Local 1245 Safety Committee
The Local 1245 Safety and Health Committee met on July 23, 2009 in Vacaville at the Local 1245 Union Hall. Committee members present were; Robert Burkle, Michael Gomes, Darryl Rice, Sergio Munez, Al White, Dan Boschee and Ralph Armstrong. Committee member absent were Art Torres.
First order of business was to review minutes from the prior months meeting. No changes were noted.
Topics discussed and action items assigned:
Safety vests have been an on-going issue with PGE and the membership due to a couple of reasons. First there has been inconsistent information provided to the employees regarding the requirement for Class II or Class III vests. Secondly employees that are now being required to wear the Class III vests all of the time have to deal with the added lack of ventilation on top of the warmer FR Clothing which may be unnecessary in some instances.
It was relayed to the committee members that this has also been a topic of discussion during the Joint PGE /IBEW Quarterly meetings. It was reported at the June 10th joint meeting that the company is currently updating their Safety Attire Policy. The updated policy will include clarification around the wearing of safety vests. The revision is expected to include language that allows for some discretion by work groups as to the wearing requirement based on specific circumstances.
As of this reporting we have not seen the requirement in any form and will have to wait until the company finishes the revision of the policy.
PPE & Lineman’s Climbing Equipment
As reported before this subject has been addressed by this committee since the FedOSHA standard was issued in November of 07. The heart of the problem in California has been that CalOSHA did not release a similar standard, so many utilities and Municipalities have taken the position that it is not required here.
A request to CalOSHA regarding their position in early July in which they stated that the new Fed standard posed no new duty to CalOSHA based on a long standing case law in California to address employer payment for required safety equipment and protective clothing. This stems from the Bendix Decision wherein the California Supreme court held that the California Labor Code requires that employers shall provide and pay for these items.
We also expect in addition to the above mentioned information a letter from CalOSHA addressing this subject specifically.
Next steps are to present this information to the companies that have not complied with this requirement yet. Our interpretation to the above stated case law is that all PPE (FR, Steel toe, ECT…) if required for protection of the employee is the responsibility of the employer to purchase. With the Lineman Climbing Gear it is specifically mentioned in the Federal Standard and backed up by 2 letters of interpretation that this equipment is PPE (Fall Protection) that is required to be purchased by the employer.
The Federal standard also mentions that there is some PPE that is required by the employer but not necessarily the employers’ responsibility to pay for it. Our position based on the above California case law in California that would not be the hold true. It is the employers’ responsibility to purchase all required PPE.
Working around Lightning
The question was asked during the June meeting about any OSHA requirement that prohibits working when there is lightning in the area. Most companies should have this information covered as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP).
CalOSHA does address inclement weather and electrical storms under,
Subchapter 5. Electrical Safety Orders
Group 2. High-Voltage Electrical Safety Orders
Article 36. Work Procedures and Operating Procedures
§2940.3. Inclement Weather.
Work on or from structures shall be discontinued when adverse weather, such as high winds, ice on structures, or the progress of an electrical storm in the immediate vicinity, makes the work hazardous, except during emergency restoration procedures.
Wind Ratings on Aerial Lifts
Questions pertaining to whether or not there are requirements for wind ratings in aerial manlifts (Bucket trucks) were asked. There have always been wind ratings on these devices which normally range around 20-25mph maximum. These maximum wind operating requirements however should always be verified with the specific piece of equipment you are using. This information could be found in the vehicles operating manual.
Pole Top Rescue
A question was asked of the committee pertaining to any requirement to perform pole top rescue within a 4 minute time frame. There have been situations where a utility had implemented this time specific training requirement based on Federal OSHA interpretations on the word “prompt” as it pertains to in specific standard requirements for administering first aid and/or CPR. Basically this requirement is based on the onset of brain damage due to lack of oxygen if they were to quit breathing.
One company had started using the 4 minute requirement but has since removed it due to an increase in injuries of their employees while performing their training and refresher classes. A trainer from this company called and expressed concern as well as disagreed with the company’s position that the 4 minute requirement be removed. His concern was that when you are in the air working you want to make sure that the coworker assigned to act as a rescuer if needed, be able to perform the rescue safely and in a timely manner.
A poll of safety committee members from different utilities and municipalities revealed that other than the company that used to require the 4 minute time limit, none of them had a time requirement. It is felt that the exposure to accidents by workers trying to meet this hard time limit may outweigh the benefits of achieving it in a practice setting. Most feel that in the practice setting focus on proper rigging and procedure are important but realize that it should not take anyone an excessive amount of time to perform and avoid unnecessary injuries. Instructors should be given the discretion to grade the performance based on the individual’s knowledge and ability to perform the task realizing that in an emergency setting most individuals are going to go all out.
The company in question had up until recently quit training on pole top rescue all together due to accidents in the training. This training is required by the regulations and is important for everyone to be current in. A bigger concern would be that companies go back to the old feeling that the risk of injury is greater than the benefit of practicing for something that most may never be called on to do in a real emergency setting.
The committee would like to ask the membership your thoughts on this topic. Let us know what your company is doing and any comments you may have on time limits in a training session for pole top rescue.
Please send your comments to; RMA1@ibew1245.com
Forms and guidelines are on the website. Units should start using them as part of their unit meeting and submit them to this committee whether or not there are accidents or concerns. This should be a standard reporting practice at every unit meeting every month. All accidents reported this month on the green form as well as accidents reported at the safety committee meeting is listed below;
Accidents Related to not wearing PPE.
This local’s membership has recently experienced a rash of accidents and discipline lately due to not following safety rules or not wearing the required PPE. Most of these accidents are completely avoidable and/or would not have resulted in such bodily harm had the employee followed safety policies and wore the proper PPE. FR Clothing as well as other basic PPE is not being worn by some when required.
There are many excuses from people why they would prefer not to wear it, from it being too hot to they know what they are doing. Some even believe that the stuff they are required to wear is not necessary. None of these excuses are acceptable; just ask the injured workers who are faced with long recoveries who felt such an accident would not happen to them. It’s always the other guy. In fact these accidents happen here and all over the country every day to people who feel they are immune to them. Workers are getting killed and maimed, all of which could have been prevented in most cases, had they wore the proper PPE as is the case with some of the recent incidents to our own Local members. PPE is your last line of defense when things go wrong.
Companies are taking a harder stance to safety infractions. Employees are being let go or disciplined when they are found not wearing the required PPE when they are spotted in the field or after an accident.
We continue to see more rules being put in place as a result of these accidents. The fact is we work in a reactive environment especially when an accident occurs. When an accident occurs the first thing we notice is another rule in place that companies feel will prevent a similar accident. We all can expect that trend to continue as long as we have workers that continue to not follow the current rules that are in place. The worst part of this is these new rules are usually written by people who have never performed the work we do.
The actual numbers of workers out there that refuse to follow the rules and do not do what is required of them are few, but these few are the ones that are having more rules written the rest of us. Each and every one of us, as members of an organization that was founded on safety, need to step up and speak out when we see someone doing something that we know is wrong. We all know what is required of us when it comes to safety and we all need to continue to foster the commitment of taking personal responsibility for our own safety as well as our fellow brothers and sisters while on the job and try to turn this trend around.
· A Journeyman Lineman received 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his face and arms when a 480v commercial meter exploded. Results of an investigation indicate that several important work rules were not followed and that proper PPE was not being worn at the time of the accident. Significant factors that led to this unfortunate accident with injuries are:
The injured employee had removed the ring on more than one meter, in direct conflict with stated work rules. The injured employee appears to have by-passed the load on the meter that he intended to exchange (but had not yet isolated the line and load voltage) when he indicated that he was distracted by a phone call from the building manager. After completing the call, he was then able to mistakenly pull the wrong meter (one installed in a socket from which he had already removed the ring, but had neither by-passed the load nor isolated the line and load voltage). Upon pulling the meter and being surprised by the presence of load current, he hastily attempted to reinstall the meter and apparently created a line fault. This accident could have been prevented if the employee had followed the procedure requiring the removal of only one meter ring at a time.
The injured employee was not following proper PPE procedures at the time of the accident.
Employee was not wearing FR head sock as required on all 480v exchanges.
Employee appeared to have rolled up the sleeves of the FR shirt that he was wearing.
Employee was not wearing FR coveralls as required on all 480v exchanges.
While employee’s FR wraparound face shield was found in the room and adjacent to the accident, it was absent any blast damage and likely not in place during the fault.
Employee was wearing leather protectors without insulated rubber liners.
If the employee had been following proper PPE procedures at the time of the accident, his injuries would have been greatly reduced and it is possible that he could have avoided injury altogether.
Employee had by-passed load on the meter he had intended to exchange, but had not yet isolated the line and load voltage by backing off the isolating nuts. It is unclear whether this process was interrupted by the phone call from the building manager, or if the employee had intended to skip this very important step. This step is a requirement of all sockets with this available feature regardless of their voltage. This requirement has been reinforced via safety tailboard session.
The meter socket that was faulted was above eye level and employee did not use a step ladder to better position himself for the exchange. It is not clear if the use of a ladder would have prevented the accident, however the failure to use a ladder in this instance may have contributed to the accident.
- An Apprentice Lineman suffered a head injury that required 4 stitches to close when a pair of hand held ratchet cutters fell off the belt of another employee that was working aloft. The ratchet cutters hit the apprentice’s hardhat and piercing it and cutting open his head. Had he not been wearing the hard hat his injuries would have been more severe.
· Power Plant apprentice was using insulated leads attached to test equipment without rubber gloves, on a 480V system. As a result of these actions the employee sustained burns to his hands when the test leads were removed while the equipment was energized. Cal-OSHA regulations allow the use of insulated tools without rubber gloves only on systems up to 250V.
- A GSR assigned to turn on a customer’s gas and check the appliances which included re-lighting a furnace in the attic suffered a fractured vertebra when the ladder he was on slipped causing him to fall approximately 9’ to the concrete below.
2 more accident to report that happened after the July meeting that will be discussed at the August 27th meeting
· A meter tech was involved in a single vehicle accident. The vehicle struck a chain link fence resulting in the top rail of the fence piercing the front window of the vehicle and drivers arm. Employee is recovering at home.
· A lineman severely injured is right ankle when the 40’ pole he was on broke at the base. The lineman was in the process of dropping out a service on the pole that had a total of 3 services connected to it. When the service he was dropping out was released the weight of the other two services and decay caused to pole to brake just below ground level. The lineman’s ankle was broke as a result of the fall.
One near miss was reported at this meeting. The Safety Committee is encouraging everyone to report all near misses to the committee through our IBEW1245 Safety Matters web page. Anyone with a near miss should sanitize the report to omit names and companies as the intent of reporting a near is to provide others with information about potential hazards that members find in the field in order to prevent awareness to others of those hazards.
This is still an open item that we are monitoring. There is nothing new to reports on this since last month.
PGE will begin training on confined space rescue. PGE Procedure 232 is complete with new language that guides employees on how and when to apply this training.
Gas crews concerns over up to date maps
This has been discussed in Labor Management and some steps are being taken to address this concern such as looking at training and availability of access to the current up to date maps after hours. Not much to report on this at this time other than there has been some movement.
PGE Safety Glasses
This new program should be available to their employees by now.
The committee discussed as part of the round table session a couple of items,
· The committee discussed the summer weather and the potential for heat related illnesses. Drink plenty of water and don’t wait until you feel thirsty before you do so. Take a break if you start to feel sick and cool down.
· Discussion pertaining to one person (troublmen) performing work that requires the use of hotsticks. In general if the work involves switching or is associated with an emergency situation is this acceptable. Any worked that is deemed routine in nature or considered preventative maintenance requires another qualified electrical worker or someone in training to be present per CalOSHA standard 2940.
· The use of non-traditional employees to stand watch over situations such as wire down was discussed. If proper training that taught the employee the proper safety precautions such as Safe approach distances for non-qualified electrical workers and other hazard recognition the use of these employees could be acceptable. OSHA allows for employers to provide training that is specific to certain tasks. These employees would have to know what the potential hazards are such as available voltages, proper PPE, what’s hot and what’s not, and how far away they would have to be from the site. These distances are greater than a qualified electrical worker is permitted to be.
Local 1245 Safety Committee
Ralph Armstrong, Chair
Posted: Sept. 22, 2009