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Tag: Worksite Safety

Minimum Approach Distances: What’s Required?

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

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Using Situational Awareness to Enhance Field Security

Recently I was on a conference call during which a client and I discussed aggression aimed at the client’s line crews and service technicians. As I hung up, I came to the realization that hostility toward utility workers isn’t a passing storm – it’s a bellwether of change in the public attitude. Aggression directed at utility workers is a critical issue that we must deal with effectively before more people are hurt. The truth is, a growing number of people no longer see investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities as benevolent service providers. Instead, they see adversaries who are...

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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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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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Safety Awareness for Substations

There are a number of hazards unique to substations. The substation safety information found in this article is drawn from 30 years of personal experience as well as industry best practices, regulations, codes and company policies. During my time working in substations, I have seen some horrible accidents and hope the following lessons I’ve learned will prevent other people from having to experience injury or death. A Lesson for BeginnersOne thing I remember thinking as I walked into a substation for the first time is that it would be pretty easy for a person to get killed inside the facility....

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Occupational Dog Bite Prevention & Safety

According to The Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs in the country and about 40 percent of all households have at least one dog. Of course, the percentage of households with dogs is higher in suburban and rural areas than in cities, but the fact remains that dogs are nearly everywhere. Couple these statistics with the fact that most households with dogs also have electric service, and those of us who work in the transmission and distribution departments of electric utility companies have a potential problem. OSHA would consider dogs a recognized...

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