During the first week of April, five members of the IBEW 1245 Health and Safety Committee attended the National Safety Council and Labor Division Caucus in Nashville, Tennessee. Dan Boschee, Mike Gomes, Carlos Rodriguez, Al White and 1245 staff members Ralph Armstrong and Rich Lane attended the five-day conference, which included a number of safety workshops and updates on regulatory affairs in Washington D.C.
IBEW Safety Director David Mullen told the group of 250 attendees that safety regulations already in the pipeline are under suspension by the Trump administration through the use of the Congressional Review Act. The CRA will be used by the administration to keep its promise to remove worker protections in the Fair Wages and Safe Work Practices Act, which includes silica exposure and workplace violence protections. Workplace violence is the second leading cause of death in the workplace (after vehicle-related fatalities), with approximately 400 fatalities per year.
Bulwark representative Rick Fisher provided an excellent presentation on the details of picking FR clothing, how FR is rated, and the requirements to use and care for it. Fisher related that an arc flash can generate up to 35,000 degrees of heat and an explosive blast of up to 130 psi to body parts. The average cost to treating an arc flash injury is $200,000 which factors in any burn, including small burns as well as major body burns, which can cost into the millions of dollars for treatment.
A serious potential incident final communication report was received from PG&E on April 12, involving a four-man helicopter flight crew flying in a “doors off” configuration while patrolling Metcalf-Moss Landing 230kV line. The helicopter banked to one side looking for nearby aircraft when a ball cap and headset flew off and struck the tail rotor. The crew was able to land safely. An investigation lead to improvement in procedures while in “doors off” configuration, securing of unused items, and changes to preflight checklist.
Gary McIver from the Cal OSHA consultation service attended the March 16 meeting to inform the committee of the purpose of the service and answer questions from the committee. The consultation service is available to anyone who wishes to inquire about unsafe conditions at work and is, by law, forbidden to communicate with the enforcement side of Cal OSHA regarding any communication. Mr. McIver handed out small handbooks to the committee that are an easy guide to looking up regulations.
Frontier Communications had a manager from battery supplier Enersis onsite to do inspections and inventory battery conditions at seven sites. Some of the sites are at the hazardous level with leaking, splitting, overvoltage and doubling their operating voltages. No accidents or injuries to report related to the condition.
Follow-up on two incidents at SMUD involving apprentices– The first was an arc flash that took place while a set of cut-outs were being opened. The apprentice went to a line department safety meeting and explained to the group what happened, underscored the importance of following safe work practices, and detailed the quick response and EMS notification after the incident. EMS commented that the burn gel used was the same as on their vehicles. The injured person is healing up and doing much better.
Another SMUD incident on January 25 involved an apprentice who fell off a ladder while practicing hanging a service. The apprentice broke his left leg when he lost his balance and fell to the ground. An instructor was holding the ladder at the time. The incident brought ladder safety into focus, keeping three points of contact, ladder tie-off and back-up, and keeping ladders secured on trucks so they are not lost while traveling.
A meter tech was working on a meter and he placed a meter bypass on the top of the panel near a missing knock-out. The bypass fell through the open knock-out and behind the meter socket. There was no arc flash, and the incident was covered at a safety meeting to check for openings in panels.
A Troubleman at Modesto Irrigation District suffering from fatigue after a 25-hour shift on a big storm dozed off on his way back home. He felt the vehicle hit the edge of road and side-swiped a pole, damaging the side of the vehicle. He was not injured. What happened to this individual is consistent with other accidents that have happened while driving either home or back to the yard after completion of shift.
On Feb. 27, a PG&E GC gas tapping technician was injured when the tapping tool he was working turned under high pressure and struck him, causing facial injuries, a broken arm and three broken ribs. He was in the process of tapping out a pipe anomaly, had tapped the 12” 480 psi steel line, and was blowing out shavings when the tapping tool swung around and struck him. A crew member jumped into the 10’ pit to shut off the valve and blowing gas so fire rescue could enter the pit. The employee underwent surgery the same day. A SIF investigation is underway and no other information is available at this time.
On the Central Coast, a contract flagging crew in support of GC Gas was taking down an arrow board sign when a box van crashed into it, narrowly missing an employee. The sign struck the back of the tow vehicle and the employee was shaken up but not injured.
A work stoppage took place when a gas transmission crew discovered a large piece of concrete lying against the bottom of a transmission pipe while they were digging. The crew recognized the anomaly and called the control center who notified the gas engineer. The engineer ordered the pressure to the line reduced and the crew removed the concrete without incident.
On March 7, two PG&E employees were driving a F550 substation truck when they hit a patch of black ice and slid off the roadway and down an embankment approximately 100 ft into the water. A California Highway Patrol helicopter responded and rescued the two workers, and, after a check by EMTs, they were found to be slightly injured from the fall. Both employees were transported to a Fresno hospital and released the same day.
The H&S committee reviewed the final incident communication for an electrical contact that took place on July 12, 2016. The shock involved a pre-apprentice line worker who was shocked while his crew was changing a broken pole and the un-insulation portion of a digger derrick boom made contact with 21kV primary. The pre-apprentice was working on the trailer and felt the shock, saw the arcing on an outrigger, and was able to step away from the trailer. The line went down across the equipment and reclosed two more times. Contributing factors to the incident were no observer watching minimum approach, insufficient cover on the primary, no non-test and lack of situational awareness.
The H&S committee reviewed a report related to storm response during the January 2017 storm. Three incidents reported trees falling on vehicles, 11 employee injuries, most soft tissue or slips, trips and falls, 12 motor vehicle incidents and six cases of black mold exposure to OEC employees in Ukiah.
The committee also reviewed PG&E storm “Check in – Check out” five minute meeting communication. The communication relates that in emergency response, supervision is responsible to monitor the activities of crews and extended hours in which they work, and employees must do check in and check out with supervisor. The first shift will be a 16 hours on / 8 hours off rest, unless there is approval by supervision to extend the shift. One hr. travel is allowed each way in the policy, extending the rest period to 10 hours if needed.
An electric crew responding to an underground secondary no power call in joint trench accidently lit off a gas leak when they used a torch to heat shrink the electrical sleeve. No injuries occurred, but for a time the inside of the trench was fully engulfed in flames. A SIF investigation recommended employees use extreme caution while using an open flame in a trench, and call for gas assistance at the smell of gas.
The California Department of Industrial Relations announced that Cal OSHA will be stepping up the inspection and citation process for tree trimming companies. This focus is in relation to four deaths and numerous injuries that occurred in the tree trade in 2016. According to the release, of nearly 70 accidents involving tree work within the last two years, 74% resulted in hospitalization and 12 workers were killed. Two of the fatalities cited involved Local 1245 members.
In Yuba City, a crew was removing a tree and instead of piecing out the trunk, they dropped the trunk through the house service.
A tree trimmer working in a bucket was launched into the air when he put pressure on the limb and the pressure released, throwing him out of the bucket. Fall arrest kept him from falling out to the ground.
A tree crew was trimming a leaning tree on BART right-of-way. The crew was not able to access from the public property and requested access to BART property so they could remove the tree. The BART supervisor refused access and while the tree crew supervisor and BART supervisor argued, the tree went over, taking out the top of the power pole.
–Rich Lane, IBEW 1245 Business Representative