the tie splits the current, creating a low-resistance parallel path through the coils and to the neutral. Grounding the tie does not entirely remove the possibility of ferroresonance, but it considerably lowers the level of resonance and the damage that can be done. Closing the switch or opening the switch to the neutral does create quite a current shift for a cycle or two, which is why we load-break the opening of the switch. If you left the switch closed, the bank would run, just at a little lower power rating. Q: We ground trucks in a substation. Recently we had a pumper truck in the fence to pump concrete for a new pad. It wasn’t grounded, and the question came up: Why not? Should the pumper have been grounded? A: Ultimately, the utility engineering staff can estimate voltage differences that may occur in a substation. The answer to your question is multifaceted and conditional. Let’s start with grounding. Grounding the pumper truck, assuming it has an articulating boom, makes sense in an energized substation, but it may not actually be required. The purpose of grounding the truck is to trip protective devices in the substation, eliminating the continued risk of an electrical exposure created by an energized truck. If the boom cannot get in the substation energized bus, there is no reason to ground it. But that isn’t the only issue. Grounding the pumper does not ensure any protection for any worker in contact with the truck when it becomes energized. The only way to protect a worker in contact with the truck is to insulate the worker (rubber gloves) or use equipotential mats. However, the design of the substation ground grid is precisely to create an equipotential mat for workers and equipment in the substation. The truck is not subject to voltage rise from a fault since the substation ground grid creates an equipotential plane across the substation. The pumper boom would be subject to contact with the bus if an errant move occurred, and that would be a reason to ground that truck under the OSHA rules. However, you must keep in mind that grounding the pumper does not necessarily provide protection to a pumper operator who is not standing at the operator’s station on the chassis of the pumper truck. A person who is in contact with the hopper, or a chute in contact with the hopper, or while wet concrete is flowing from the chute into the hopper, may be exposed to electrical contact if the pumper boom were to become energized. In each of these cases, the contact injury would be between the pumper truck and the earth, except where the substation ground grid provides the plane of equipotential protection for the worker as explained below. In a properly functioning substation, there will be a voltage difference between the grounded pumper and the substation floor. That voltage difference should be very low, but it depends on the impedance of the grounding cable and the distance from the grounding point. The design intention of a substation grid is to create an equipotential plane for workers walking in the substation and any touch potential between columns or frames bonded to the substation grid. Those bonding calculations for worker protection from touch potential are planned for an arm’s reach away from the column or structure because the farther you are from the column, the greater the potential difference will be. The same applies for grounding of the pumper. There is some protection provided, but it is limited by the impedance of the path from the pumper to the grounding grid connection and back to the pumper underground along the substation grid. This is where the substation ground cover plays a role in protection. The substation cover is crushed granite that provides an insulating barrier above the substation grid to further aid in protection by creating an insulating buffer above the equipotential plane. The opinion of many experts is that a properly functioning grid, covered by an effective rock layer and with workers wearing boots rated for electrical hazards, would receive sufficient protection from electrical hazards. In terms of the big picture, we cannot ignore that with the properly functioning grid, the current associated with the fault flows downward through the ground rod connection and grid, limiting the risk related to voltage flow across the grid. Now, back to the pumper truck. The equipotential plane and rock barrier provide the same protection to the truck and the worker at the truck. They are both isolated and protected to the same degree. The differences in potential that may occur would be caused by the wheels of the pumper truck cutting through the rock, making contact with the earth and grid below. In that case, there might be a rise in potential differences between the truck and the worker in contact with the truck. If the rock bed is intact and the grid is properly designed and functioning, there would be little risk. Do you have a question regarding best practices, work procedures or other utility safety-related topics? If so, please send your inquiries directly to kwade@utilitybusinessmedia.com. Questions submitted are reviewed and answered by the iP editorial advisory board and other subject matter experts.

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize these two words often accounts for why we have difficulty understanding their differences when it comes to OSHA standards. The enclosed spaces standard is one of the most misinterpreted standards in 29 CFR 1910.269. This standard is often used by utilities and contractors in lieu of the permit-requ…

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection workers on the street can get out of the resources available. Yet even with all our preparations, there is always a worst-case event dramatized by a recent news photo of an errant car, upside down on a bucket truck that was on a right-of-way well off the highway. It is the reason that OSHA and other regulating authorities expect employers to train all employees, specially train supervisory employees and provide the equipment necessary to protect workers as much as possible. We can’t build car-proof barriers, so the best protection is to be proactive by preventing incidents in the first place. In this installment of “Train the Trainer 101,” we are going to look at practical protection of workers on the street, with particular attention paid to the people on the other side of your work zone practices: passing motorists. I have been observing work zones for decades. I drive through them and past working crews every week. I also investigate highway incidents and have had occasion to provide expert witness analysis in both civil litigation and regulatory cases involving highway work zones. TTC and the MUTCD Across the United States, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is the primary regulating document for temporary work zones and controls. It is currently in its 10th edition with two revisions, the latest being a PDF version dated May 2012. The MUTCD is a U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration adopted standard. Helpful vendors would love to sell you their commentary versions of the MUTCD, but it is free on the web at https://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno_2009r1r2.htm. Keep in mind that, when you select the version you’re going to use, the PDF from the U.S. DOT website is the only official version. In fact, even the HTML version available on the DOT website has irregularities, so the website posts this guidance to users: “The PDF files constitute the official version of the MUTCD and always take precedence over any potentially conflicting MUTCD text or figures that may occur in the HTML files.” The 11th edition of the MUTCD is in revision now. Comments for the revision are closed but are about 35,000 in number. The next edition is due to be released in May 2023. For those readers who are new to safety administration and not familiar with the MUTCD, the manual contains standards and regulations on traffic control devices, signs and methods. Part 6 is the section on temporary traffic control (TTC). The whole objective of Part 6 is establishing TTC that safely guides pedestrians, cyclists and drivers through a space where construction activities or incident response has compromised the regular routes of travel. In my audits of TTC, I have found that most setups are moderately effective at directing vehicular traffic, but pedestrians and cyclists are rarely properly addressed. The result is that cyclists and pedestrians are at risk, creating liability for the employer. When vehicular traffic is poorly controlled, it creates hazards and deadly risks for the employees behind those controls. The key to creating good TTC is to view your setup from the perspective of the drivers. A driver is accustomed to white lines and curb markers, speed limit signs and red lights. Drivers may become indecisive when they suddenly come upon temporary signs and traffic cones directing them against those commonly expected controls. When TTC is insufficiently announced via warning signs and/or poorly defined by cones and flaggers, workers are endangered. In the power-line business, there is another aggravating factor, and that is the work itself. Road building is a pretty boring scene. Booms in the air with people aloft, coverup colors and rigging are attention-grabbers that further distract driver attention from the cones and signs that are intended to direct them through the constricted space. That combination adds up to increased chances of an incident. The warning signs and controls must be clear and robust to be effective. It is imperative that your crews drive through the work zone and examine the effectiveness of the lane markers and signs from the perspective of drivers to see if improvements are needed. It is also important to remember that the guidance of the MUTCD is minimum performance guidance. The first element of TTC improvement is the advance warning sign, especially proper placement. MUTCD Table 6C-1 is a guide for placement of advance warning signs. The first mistake we tend to make relates to column A above. Each distance listed in the column is the distance the first sign away from the TTC should be placed. This distance is from the point of deviation of traffic established by the first cones drivers will encounter. A placement is often mistakenly made a distance from the first trucks, not the lane change. This mistake reduces reaction time, but if the next two signs are spaced from the misplaced column A location, the whole advance warning system reduces awareness and the reaction time of drivers. An important training note: It can be just as hazardous to place advance warning signs as it is to have a poorly designed TTC zone. Workers placing advance warning signs, especially on curving, tree-lined or hilly terrain, have been hit by drivers almost as often as workers in TTC zones. The MUTCD features Table 6C-2, titled “Stopping Sight Distance as a Function of Speed.” This table is intended as a guide to assist planners in the placement of elements of traffic control systems. Employers should be training their personnel in sign placement distance, but they should also clearly remind workers that speed, for the purposes of safety, is not what the posted limit states. Speed limits are devised based on off-peak normal traffic density, not on to-work or from-work traffic congestion times. Speed determination is also subjective based on the theory of the 85th percentile. This measure refers to the actual speed 85% of drivers will attain based on their confidence and comfort with the road surface quality, roadway width, roadway markings, shoulder width, vision distance, curves and hills, weather conditions, daylight, and density of trees or foliage lining the roadway. All of these elements affect a driver’s confidence and comfort, leading to the speed they will attain under those conditions. The rest of the matrix assumes 10% of drivers will drive slower than the 85%, and 5% of drivers will exceed the speed of the 85th percentile. Left out of this subjective measure is the number of drivers texting and the 60% of drivers under some measure of impairment after 11 p.m. on any given Friday or Saturday. Adding distance to the warning system, making the notifications and using robust channelizing devices boost the aware-time reaction of drivers heading toward your crews. Pedestrians and Cyclists Advance warning for pedestrians is often an issue. We find “Sidewalk Closed” signs right at the beginning of the traffic control zone – 100 yards after the nearest alternate pedestrian road crossing by the work area. Few pedestrians, especially older individuals, are going to backtrack over a distance to reroute their path. They are more likely to try and navigate the traffic space, raising risks for everyone. Traffic work zone supervisors and planners should be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act makes clear the requirements for maintaining safe wheelchair passage through your work zone. This applies where handicapped persons are likely to come upon your work area. If they are there, you must have a solution for their safe transit through the area. A solution that addresses both pedestrians and cyclists is closing the space to both, with signage ahead of the nearest alternate route so that they can take the alternate route with little inconvenience. By the way, check that alternate route. If you close a safe pathway for your work zone and direct them through an unsafe pathway, you may find yourself liable for creating a hazard for pedestrians when you were trying to do just the opposite. Channelizing devices are the cones and barrels placed along the roadway to guide traffic through the work zone. The MUTCD states that a short taper, having a minimum length of 50 feet and a maximum length of 100 feet with channelizing devices at approximately 20-foot spacing, should be used to guide traffic into the one-lane section. The issue here is that a short taper of 100 feet with cones spaced 20 feet apart equates to five traffic cones. While the five cones meet the standard, there is a very good reason to use a 3-foot separation – and that is the function of the traffic cones or, better, the real value of cones. The cones are principally a visual device. They can’t stop an errant vehicle unless they are in the back of a trailer hooked to a truck. What they can do is make noise. If you place cones 3 feet apart, the errant driver striking them is going to hear the cones and feel them in the steering wheel. If they are distracted, they will immediately become aware and react. To workers, a car striking cones provides a loud, early warning that something is wrong, giving them more time, even if only seconds, to take evasive action. We have only discussed a few practical issues commonly discovered in inspections and accident investigations. Chapter 6 of the MUTCD has lots of requirements and guidance for employers, and we should be taking advantage of it to protect workers who operate near highways. OSHA and Work Zones OSHA has authority over work zones. They do not investigate traffic incidents, but they do investigate work zone incidents and work zone safety complaints, and the agency can self-initiate an inspection if hazards are observed while driving by a work zone. One of the first instructions to the compliance officer is to drive through the work zone, observing for the timely and clear direction and channelization of the driver through the work zone. This training of compliance officers has usually been the issue that has resulted in self-initiated inspections. OSHA has published CPL 02-01-054, “Inspection and Citation Guidance for Roadway and Highway Construction Work Zones” (see www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-01-054). The agency can and will cite employers for violations of the MUTCD, as clearly stated in the CPL. OSHA regulations on work zones are few and generalized, usually referencing compliance with the millennium edition (year 2000) of the MUTCD. The bottom line here is that failing to meet the minimum requirements of the MUTCD can be the basis for an OSHA violation as well as an inspection. Flashing Lights The MUTCD has no specifications or requirements for flashing lights. Many city, state and county regulations that amend the MUTCD standards for their jurisdictions require flashing or strobe lights on mobile equipment in work zones. DOT contracts also have requirements for conspicuity and the use of strobes on work vehicles in a work zone. The problem with flashing lights is the same as the problem with backup alarms. The more you are exposed to flashing lights and alarms, the less noticeable the warning devices become. We may be getting to the saturation point with flashing lights. Adding to that saturation of light is the placement of vehicles in the work area. In observations, I have noticed that little consideration is paid to vehicles not being used in an operation, particularly during these past two years when we have added to the numbers of trucks in work zones due to a greater number of single drivers during COVID. Now we have numerous trucks parked wherever they will fit, and all of them are running yellow strobes. This creates distractions for drivers. I also see trucks parked on both sides of the road when all the work is only on one side. This keeps passing drivers looking for hazards on both sides of the road when only one side really represents moving equipment risks. Where you can plan it, avoid dividing drivers’ attention by reducing unnecessary distractions in the work area. The bottom line for employers is summed up in MUTCD rule 6D.03.03.A: “All workers should be trained on how to work next to motor vehicle traffic in a way that minimizes their vulnerability. Workers having specific TTC responsibilities should be trained in TTC techniques, device usage, and placement.” Take a critical look at your traffic control program and training. See if they really meet the safety needs of the workers on the ground and the interest of the public. About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at jim@ispconline.com.
Data from one utility company’s recent training initiative indicates that positive feedback helped to improve safety, collaboration and productivity.

Does Positive Feedback Improve Safety?

Our client is an international utility company with more than 10,000 employees that provides electric and natural gas to 20 million U.S. customers. Their vision is to achieve a generative safety culture in which both employees and leaders are actively engaged. Characteristics of a generative safety culture include proactively resolving issues, focusing on leading indicators, and welcoming bad news as an opportunity for improvement, not for implementing discipline. The company is well on their way to that destination, and it’s due in no small part to their employees’ dedication to their jobs, the training they’ve completed to excel in their work and their passion for wanting to create one of the best safety cultures in the utility industry. The most recent step in their journey was to follow up on the insight they gained from a safety culture survey. That survey revealed there was opportunity for improvement regarding how frequently leaders provided positive feedback and recognized their team members for performing work safely. “We’re so lucky that our employees shared their honest opinions with us during the safety culture survey, and we wanted to make sure that we honored their feedback by following through on their comments,” said a company director involved in the training initiative. “While there were multiple areas for improvement, we decided to target positive feedback first because it was building on a skill we knew our employees already had. They were already good at providing feedback when things were unsafe. We hoped that if we could expand that skill to include recognizing safe behaviors that we’d see more of those safe behaviors and that those receiving feedback would feel more valued as team members.” We collaborated with our client to develop a custom training program that would both teach trainees that positive reinforcement is an effective leadership technique and provide a post-training support structure to help trainees practice the new behavior until it becomes a natural part of their leadership style. The Approach We selected 294 leaders in the northeastern United States across a wide range of positions, including foreman, site supervisor, safety supervisor and project manager. Prior to developing the training, we interviewed a selection of potential trainees to identify obstacles that might prevent thorough engagement with the training and potential objections to adopting this new leadership technique. In our experience, there are often multiple existing obstacles to any behavioral change initiative. For example, there may be gaps in knowledge, logistical challenges, disbelief in the effectiveness of the proposed solution and resentment at being told what to do. Each objection needs to be addressed in order for employees to willingly and successfully change their behavior in accordance with the training. If you know what people need to hear and how they need to hear it, then your chances for success increase. As a result of this pre-work, the training was favorably received across the board. In our post-training survey, more than 90% of survey respondents agreed that the training was valuable, held their attention and related well to their culture. The Training The final product was a two-hour training program that educated trainees on the value of positive feedback and provided them with a wide range of tools and strategies tailored to giving their team specific, meaningful and consistent feedback. Because each person’s day unfolds differently and because every person has a unique leadership style, trainees were guided in a practice to identify exactly where, when and how they would provide positive recognition to their team. The process of taking a sometimes-nebulous concept like “positive feedback” and breaking it down to apply to their own day set trainees up for success. As one trainee told us in the post-training survey, “It’s not easy to start something, and this gave me a realistic way to look at changing behavior.” To minimize disruption to trainees’ schedules, the training was held via Microsoft Teams. We knew that – given trainees’ busy schedules and the critical roles they play on their sites – we would be challenged to have their full attention for the entire training. We intentionally sought continuous interaction and used Teams’ breakout room functionality to facilitate discussion, introduce trainees to co-workers they hadn’t yet met, and keep employees engaged in the training from start to finish. The Follow-Up Our company’s proprietary method is designed to support trainees after the training as they hone their new skill. Trainees received regular post-training micro lessons to help them retain key concepts from the training. In addition, trainees started the 60-Day Habit Challenge immediately after attending the training. During this time, they received daily notifications and tracked how frequently they provided positive feedback via a mobile app on their smartphones. Another key component to our success was preparing trainees for the ups and downs of the learning process. When people try something new, they get nervous. They don’t want to look stupid. We gave our trainees the confidence to try by preparing them to fail. One trainee reached out after the training to share with us, “Sometimes people thought I was being sarcastic. I learned that feedback had to be very specific to be received well.” The good news is that this individual persisted – because he expected he would sometimes get it wrong. He knew that figuring out how providing positive feedback worked for him was just part of the process. The Impact Before the habit challenge started, trainees benchmarked their targeted behavior. Their benchmarks were re-evaluated at the end of the 60-day challenge and, weeks later, in return interviews. We asked trainees how often they were providing positive feedback to their team members: never, once or twice per week, a few times per week, once per day or multiple times per day. Overall, trainees decreased positive feedback happening just a couple times per week or less by 75% while increasing it to a few times a week or more by 58%. We also asked them to reflect on the amount of positive feedback they witnessed from their fellow leaders. A similar trend emerged, with a significant decrease in the “never” and “once or twice per week” categories but increases across all the other categories. When we asked trainees how providing more positive feedback to their teams impacted them personally or at work, a surprising 64% reported that they felt more positive (see chart below). While this was an unintended and unanticipated impact, employees feeling more positive could be a potentially powerful tool in increasing employee retention. The primary drive behind the training was to increase safety culture and safety-related behaviors, so we were pleased that the next top benefits trainees reported were having better conversations, solving problems more creatively and sharing more information in daily job briefs. The impact of the training became clearer during the follow-up interviews. Trainees shared that increasing the amount of positive feedback improved safety, increased productivity and improved collaboration. For example, one site supervisor shared that after the training, he put his new skills to work. Among other things, he initiated a discussion with a contractor foreman about why it was important to mention the nearest emergency location information during daily briefings. When the foreman covered the topic in future briefings, the supervisor reinforced the behavior with positive feedback by thanking him. As a result, the foreman now consistently includes this critical information during daily briefings. He was not the only person who noticed their team members changing their behavior in response to positive feedback. Another trainee reached out to say, “I’m old-school. I thought saying thank you was a little fluffy, but I started to see an impact right away.” In another interview, a trainee shared that while inspiring his team and providing lots of positive feedback was already a high priority for him, he had decided to kick it up a notch. The training had coincided with a move to a new and much larger site. His goal was to learn each person’s name the day he met them and use their name at the end of the day. He noticed the positive reaction when people realized that he knew their name, and he credits this strategy for rapidly developing communication and trust. As a result, when his new crew encountered standing water at a site, they asked him to make a phone call to resolve it instead of finding a workaround that may or may not have been safe. Conclusion When a company is doing a lot of things right and already heavily investing in safety, the quick wins and easy solutions are typically already being addressed. But the more mature a safety culture, the harder it can be to identify the skills that will take the organization to the next level of safety. For our client, we hoped that increasing positive feedback and how often team members were recognized for performing work safely would be that next step. We were pleased to see that team dynamics improved and that employees responded to positive feedback with more of the recognized behavior. But it wasn’t just safety that improved. Work also became a happier, more engaging place for both those receiving the positive feedback and those delivering it. About the Author: Sharon Lipinski is the Habit SuperHero and CEO of Habit Mastery Consulting (www.habitmasteryconsulting.com), which helps organizations increase their targeted safety behavior by up to 150%. She is a Certified Gamification for Training developer, certified CBT for insomnia instructor, speaker, TV personality and coach dedicated to helping people create the right habits so they can be happier, healthier and safer at home and in their work.

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to touch a hot stove, a…

June – July 2022 Q&A

iP Q&A Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any fa…

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize…

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection w…

Simplifying Tasks to Improve Worker Safety

The prevailing wisdom is that experience prepares you for what’s to come – that if we have done something in the past, we are better prepared to handle it when we must do it again. For the most part, I think that is accurate. It is the reason we tell our young children not to touch a hot stove, a…

June – July 2022 Q&A

iP Q&A Q: Why does grounding alone not prevent static discharges, and why don’t we have to ground all flammable dispensing drums and stations? A: “Flammable” is a relative term, and some of the written standards are detailed to the point that they can be confusing. The best thing any fa…

OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified

Enclosed and Confined Spaces What’s the difference? The terms “enclosed” and “confined” seem like synonyms. When most of us think of something that is enclosed, we think of it as being confined, and when we think of a confined place, we think of it being somewhat enclosed. How we visualize…

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car? Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection w…

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