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Tag: Safety Management


Rethinking Utility Security

The names Nathan Baker, Zackary Randalls, Alex Boschert and William Froelich may not be familiar to you, but their stories are tragically important for utility workers. Nathan worked for East Mississippi Electric Power Association in Clarke County, Mississippi. Zackary was employed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in Fresno, California. And Alex and William worked for Laclede Gas Co. (LGC) near St. Louis. Except for Alex and William, who were employed by the same company, there is no evidence that these men knew each other or their paths ever crossed, so what thread binds them together?...

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June 2017 Q&A

Q: We have a group reviewing our personal protective grounding procedures, and they are asking if we should be grinding the galvanized coating off towers when we install the phase grounding connections. What are your thoughts? A: In addition to your question, we also recently received another question about connecting to steel for bonding, so we’ll address both questions in this installment of the Q&A. Your question is about the effectiveness of grounding to towers, and the other question is about the effectiveness of EPZs created on steel towers. We’ll discuss the grounding question first...

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Shining a Light on Ventilation Systems and Surveys in the Electric Power Industry

It takes a wide variety of activities – some obvious and others not so obvious – to keep electric utility operations humming along. With maintenance facilities and power plants in particular, there are sometimes unidentified exposures that grow as the facilities grow. In other scenarios, our understanding of exposures or emerging regulations requires the need for a professional hygienist to assess and remediate exposures. Ventilation surveys, which can detect ventilation system failures, are a critical but often overlooked tool that should be used to maintain safe, healthy operations, whether...

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Emergency Preparedness for Remote Winter Work Locations

When utility employees travel to remote backcountry job sites, things can turn bad quickly if they are not prepared to deal with hazards. And a bad situation can become exponentially worse during the winter months, when over-the-snow travel may be involved and additional factors – such as limited or failed communications, difficult terrain, winter storms, avalanche hazards and the potential for cold weather injuries – can potentially wreak havoc. If employees are to understand how to safely handle these types of emergency situations, employers must diligently train and equip employees well...

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Fire Restoration Best Practices for Utilities

When the residents of Rock Creek – a small town in British Columbia just north of the Canadian-U.S. border – awoke to smoke on August 13, 2015, they quickly realized that danger was approaching. Fed by westerly winds, the Rock Creek fire spread from the west side of town to the east side, and then to surrounding communities. In total, it took just 45 minutes for the fire to make its way through the Rock Creek community, passing over Highway 33 and the Kettle River before heading northeast. Visitors staying at Kettle River Provincial Park’s campground, located in Rock Creek, were forced to flee...

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Don’t Leave Employees to Fill in the Blanks

Early in my marriage, my wife asked me to pick up some groceries on my way home. This task seemed easy enough; after all, I had been feeding myself for years. How hard could it be? We needed food and the grocery store had food for sale. The path to success appeared to be pretty well laid out. All I needed was a method of payment and a shopping cart with four functioning wheels. As I negotiated my way up and down the aisles of the grocery store, I put great thought into what I added to my cart. I made sure to get the basics, including bread, milk and eggs, and I rounded out the cart with some...

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RF Safety for Utility Workers

Utility workers could be exposed to radiofrequency (RF) radiation every day and not even be aware of it. With today’s telecommunications explosion, even utility poles are housing cellular systems such as antennas and distributed antenna systems. And yet, the rapid growth rate of RF technology does not change the fact that we are still obligated to follow the laws and comply with OSHA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements, especially when dealing with RF radiation exposure limits. Required TrainingNot surprisingly, training is the best route to both RF safety and rule compliance....

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N95 Filtering Face Pieces: Where Does Your Organization Stand?

When it comes to following health and safety standards, nearly every worker tries to do the right thing. And when workers deviate from standards and best practices, it is typically due to lack of knowledge and proper training. One industry topic that is not yet fully understood and continues to be heavily debated is the N95 filtering face piece, in particular its uses and program requirements. In response, this article seeks to assist those who are involved with the development and enforcement of their organization’s voluntary respiratory protection policy. To begin, there are two reasons why...

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Rigging Fundamentals for Utilities

Over the past 20 years I have had the great opportunity to travel the country observing everyday safety practices in the utility industry. During this time it has become clear to me that, more often than not, employees are practicing inadequate rigging techniques that put them and their co-workers at risk on a daily basis. These poor practices are being perpetuated from one generation of riggers to the next. Employees who learned improperly from previous trainers go on to train new employees in the same fashion. It seems that a number of workers have bought into the dangerous idea that unsafe...

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Voice of Experience: Fundamentals of Underground Padmount Transformers

In recent months Incident Prevention has received several questions about underground (UD) padmount transformers, so in this installment of “Voice of Experience,” I’d like to take the time to cover the general aspects of these types of transformers. To begin, there are a few different types of single-phase and three-phase UD padmounts: live front with exposed live primary parts, 600-amp bolt-on elbows and loop feed with bushings and elbows. All of these transformers are available in several voltage ranges. The proper PPE must be worn when an employee is opening, entering and working on energized...

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April 2015 Q&A

Q: We are a 100-year-old municipality and we have discovered some wood tools and a baker board in a long-overlooked storage area. The tools are rotted and termite-damaged, but the situation raised a question: Is it permitted to use wood hot sticks? A: We did some checking with manufacturers and most agree that wood tools were first replaced by fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) in the 1950s when utilities started transmission voltages over 240 kV. The first published FRP manufacturing standard was for fiberglass tools in the 1960s. We don’t currently know of any consensus standards for...

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Growing a Human Performance Culture

Human performance methods help us to understand some key aspects of business: accountability, conservative decision-making, and overall commitment to goals and values. These fundamental principles comprise a larger objective known as organizational alignment. The concept of organizational alignment derives from years of studying, using and teaching human performance techniques, and even from an old TV rerun, which I’ll soon discuss. The constant challenge is demonstrating to employees how to relate to management and vice versa. I have continued to search for the reason why there are disconnects....

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Behavior-Based Safety: What’s the Verdict?

From its infancy in the late 1970s and early 1980s until now, behavior-based safety (BBS) has been a source of conflict in the safety profession, among company and union leadership, and even between practitioners. Nonetheless, after 30-plus years of use at companies that run the gamut of industries in dozens of countries around the world, it seems safe to assume that the theory and practice of BBS are here to stay. And since that is the case, this reality begs several questions. What is it about the BBS system that companies, safety professionals and practitioners find appealing? What are the...

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Mitigating the Risks of Aerial Patrols

A safe and reliable operation is built on a foundation of strong, continually evolving programs that adapt to changing regulations. Federal requirements now mandate that electric transmission utilities perform annual vegetation inspections on all of their rights-of-way. To complete these inspections, many utilities rely on helicopters, which pose high risks due to low-altitude flying and close proximity to lines where the danger of a strike is always present. In the U.S., helicopter wire-strike accidents account for 5 percent of civilian helicopter accidents (see

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Safety Management During Change

Safety champions Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities companies have created a culture of safety excellence with consistently low injury rates and hundreds of national and international awards to their employees’ credit. A key factor in LG&E and KU’s success has been a top-led, employee-driven approach to safety, which includes a concentrated effort to identify hazards and issues and proactively address them before they become injuries. Safety professionals know that even the most exemplary performance can turn upside down in a split second due to any number of factors. They...

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