Local 1245 Safety Committee
REPORT FROM MEETING OF SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
The Local 1245 Safety and Health Committee met on September 25, 2008 in Vacaville at the union hall. 1245 Safety Committee members in attendance were Michael Gomes, Robert Burkle, and Ralph Armstrong. Members absent were, Art Torres, Darryl Rice, Sergio Munoz, Al White and Thomas Greer.
First order of business was to review minutes from last months meeting. No changes were noted and corrected under Round Table Topics.
Topics discussed and action items assigned:
There are several items left open from previous meetings that need to be discussed during the IBEW / PGE Health and Safety meeting. This meeting took place on August 22, 2008; however the information obtained from this meeting was not available for the August 1245 Safety Committee meeting but was available for this meeting.
The Open Items and other topics discussed in the IBEW / PGE Health and Safety Meeting were:
a) Confined Space Rescue procedures:
íí‹Å“ The Union and PGE have had on-going discussions regarding this subject with the Company articulating its procedure that involve testing the air and utilization of emergency responders. The Union believes that there’s still an issue relative to Cal OSHA Section 5158, and the Department of Labor Standards-29 CFR 1910.269, which are applicable to the utility industry versus which states that reliance on emergency responders is not appropriate. The parties’ positions differ on this subject and whether the Company’s required to have employees trained and prepared to perform rescue on a co-worker should a situation arise; PGE, Health &Safety Attorney has agreed to take this issue back for further internal discussion and response. We are currently waiting for this response and legal position as they pertain to current OSHA law.
b) Backhoe Buckets used for Lifting:
íí‹Å“ The Union questioned whether crews should utilize the back of a backhoe for installing boxes, as they understood that Learning Services didn’t recommend this practice. PGE has indicated that they have been working with Learning Services to provide instruction on the proper use of this equipment within the allowable lifting capacity and that there are lifting charts that employees need to be familiar with. The use of boom trucks seems to have replaced this practice where the issue first arose and is the preferable method. The company has resolved this issue but the information from this topic could be used by other members working for utilities and contractors other than PGE as a warning of a possible hazard. If there are other members using backhoes to lift objects particularly where the object that is being lifted is being placed in an area where employees would be required to assist in its placement, be aware that there are usually no holding valves on the hydraulics, which could drop the basket in the event of a leak in the system. Load charts should be obtained for the equipment when used in this manner. This issue is closed at this time as far as this committee is concerned unless a need arises to re-open.
c) Un-Qualified Electrical Workers to Install Personal Protective Grounds
íí‹Å“ It has been a work practice of PGE that they allow Painters to install personal protective grounds under the supervision of a qualified electrical worker. PGE has provided the union with documentation that these employees have received training in this practice and claim therefore it is acceptable and meets current OSHA law. The union contends that this practice is not consistent with current law specifically;
Subchapter 5. Electrical Safety Orders
Group 2. High-Voltage Electrical Safety Orders
Article 36. Work Procedures and Operating Procedures,
§2940. General Provisions.
(c) Qualified Electrical Workers. Only qualified electrical workers shall work on energized conductors or equipment connected to energized high-voltage systems. Except for replacing fuses, operating switches, or other operations that do not require the employee to contact energized high-voltage conductors or energized parts of equipment, clearing “trouble” or in emergencies involving hazard to life or property, no such employee shall be assigned to work alone. Employees in training, who are qualified by experience and training, shall be permitted to work on energized conductors or equipment connected to high-voltage systems while under the supervision or instruction of a qualified electrical worker.
(d) Observers. During the time work is being done on any exposed conductors or exposed parts of equipment connected to high-voltage systems, a qualified electrical worker, or an employee in training, shall be in close proximity at each work location to:
(1) act primarily as an observer for the purpose of preventing an accident, and
(2) render immediate assistance in the event of an accident. Such observer will not be required in connection with work on overhead trolley distribution circuits not exceeding 1,500 volts D.C. where there is no conductor of opposite polarity less than 4 feet there from, or where such work is performed from suitable tower platforms or other similar structures.
It is our opinion that by the standard listed above that these individuals are not considered qualified electrical workers or employees in training. The employee in training in our opinion is reserved for employees in training to be electrical workers. PGE has provided training on installing grounds however they should not consider the painters Employees in Training because they are not in training to work on energized systems and therefore should not be applying grounds to anything tied to an energized high voltage system. They should not be introducing any grounded objects inside the Minimum Approach Distances that are set for a Non-Qualified Electrical Worker.
PGE has assigned this subject to their Health and Safety Attorney to verify whether or not they are in compliance with the OSHA law. We are waiting for this response before we decide what our next steps will be before this topic will be closed.
d) Resource Coordinator Safety Concerns:
íí‹Å“ There has been a concerned brought to this committee regarding which safety committee department this position falls under. This member when faced with specific safety concerns that pertain to their craft has experienced some difficulties in getting answers. The PGE Health and Safety Director has advised that he can be contacted directly and he will work to get this members concerns addressed.
There were a couple of other topics from the PGE/IBEW Safety meeting that was reported on at our 1245 Safety Committee Meeting one of which was presented to this committee from a Unit.
a) Fleet — Truck Modification:
íí‹Å“ Concerns brought forth at Unit meetings regarding several requests for (e.g., water jug, cone holders, rear step and hand railing) were submitted to modify recently purchased rental trucks with no response. The Company confirmed that issues are being addressed and that the employees should continue to work with the local Fleet organization. The concerns that are Safety in nature are in the process of being addressed system wide. Things such as bin lights are not safety related and will not be addressed in the system wide policy. This issue is closed unless we here that these issues are not being resolved as the company indicated they would.
e) Bonding of Regulator Platforms:
íí‹Å“ The union shared a concern and supplied photos to help clarify the position from one its members regarding the lack of bonding on regulator catwalks to the regulator platform. The company reviewed the information and agreed that bonding the catwalk to the platform would alleviate risks associated with not having an equi-potential zone by bringing the two to the same potential. The company will make recommendations to their Engineering group to make this change.
NEAR MISS PROGRAM
New Guidelines and a description of this program have been established and we are posted on the IBEW Local Union 1245 web site under the Safety Matters tab. We will continue to monitor and post these as they become available in this section of our report. Please remember to sanitize these reports prior to submitting them so as to not provide names, companies and employers to the report. These reports are intended to share someone else’s experience with a potential hazard in the workplace in an effort to prevent accidents elsewhere.
Please submit your near miss to the 1245 Safety Committee. Go to the Near-Miss link on the Safety Matters page, which will guide you to a link for sending in your Near Miss.
PPE Safety Article for the Utility Reporter:
The Business Manager has suggested that the Safety Committee come up with a full-page poster add for the back section of the Utility Reporter. The committee has worked on several ideas related to this topic however are having a difficult time in getting an article put together in house. The chairman will research this topic from other sources to try getting this done and closing out this topic.
Safety Committee Policy Document (Charter)
The Safety Committee policy document reviewed and modified language has been approved by the Business Manager and should be implemented. The Policy language involves the make-up and duties of the 1245 Safety Committee. All added responsibilities will become effective immediately. (CLOSED as far as this committee is concerned, new policy to be added to Business Managers Policies)
The Chairman has submitted a new reporting requirement to replace the current requirement that each Unit have a Unit Health and Safety Committee. This new requirement which will replace the old one that is not being used because of its impractical will require each unit to document any accidents deaths and sicknesses on a separate form to the Safety Committee. Implementation of this should start in the next couple months upon final approval. The current requirement can be found in the Business Managers Policies and is tied to the safety Committee Policy Document. This policy is set to implement at any time just no new status on its implementation at this time. We will continue to monitor this until its implementation as well as it effectiveness in reporting accidents to the committee once implemented.
FR Clothing and PGE pending implementation of it
Status of the new PGE FR Clothing policy as of this meeting date;
Fittings started July 15 through the selected vendor Tyndale. Fit teams hit all major service centers covering 7400 employees. The target date for completing all fittings is November 1. Fit Kits will remain in the system for employees who may not have been available when the team visited that location. Some employees have already begun receiving their clothing and PGE has stated that they can start wearing it if they chose when it arrives. FR Clothing Policies, and planned training on these policies will begin in September. A question was raised on whether there’s any change in the boot requirements given FR clothing. The Company confirmed there’s no change from the current CSP requirements of a rubber sole, leather (not nylon) boot. There are outstanding questions regarding GSR needs, but those are being addressed separately. A Letter of Agreement is being finalized to confirm the agreement between the parties.
This was discussed again by the 3 committee members that were present for this meeting with some talk about possibly trying to put together a 1 day safety meeting at the local union and inviting all signatory employers safety officers as a way of getting everyone in this field together to discuss safety issues we as an industry face and find out what everyone is currently doing. This would be intended as a way to get to know who is responsible for the safety programs our members are working under since we all have our members’ safety in common. Hopes would be that this could possibly grow to an annual event? A lot more work and planning will need to be put into this if the committee feels it would be worthwhile.
Round Table Topics
There was several side topics discussed with no action required such as:
q There have been several questions asked about the chemicals used in FR clothing that gives it its FR properties. Concerns have been raised concerning possible reactions to the treatment as well as if this product contains Pentabrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) I have contacted Westex the manufacture of the fabric Indura UltraSoft that is used by several manufactures of the FR clothing here and around the world. This is the fabric that is used by Tyndale, which PGE has chosen as the vendor to supply its employees with. I received from them a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for this product as well as an e-mail from their Vice President in Technical Services with further explanation to the safety of their product as it pertains to our concerns. These documents will be made available on the web in a separate document.
This product does contain a minute percentage of formaldehyde in the fabric, which is similar to permanent press cotton fabrics readily available in the consumer marketplaces today. The level of formaldehyde is way below the reporting threshold for OSHA.
q The committee reviewed the follow-up bulletin regarding an employee fatality due to an electrical contact that took place last winter while working on storm restoration. A copy of this report will be provided on the 1245 Safety Matters web site.
q The committee reviewed a report regarding a retired PGE employee who was working through the hiring hall sustained a hairline fracture to his vertebrae and a laceration to the back of his head when he fell from the top deck of a double bucket truck, landing on the ground and striking his head. After removing the bucket covers from the double buckets the lineman turned to step down on the walkway when he tripped and fell, striking his chest on the edge of the platform and then falling over the edge approximately seven feet striking his head on the ground. The employee never lost consciousness and was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
q The committee reviewed 2 newspaper reports regarding fatalities. One was regarding the recent fatality of a 1245 member that was struck by a light rail train. The other involved a signatory contractor working in another state that had one lineman killed and another severely injured while working on a pole in a rear easement.
q The committee discussed a recent incident at a substation where a contractor was installing a new card key apparatus to a control building that contained asbestos. Employees that worked at the facility had stopped the work until the company handled the concerns that were raised. These concerns included such things as proper procedures when working around asbestos and providing notification of the hazard to the contractor. In the future building requests will be coordinated through the appropriate sources in ensuring appropriate handling and notifications.
q The committee also discussed a preliminary report from a member that had concerns regarding recent threats to employees and robberies at customer service centers. The discussion at the committee level revolved around the recent downturn in our economy that is leading to more people out of work and therefore experiencing problems such as not having enough money to pay for basic necessities such as food, rent and utilities. We will leave this issue open for discussion next month and try to research what measures the company plans to take to ensure the safety of its employees that are exposed to these types of hazards.
Next Meeting will be on October 23, 2008 in Vacaville.
Local 1245 Safety Committee
Ralph Armstrong, Chair
Posted November 26, 2008