The IBEW Health and Safety committee reviewed an electrical contact that took place at a public utility in the Central Valley, in which a crew doing storm damage work elected to ground a four wire line leaving the substation grounded primary neutral out of the ground scheme. The crew had elected to treat the primary neutral as a hot phase but did not cover the neutral or use rubber gloves. While untying phases to wreck out the pole top, the primary arm shifted, causing a lineman to come in contact between the neutral and a grounded phase. He received a severe shock and was taken to a medical center and released later with no permanent injury. The company has investigated the incident and will schedule training on effective grounding.
Frontier lost two members of its safety committee due to reorganization in facilities and engineering. Frontier bought a large area in Thousand Oaks and some jobs are duplicated. No accidents to report, and all safety programs are still in force. There were two motor vehicle incidents during the year involving a vehicle turned in front of a company vehicle, and another in which a third party hit a Frontier van. No injury in first incident, and slight injury in second incident.
PG&E Information Technology (IT) Line of Business safety council concluded their last meeting for 2016 on December 20. The safety council discussed upcoming 2017 rollout of several safety programs such as the Corrective Action Program (CAP), Serious Incident and Fatality (SIF) Investigation Team, and Motor Vehicle Incident (MVI) Review Team. No roll-out dates have been announced and programs are still in development. IT LOB employees drove 3.2 million miles in 2016 with an incident rate of 1.26 compared to the overall company rate of 2.6 per 100,000 miles, with no injuries reported.
Had two hand cuts, involving an employee who was using a double jack as a dirt tamp and struck himself on the head.
SMUD has rolled out a new hearing protection program involving custom fitted ear plugs with Bluetooth capability for times when communication is necessary. These are being issued to all field personnel.
Employees found an odd package at a critical infrastructure substation and called out corporate security. Crew foreman took precautions and FBI and Homeland Security cleared the package by attempting to trigger the device which was found not to be an explosive device.
A near-miss in the meter dept: A meter in a rural area was sending an error report. Crew went out and noticed a cluster of bee hives near the meter pole. Tech is allergic and did not have an epi pen so took precautions and took meter readings and found unbalanced voltage. He did not notice until later that there was a primary wire down and he had stepped over it several times. The line was found to be dead later. The employee shared that he lost focus on the big picture because he was focused on the bee risk.
Line crew leader tore his left bicep lifting a pole top.
All of Modesto Irrigation District line department is in new Carhartt FR clothing, including jackets.
MID is hiring 7-8 new apprentices, on top of the six already hired within the last year, which raises the issue of apprentice-to journeyman ratio. There is discussion on slowing down to make sure work is done safely and quality on-the-job training is maintained. The group identified the challenges and will take action. The company recognizes and is responsive to the potential hazards involved.
Substation employee was involved in a vehicle accident when a third part backed into the employee’s vehicle. No injury reported.
PG&E Vice President John Higgins recently lent his support to Local 1245’s Control the Pressure peer-to-peer safety committee in their effort to set up a safety meeting schedule with Title 200 gas employees during the year 2017. CTP will be reaching out to employees through safety meetings to explain how CTP works and will be seeking new safety stewards to join the union-based peer program. The CTP committee conducted 26 meetings in 2016. Anyone interested in more information can contact Rich Lane at email@example.com or 209-202-9492.
A PG&E gas employee came to the aid of an elderly couple who were involved in a motor vehicle accident on Southbound 101 near Willits. The employee witnessed the accident several cars ahead of his and notified a fire chief in stopped traffic behind him, and both rendered aid while waiting for EMS. The elderly couple were both injured and the employee and chief blocked traffic until emergency responders arrived.
On December 23, 2016 a final incident report was issued by PG&E related to the February 27, 2016 incident in which a transmission crew lost control of a 790 lb. piece of pole that was being lifted using a ½” rope. The rope was not rated for the load and broke dropping the piece onto the cab of a 77’ line truck, damaging the door. There were no injuries reported and the SIF investigation cited contributing factors; the crew used improper lifting device to lift the load, did not know the weight of the load being lifted and had not received refresher training on lifting techniques since initial apprentice training or on-the-job experience.
PG&E job packages for electric crew work are showing reports of naturally occurring asbestos with mitigation instructions. Crews are not sure what they are supposed to do for mitigation, so they have asked for clarification from industrial hygienist. Work has been suspended for now on packages that report asbestos.
Crew discussed an incident in which they were grounding a primary neutral and drawing an arc. Committee discussed how differential voltages can be present depending on how far from a station the grounds are being installed. One option is to open the neutral with flying bells only on a radial feed to a dead end and in conjunction with company instructions.
On December 15, a tree trimmer working for Wright Tree on storm work was seriously injured when he was struck by a branch or cable tv line. The accident is currently under SIF investigation but preliminary reports are that the accident happened near Eureka and the trimmers injuries are to his face and eye. He was transported to Mercy Hospital in Redding and then on to UC Davis for more specialized care.
Due to drought and bark beetle infestation, tree trimmers with most employers have been scheduled to work six 10-hour days with an optional seventh day since the beginning of 2016, and this schedule is expected to go into 2017. Crews are showing signs of fatigue and overwork. Two incidents reported employees going off the road because of drowsiness. Most employees start at 6am and work until 4:30 then drive home in the dark. There are inidications of pressure by supervision to work long hours.
A Davey Tree safety inspector came to the Utility Tree yard to talk with the crews about PG&E’s safety inspection program. PG&E uses third-party contractors to do spot inspections on tree crews. The inspectors observe the crews working and inspect worksite safety, tools and PPE and report to PG&E. This information is used to establish a grade for employers.
Tree Supervision Roundtable meetings have been scheduled for 2017. The first meeting will be on January 31 at the IBEW 1246 hall. Tree company supervisors, utility vegetation management, Keep the Clearance peer representatives and 1245 Business Representatives attend this quarterly meeting to discuss safety issues related to tree work and review accidents and close call reports.
–Rich Lane, IBEW 1245 Business Rep