International Convention Safety Report: Several safety-related resolutions were brought up at the IBEW international convention in St. Louis. Proposals included encouraging the use of web-based accident reporting called Form 173 on the International Union website; increasing awareness on the hazards of radio frequency exposure through emitters and to report exposures to employers and the union; and educating members on the dangers of skin cancer through sun exposure. In other business, the International Convention noted the importance for all local unions to send a representative to the National Safety Labor division meeting and participate in the IBEW caucus.
National Safety Council Labor Division: Four members of the IBEW 1245 Health and Safety committee attended the bi-annual meeting in Anaheim, Ca. In addition to the breakout sessions focused on safety within specific industries, training sessions were held on subjects such as silicon exposure and silicosis, respirator selection and use, NSC defensive driving course, creating effective risk assessments and how to prepare and oversee a successful safety committee.
Opening session speaker Mark Breslin shared his findings on a ten-year study of workplace communications and work methods between generational lines. He spoke about how different age groups — such as Baby Boomers, Generation Xer’s and Millenials — communicate in different ways, and the challenges associated with getting work done safely. Breslin indicated that within 5-7 years the nature of the way we work and communicate will reach a huge demographic shift, which has potentially dangerous implications for the future workforce in America if we fail to plan accordingly.
At the IBEW caucus, the group was asked if they would be interested in a training session at the next labor division meeting on tree trimmer safety conducted by Dr. John Ball. Dr. Ball is an expert on trees, tree trimming operations and safety at the University of South Dakota who this year attended the Keep the Clearance safety stewards training at the Local 1245 hall. The caucus members indicated an interest in a class on tree trimmer safety.
Communications: The chairman of the NSC Labor Division sent a recall notice on DBI Sala Lad-Saf Sleeve tower climbing device for tower cable attachment climbing. This information was passed to PG&E IT group who was not aware of the recall and stopped use of the fall arrest device. According to the recall, clothing can become entangled in the open face of the slide causing the operator to become caught on the cable. See the link on the IBEW 1245 website for details.
Frontier Communications: The safety committee recently discussed the policy of transporting gasoline in a van. The van is also used to transport an employee who does yard care. The concern is explosion or vapor hazard in accident. Supervision is asking if there is a rule or regulation before they address the situation. The California Highway Patrol stated that containers up to 50 gallons are legal to haul if they are secured inside the vehicle and do not leak flammable liquid or put off vapors.
SMUD: Some soft tissue repetitive injury incidents involving hands being cut stripping cable have been reported. The Company will be purchasing Kevlar gloves and stocking them in the warehouse. There have been two incidents within the last three months of people cutting or puncturing hands.
There have been five reports filed for hearing loss in the last year, one area was power generation. Hearing loss is a cumulative problem and usually is not detected without annual testing. The legal decibel level over a time weighted average of eight hours is 85 decibels. It is recommended that hearing protection be worn prior to reaching the threshold. Android and iPhone stores have free apps that can check decibel levels in real time or over a time weighted average.
Carhartt, Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of its FR products produced since 2014 that do not meet NFPA 2112 or 70E standards. See this link for details.
PG&E Gas Operations: On August 10 at Deer Park, a serious accident occurred involving two PG&E employees changing a gas valve. During the operation there was a release of gas and a fire. Two employees were burned and the house burned down. The two employees, a gas mechanic and gas fitter, one sustained second degree burns on his arm and the other employee was slightly injured. Company issued a stand down on inoperable valve change outs until the investigation is concluded.
There was a report of an incident from PG&E Division gas employees working fire clean-up in the Lower Lake area. A tailboard meeting was held with a three-man crew warning them that electric service was going to be re-established at 6pm that evening and the crew was ordered to be out of the area prior to that time. At 2:30pm a crew member noticed secondary services arcing and heard pops from unsecured services. There was no report of injuries or near hit but firefighters in the area were caught by surprise and left the area immediately.
PG&E Electric Operations: T-men are now being used to do rubber glove work and other procedures that are more crew- like. The concern is that restoration work is not similar to crew work and pressure may be exerted to do work T-men are not familiar with. There are no instances of incidents or injuries yet but there is a gray area for such duties that may prompt T-men to exceed their training or knowledge.
The committee discussed unqualified people standing by on wires down. Groups who are not QEW such as mappers, estimators, metermen and gas employees are standing by poles and wires down circuits that have been tested de-energized but not grounded. There has been no indicated training on minimum approach procedures, cordoning the area to make safe for the public or recognizing hazards a trained person could see.
Tree Trimmers: There has been a high volume of tree work being done in 2016 due to the drought and bark beetle infestation. The State of California estimates that there are approximately six million trees dead in California. Utilities and tree companies have had many tree crews working mandatory 50-hour work week with optional 10-hour shifts on Saturdays. Crews are getting fatigued and there are no signs of let up in workload for the rest of 2016.
A worker was removing tree and de-limbed tree was making snap cut and piece broke and stub on trunk grabbed handle of chainsaw and almost pulled him out of bucket. His harness prevented a fall.
Two aerial lifts were in the air roping down a limb, one making a cut and the other controlling the wood when a chainsaw became pinched and piece dragged chainsaw into the air and over the 12kV to the ground. The trimmer made a snap cut but cut in front instead of behind the undercut and the pinch grabbed the chainsaw.
–Rich Lane, IBEW 1245 Business Rep