Local 1245 Safety Committee
The Local 1245 Safety and Health Committee met on Feb. 26, and March 26, 2009 in Vacaville at the union hall. Committee members present were; Art Torres, Al White, Robert Burkle, Michael Gomes, Sergio Munoz, Darryl Rice and Ralph Armstrong. Committee member Thomas Greer was absent.
Topics discussed and action items assigned:
At the February meeting there was a considerable amount of time spent going over the minutes from the January minutes since some of the information and updates that were included in that report came from a joint Health and Safety meeting that took place after the January Safety Committee meeting but were included in the report.
Access to up-to-date maps
Inaccurate maps are the only source for PGE Gas Crews, in spite of multiple complaints by employees. They have requested being given access to electronic maps, but have been denied. This topic was originally discussed at the February meeting and was also brought up at the joint IBEW/PGE Health and Safety Committee meeting which took place on March 3, 2009.
At the March 26th safety committee meeting a piece of plastic pipe was brought into the meeting that had been compromised unknowingly by a crew welding on an outer steel sleeve. The crew was not aware that the pipe had been replaced by plastic inside the steel. Gas was released as a result of this incident, which could have had negative consequences, had an ignition source been close to the leak. This had occurred before in 2007, and it was determined that the incident was caused by incorrect paper maps that showed this was still steel pipe only. The electronic maps were correct, and did show that plastic had replaced the steel. These accidents are still possible, yet 100% preventable.
This is serious issue that has gone on for years, since the company decided to consolidate their mapping at a central site.
Crews are forced to go out and work on equipment that may have been updated to plastic pipe, without accurate knowledge of the current configuration of the system.
Crews have asked the company to either:
1. Provide an employee from the mapping department to provide current electronic maps for the personnel
2. Give the employees access to the electronic maps
Currently the company has posted a notice on all of their outdated paper maps that says, “These maps are for reference only”.
Without this issue corrected the crews feel they are at risk of serious hazards and potentially responsibility for events that could occur.
Committee suggests a formal letter be written to PGE corporate safety director to document the condition and the company’s knowledge of the unsafe condition.
Fatality in Firebaugh
Information has come in that a 37-year-old apprentice lineman has died as a result of a fall from a pole. There were no details other than the fall was 30 to 50 feet.
There was a discussion about how a fatality affects people in the utility industry. Without knowing more, we cannot answer the question of “How do we prevent this from happening again?” or “Why did this occur?” Was it a case of clipping into something other than the D ring of the line belt? There must be emphasis on the importance of visually checking your D ring every time you are clipping into the D ring to make sure you are not clipping into something else.
Was double belting being used? Did that contribute in any way?
Was it being in a hurry that may have contributed to the accident? We always have to be careful especially when it comes to apprentices, and their desire to meet standards of production. We have to make sure they know that a good pace and experience will improve their production, but rushing is not the way. If we believe in safety, we must all stress the guideline “If it takes a little longer, it’s OK, as long as it is safe”.
A death in our trade makes us all aware of the danger of our jobs. We have to be diligent, but we cannot be too distracted by the fear of this that we don’t focus on our work. We must individually learn from these accidents and make sure that we are always as safe as possible.
New forms and guidelines are on the website. Units should start using them. There was one report that we saw, so it looks like it is slow to get everyone on board with this new process. More emphasis on this should be given at each unit meeting in order to get the word out and get more of these report forms turned in monthly.
Accident reporting by companies is inconsistent. At one company the unit chairman receives copies of all accidents, big and small. Some companies don’t do this. In order for this process to work, there must be an understanding from all utilities that the reporting of accidents to the union is a good thing that contributes the reduction of accidents. The forms can be altered easily to erase any private information, so privacy should not be an excuse to prevent our union from learning from accidents that happen.
At some companies there is an incentive NOT to report accidents, because it increases their insurance costs and may prevent them from getting a bid from an employer that will award contracts only to the best accident reporting companies. Also, there are incentives for managers at some companies to report fewer accidents, therefore those managers stress to employees, that reporting of accidents is not necessary unless it is major. They create an environment where employees feel they are hurting their manager by reporting an accident; therefore they keep it to themselves.
There are some safety incentive programs adopted by employers that make it very difficult for employees to report an accident if they know that their report will deny the whole group a large award or prize of some kind. This makes some accident reduction incentive plans questionable.
A Sacramento tree crew was involved in a vehicle vs. pedestrian accident. This accident resulted in a pedestrian fatality.
Sacramento accident involving a stiff leg on a aerial manlift collapsing while two workers were working in it. A Journeyman Lineman and an apprentice rode the bucket to the ground and fortunately there were no serious injuries.
FR Clothing committee has been formed as part of the August Letter Agreement with PGE. The committee is in place to discuss FR Clothing issues and also to look at allowances for the upcoming clothing cycles based on the first years needs. The committee has met twice once on March 5, 2009 and again on April 1, 2009. Heat has been the number 1 complaint and PGE has been conducting field trials on new products to help with the heat with some mixed reviews.
The discussion regarding Gas workers wearing FR was also another topic. Today there is no evidence that supports the claim that FR clothing increases static buildup any different than regular clothing. There have been several places where supervisors have tried to prohibit the use of this clothing around gas and as of April 1, 2009 I was told there is no PGE policy that they were aware of regarding this. I would be interested to know if anyone has a copy of any policy contrary to this.
We were also asked for a recommendation regarding dollar allowances for ‘09. It would be premature to discuss a specific number right now since there will be a couple of factors that will play into this equation. (1) It will be a short cycle approx. 6 months since the last allowance was issued which is positive for our members because they will be able to get new items if needed sooner. The other thing we discussed with PGE is the new items that will be available to handle heat are at an increased cost from the other products that were offered the first go around. Some of these items are undergarments that are not allowed to be worn as outerwear and are somewhat expensive. By April 22nds meeting we should have a better handle on where this is going.
Part of the big push to get this new allowance settled is that we are also looking at the new clothing allowance cycle to begin May 1, 2009. If this happens, there is a good chance that the old allowance will not expire this first year only. That means anyone with money left in their accounts from the first allowance will not lose that money this year and will be able to apply it to new allowance. The annual clothing cycle will become May 1 every year after this and the negotiated allowances will be allocated then. For year May 1, 2010 all monies the employee has in their accounts will have to be spent or it will be lost when the new allowance is issued.
All FR Clothing users (10,500 employees) working for PGE should have received an e-mail from the company titled “Facts About FR Clothing”. This document is intended to help answer questions and also helps educate the workers on the requirements of FR Clothing.
In the summer, caution must be taken to allow for work breaks when the heat is such that heat exhaustion is a possibility.
Pop Up Tents have become very inexpensive and should be mandatory for all crews that work in areas of high heat with FR clothing on, especially underground crews that are stuck on the ground in areas where they are exposed to the sun all day without shade and without the air movement that working overhead provides. The Pop Up Tents have become the standard for many utilities to date.
It was reported the Safety Red Book, the Safety Book that is a joint IBEW and NECA Safety book used for outside construction was getting a thorough review and update to verify all laws and regulations are current.
Next Meeting will be on April 23, 2009 in Vacaville.
Local 1245 Safety Committee
Ralph Armstrong, Chair
Posted: April 21, 2009