Local 1245 Safety Committee Report
The Local 1245 Safety and Health Committee met on Oct. 22 and Nov. 19, 2009 in Vacaville at the Local 1245 Union Hall. The October meeting had a limited number of committee members in attendance due to the 4 of the committee members attending the National Safety Council and IBEW Safety Caucus during this time. The November meeting was attended by: Darryl Rice, Dan Boschee, Al White, Michael Gomes and Ralph Armstrong.
Topics discussed and action items assigned:
Missing Switching Platforms and Grounds
Last month it was reported that there was a safety concern over switching platforms in the field were either missing and/or grounds have been removed. This situation is a real concern and the problem seems to be more so on transmission structures. Without the proper grounding platform in place and everything bonded together creates a potentially fatal step and touch potential hazard for the switchman if a fault were to occur at that location while switching. The platforms must be in place and grounded to the same location as the switch handle when you are required to perform switching at one of these locations.
In the event a switchman encounters this situation in the field they should install a temporary or permanent ground to the platform using approved jumpers. In cases where the entire platform was missing, they should not operate the switch, unless it can be done from the pole or the clearance point should be moved.
There are also temporary devices such as the Eqi-MatÅ¾ which is a temporary personal protective ground grid that could be used in place of the missing platform that would protect the worker from touch and step potential. This particular device can be viewed at: www.hubbellpowersystems.com/powertest/distribution/DistributionTips/Apr01_13-15.pdf”
PG&E Safety Walk Around
The company has asked for names of individuals to participate in the bi-annual safety walk-around inspections. An email was sent to all the reps asking for names of employees that will be involved in this. These safety walk around inspections are supposed to be performed in the spring and fall but have not always taken place like they should.
There have been issues with some supervisors not releasing individuals chosen by the union to participate in these activities. This will be discussed as well with the company during the December meeting in an effort to have these inspections performed the way they should be.
IEEE issues guidance for protecting powerline workers from exposures to communications antennas
Key words: ELF, RF, occupational exposures, wireless antennas, safety program
Madison, Wisconsin—The IEEE Guide for RF Protection of Personnel Working in the Vicinity of Wireless Communications Antennas Attached to Electric Power Line Structures (IEEE Standard 1654-2009) is now available. The report was written by a working group of the Transmission and Distribution Committee and its intent is to provide “information on establishing an effective safety program to ensure compliance with the applicable regulations for radio frequency (RF) protection of electrical workers in the vicinity of wireless communication antennas adjacent or attached to electrical power line structures.” It covers occupational exposure situations, applicable limits, safety practices, personnel meters, and protective clothing.
The rapid expansion of the telecommunications industry has led to new impacts on the electric power industry in that wireless companies are eager to use the existing network of transmission structures. Thousands of wireless antennas are now located on rooftops, mobile platforms (e.g., service vehicles), and towers, creating potential hazards for maintenance personnel, according to the report. While power companies are experienced in protecting workers from 50/60-Hz fields, they must now provide protection from RF fields as well.
Two agencies have jurisdiction over RF EMF occupational exposures — the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its responsibility for RF transmitters and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration
(OSHA) in its responsibility for exposures in the workplace; the document explains that the rules enacted by the FCC, rather than the regulations of OSHA, apply in this case. The FCC limits are currently more stringent than the OSHA limits, but according to the report, OSHA has publicly stated that consensus, state-of-the-art limits that provide equal or greater protection than OSHA standards may be implemented. The report suggests that “although more restrictive than the OSHA standards, complying with the selected consensus (FCC) standards is feasible and will provide a more protective workplace.”
The elements of a RF safety program to ensure compliance include the following, according to the IEEE:
knowledgeable personnel specializing in RF safety and exposure assessment
up-to-date documentation of all RF systems located on the utility’s property, with exposure levels determined by measurements, calculations such as in FCC OET Bulletin 65, or computer-modeling software
engineering and work practices to reduce exposure, such as mounting and directing antennas away from areas that could be occupied by workers or the public, posting warning signs, and de-energizing RF sources when work is being done
the use of RF personal monitors (RFPMs). The report devotes a special section to RFPMs because for this application, the meters must be able to operate in the presence of strong 50/60-Hz electric and magnetic fields. Taking into consideration possible shielding by the worker’s body, the report recommends that RFPMs be immune from ELF electric fields up to 100 kV/m and magnetic fields up to 5 G (0.5 mT).
the meters must also be capable of detecting a wide range of radio frequencies — 50 MHz to 40 GHz is recommended — because there may be multiple antennas on the tower.
the use of protective clothing. “Presently, live-line maintenance crews wear conductive clothing that is designed to protect against high power-frequency electric fields. Live-line conductive clothing has been shown to be highly reflective of RF energy and is in fact used by broadcast and wireless tower workers for protection against RF exposures when levels exceed federal and/or state limits,” the IEEE notes. However, the present configuration of such clothing does not protect the face: “This is the critical aspect, and as has been previously stated, the cellular and PCS [personal communication systems] emitters hold special concerns for this area of the body,” the report states. Investigations into solutions to this problem are currently underway, it says.
Lastly, current documentation of the RF program itself, including safety work practices and procedures and a training program.
Raw Sewage Issues
There has been over the last two months three separate questions asked pertaining to working around raw sewage. The first one deals with tow behind portable toilets that are pulled behind vehicles. During the transportation of these portable toilets the waste water in the tanks tend to splash around and in some cases splash outside of the holding tank into and onto the area accessed by the user of the facility. The original discussion involved trying to locate a device that would prevent this from happening.
The second issue dealing with raw sewage was employee assigned to work on septic systems and what the potential health risks are associated with this.
The third involved a crew that was told they had to work a job that was in an alley that was covered with urine and feces.
While the portable toilet issue needs to be researched further on a fix for the issue discussed as well as what the chemicals used in these things do to limit or eliminate the health hazards associated with the exposure it is a good idea to wear PPE when around it.
OSHA requires that employers evaluate their workplaces and, based on the evaluation, institute measures to prevent exposure to recognized hazards. Exposure to raw sewage poses a number of health hazards since raw sewage is associated with a wide range of infectious agents.
Below is some information pertaining to this:
Raw sewage contains biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that can cause serious illness and even death. There is also a risk from contamination with unknown chemicals (such as solvents, carcinogens, pesticides) and from toxic, irritant, asphyxiating or flammable gases in confined spaces.
Always assume that floodwater is contaminated with sewage. Immediate clean up is essential to reduce the risk of infection and/or mould growth.
Tetanus is caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani that is common in soil and in sewage. The bacterium enters the body via open wounds. There is a high risk of death occurring if infected. Anyone who may be exposed to sewage or soil should have prophylaxis tetanus vaccinations every ten years.
Leptospirosis is caused by the parasitic worm Leptospira icterohaemorrhegiae and is transmitted from water and damp earth contaminated primarily by rats that harbour the organism. The initial septicemia phase lasts for 4-7 days and causes acute headache, chills, fever, severe muscle aching, anorexia, nausea and vomiting. The immune phase, characterized by aseptic meningitis, follows a 24-72 hour asymptomatic period. Approximately 10-15% of patients present with Weil’s disease, jaundice, hemorrhage and renal damage.
Hepatitis A is caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV) that is transmitted primarily by ingestion. The virus must be present in sufficient quantities to cause infection. Infection occurs after an incubation period of three to four weeks. Hepatitis A is often mild, but can be severe or even fatal in some cases. Symptoms are fever, headache, nausea and pain in the abdomen, dark urine and jaundice. People can spread the disease to others in the immediate period before they become ill and while they are ill. Recovery from Hepatitis A can be slow and require several weeks or months of increased rest. A majority of patients make a complete recovery but the disease can be more severe in older patients.
Giardia and Cryptosporidium are protozoan parasites, commonly found in sewage and surface waters, that can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and sometimes fever. Symptoms may last for only a few days or can last for months or years. Many people, especially children, have no symptoms. Cysts from infected persons or animals enter sewage and if untreated may infect other people who ingest the cysts.
Gram-negative bacteria such as E.coli can cause gastro-intestinal diseases if ingested or airway problems, headache, tiredness and nausea if inhaled. Substances called endotoxins that are released at the time of death of the bacterium have been suggested as the cause of a wide variety of occupational diseases such as mill fever and grain fever.
Risks of exposure to sewage
The risk to health depends on the microbes present, duration of exposure and method of exposure. Microbes in raw sewage can enter the body via the nose, mouth, open wounds or by inhalation of aerosols or dusts. The most common modes of infection are through drinking contaminated water or hand to mouth transmission. Skin contact alone does not pose a health threat unless you have an open wound.
The survival of pathogens depends on a number of factors: location, type of surface contaminated, whether disinfectants are used and environmental conditions. UV radiation reduces the survival rate of pathogens. Mild temperatures and higher humidity increase survival times. The risk of exposure when handling sewage can be reduced significantly by effective and immediate clean-up and by taking appropriate safety precautions
Safety precautions to be followed when handling sewage
The following safety measures must be observed when handling sewage-contaminated materials:
- Assume anything touched by sewage is contaminated.
- Do not eat or drink or smoke in sewage handling areas.
- Wash hands well with soap and clean water (preferably hot) before eating or smoking and during and after work. Also wash hands after removing gloves to prevent cross-contamination.
- Wash hands with soap and clean water (preferably hot) after touching any surfaces or objects that may have been contaminated.
- Do not touch your nose, mouth, eyes or ears with your hands, unless you have just washed.
- Keep fingernails short and clean carefully under nails. >
- Always wear gloves when hands are chapped, burned or have a rash or cut. Use a waterproof dressing for additional protection under gloves or clothing.
- Immediately wash and disinfect any wound that comes into contact with sewage.
- Shower and change out of your work clothes before leaving. Do not keep soiled work clothes with your other clothes. Launder work clothes separately or discard.
- Always use the right personal protective equipment:
- Eye protection. Goggles are recommended if using a hose and/or any chemicals
- Rubber boots
- Rubber gloves
- Impervious coveralls or old clothing that may be discarded after use.
- Ensure vaccinations are up to date for tetanus and diphtheria. Vaccinations are also available for hepatitis A.
- Take care – wet surfaces can be very slippery!
- Do not enter confined spaces that have been contaminated with sewage, as toxic, flammable or asphyxiating gases may be present.
- Be aware of electrical hazards when dealing with floodwater.
- Read labels on chemicals and observe the appropriate safety precautions and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Contact a doctor immediately if illness occurs.
Cleaning up after sewage spills
- Vacate the area immediately.
- Conduct a risk assessment to determine a safe work procedure. This includes an initial site assessment, confined space monitoring and permitting (if required), electrical hazards, removal of materials, disposal of sewage and contaminated materials, site sanitation, and decontamination of workers.
- Determine whether professional help is required.
- Clean all contaminated objects and surfaces immediately to reduce the risk of infection and to prevent further microbial growth. The longer that contaminated water remains the greater the risk of infection occurring. Cleaning should be carried out before the sewage dries out to avoid contaminated dust being dispersed in the air.
Chemical disinfectants kill or inhibit the growth of microbes. Many household products are useful disinfectants and should be used in accordance with the manufacturers label directions. Bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is the most commonly used disinfectant and should be used as a 1:10 dilution. Do not use undiluted bleach as this can cause severe skin and respiratory problems.
Note that normal household detergents do not necessarily kill microbes. Use only products that are disinfectants. The term anti-bacterial means that it kills bacteria but is not necessarily effective against viruses and parasites.
Safe handling of disinfectants
Chemical detergents and disinfectants can have varying degrees of reactivity, depending upon the active chemicals. The chemical can affect the skin, eyes and mucous membranes of the user and may affect the airways and lungs.
- Wash surfaces first with warm soapy water and rinse with clean water.
- Wear rubber gloves and goggles when working with cleaning products.
- Read the label carefully before using a disinfectant.
- Only use the disinfectant in well-ventilated areas, and be aware of the handling precautions and first aid procedures.
- Apply disinfectant to all areas of the affected surface and allow for sufficient contact time before rinsing and allow to dry thoroughly. 15-30 minutes contact time is a good guide when disinfecting with bleach.
- Does not mix bleach with ammonia cleaners. The chlorine fumes are highly toxic
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.
No accidents to report.
No Near Misses reported to the committee.
PPE & Lineman’s Climbing Equipment
UPDATE: The meeting scheduled for November 6th has again been rescheduled by PG&E due to an unforeseen conflict in the company’s chairperson schedule. The new date for the joint committee to sit down and discuss the parameters of a climbing tool replacement policy is set for December 14th here in Vacaville. This is the second time the company has rescheduled this meeting. The first time was due to the storm restoration work in October.
Safety Vests and Attire
PG&E and the union are scheduled to meet on December 2nd in Vacaville for their 4th quarter Joint Safety Committee meeting and this is an open item on that committee as well.
There have been several issues reported to me by our members and representatives involving area managers implementing their own safety attire directives for their area. I have been in contact with the company’s safety department to see if the Company wide Safety Attire Letter has been sent out and if these area policies are part of a company wide policy. I have been told that the Company wide letter has not been signed or distributed yet. I have also been told that the company was still moving in the smart and simple approach to PPE.
With any luck their will be an update on this at the December meeting with some insight on what the smart and simple safety attire letter will look like.
Again, there is nothing new to report on this at this time. The company and the union are scheduled to meet as mentioned above on December 2nd here in Vacaville.
Gas Crews: Up-to-date maps
Update on this to come after the December 2nd Joint Health and Safety Meeting. This meeting was originally scheduled in November and to be held at the Concord RMC. During this meeting the company had mentioned having some people from Gas Engineering attend to discuss this issue and possible remedies. Since the meeting has been changed and moved to Vacaville I am unsure at this time if that will take place.
PG&E Safety Glasses
Letter Agreement No. R1-09-35-PGE has been signed and could be found on our web page. This agreement comes with a disclaimer though which states that although the program has been adopted company wide it would be up to each individual department to roll out with no mandated time frame for implementation.
This is something we will continue to monitor. It was reported that during the November 1245 Safety Committee meeting that some members in the gas department have received these items using this policy.
Local 1245 Safety Committee
Ralph Armstrong, Business Rep/Safety Chairman