JOINT IBEW/PG&E SAFETY COMMITTEE MEETING
Below are three reports:
· The Joint IBEW/PG&E Safety Committee, which met Dec. 2.
· The Lineman Safety Meeting, which was held Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
· The Local 1245 Safety Committee, which met Dec. 17.
JOINT IBEW/PG&E SAFETY COMMITTEE MEETING
Painters Grounding (PG&E)
On December 2nd the Joint IBEW / PG&E Safety Committee met in Vacaville. This subject again was reported on by the company as an on-going issue that has lasted over 20 months now and a letter issued from CalOSHA stated that this practice of letting painters hang grounds is a violation of the standards. PG&E has contended that they did not believe it was a safety issue and has mentioned that they were going to challenge the OSHA letter even though their own grounding policies contradict this.
I was told that John Vocke is preparing his case to appeal the CalOSha letter is supposed to have it submitted by the first of the year and then it could take up to 6 months for a ruling. This will be interesting to see what comes from this since PG&E has programs (apprenticeship) in place that establishes when an employee is a qualified electrical worker as is required by the standard. They also have in place specific requirements as to when an employee in training (apprentice) can perform the work that the company is allowing painters to perform.
There is also language in the Fed Osha regulations that CalOsha seems to have missed on Minimum Approach Distances for non qualified electrical workers. I will be preparing a letter to CalOSHA to address this and get this language addressed in the state standard.
Safety Vests and Attire
This topic was also during the December 2nd meeting with some positive information coming from it on where the company is heading with this however the attire letter has still not been released. We are still hearing complaints from members in one area in which an area manager has implemented his own version of this which is inconsistent with what the company states they are moving in. Still no date has been given on when this letter might be released but we will continue to question the company on all issue that arise I the field regarding attire and ppe.
There were some positive discussions regarding things like the safety vest issue which appears to be one of the reasons this attire letter has not yet been released. It looks like the company may be looking at backing off of their own self imposed requirements to have all outerwear (including vests) be FR rated at HRC 2 and allow the vest to be HRC 1. This is great news if the company moves in that direction because they can and are looking at moving towards the mesh type vests which are a lot cooler. This outerwear change would be limited towards the vests only.
Gas crews concerns over up to date maps
During this meeting the company had someone from the mapping department on hand to discuss these issues. Looks like there will be an initiative to have everyone trained in accessing the up to date data base on maps. Not sure when this will kick off but I encouraged them to do so as soon as possible before there is another incident.
PPE & Lineman’s Climbing Equipment
The company and the union have met once and held a conference call once during the month of December to discuss implementation of the OSHA requirement that has established this equipment as PPE and is the responsibility of the employer to furnish. The need to hold these discussions aren’t really needed as far as the requirement is concerned but both parties have a stake in the outcome of this policy.
The company has indicated that they want to supply all new employees with equipment that they already have approved and replace existing equipment that is has been determined through inspections to have failed inspection with the same company approved equipment. Here is where we are at odds during these talks.
The company is only willing to replace the body belts with the back saver belts only and not for like when the employees existing equipment, that they paid for is worn out. The company also plans on stamping this replacement equipment with the PG&E logo.
We feel that for new employees this would be OK, however if an employee is being required, which is not allowed by the law, to use their existing equipment until it is in need of replacement then it should be replaced with like for like and belong to the employee without the company logo affixed. An employee can voluntarily use their own equipment by the law provided it meets the company requirements for safety.
It is my position either the company put together a replacement policy for employees that chooses to use their own equipment that provides some benefit to that employee or go full in and replace all equipment at a cost to the company around 2.5 million.
The law is clear that it is the responsibility of the employer and an employee can voluntarily use their own. It is in the best interest in both sides to come to an amicable policy that both sides can live with.
We are also seeking an implementation date of this policy of May 15, 2007, retroactive to the date the Federal standard has deemed this equipment as PPE.
I will keep everyone informed of the progress of these talks.
Lynn Lowery fatality accident investigation
At the quarterly meeting it was mentioned that Lynn’s accident report was in the final stages of approval and should be released in the near future.
PG&E, FR Clothing Cycles (Allowances)
There have been a couple of inquiries regarding the expiration of the PG&E, FR Clothing allowances cycle and when their current allotment must be used by before losing any unused monies.
The current 2009/2010 clothing cycle runs from May 1, 2009 through April 30, 2010. The May 1st date will become the date for all future clothing cycles unless otherwise mutually agreed to.
All PG&E employees who have funds left in their FR clothing accounts should be encouraged to use those dollars prior to mid April to prevent losing those dollars by the May 1st date.
Below are excerpts from the last clothing cycle. Based on employee feedback, the Arc Flash Hazard Committee is bringing forth new 2nd generation FR fabrics and color options. We expect these new garments will enhance comfort levels and help manage issues pertaining to heat. In addition, generous allowance amounts are available to employees for the 2009/2010 clothing cycle. Here are the highlights:
Effective May 18, 2009, all employees classified as Full-Time users will receive an additional $550.00 in their Tyndale-managed FR clothing account.
All employees classified as Part-Time users will receive an additional $275.00.
NOTE: the negotiated amounts are within 2009 budget guidelines.
Infrequent users will not receive additional allowance funds, but their supervisors are authorized to purchase clothing as needed–using a P-Card.
All unspent balances from the 2008/2009 clothing cycle will “roll-over.” This means that those balances will be added to the new funding, and will be available to use for new purchases. This roll-over is a one-time event. At the end of the 2009/2010 clothing cycle, all unspent balances will be lost.
PG&E Safety Walk Around
The company has asked for names of individuals to participate in the bi-annual safety walk-around inspections. E-Mails have been sent out to all the reps to asking for name of employees to participate in this process. I received names from several reps and those names have been forwarded on to the company. These walk arounds have been a topic of concerns from our membership and they have asked that we push the company to perform these audits. If there are anymore names that need to be added to this process please get them to me asap.
Forms and guidelines are on the website. Units should start using them as part of their unit meeting and submit them to this committee whether or not there are accidents or concerns. This should be a standard reporting practice at every unit meeting every month. All accidents reported this month on the green form as well as accidents reported at the safety committee meeting are listed below:
A gas serviceman had a flash while removing an electric meter from a residential meter panel. The employee was not injured. The employee filed a pink slip, to create a record of the incident, in case he incurred any residual injury that was not immediately evident. When the manager saw the pink slip, the employee was questioned about exactly what occurred. The employee was then disciplined with a written complaint, with the justification that the employee did not shut off the customer main, which is part of the procedure. The manager also made the claim that the only way a meter would flash while being removed was if the main switch was on. There were loose or missing screws on the panel face noted on the employee’s report. This will have a bearing on the ultimate cause of this incident, and a final determination of whether the employee should have been disciplined.
Crew was to dig and set a guy stub pole. The USA tag was current and all utilities were cleared in the area. The markings stated “No PG&E” in red paint. As crew was auguring the pole hole they noticed plastic pieces of conduit in the dirt on the auger. The auger had broken a 21kV conduit but did no damage to the energized cable. The cable was not identified by the locator.
Lineman’s Safety Meeting November 30 & December 1, 2009
This was a follow-up meeting from the April 30th meeting that was called to address the rash of serious and fatal accidents that had occurred to some of the Local Unions members. During the April meeting there was a lot of focus put on the things the companies are doing that the membership did not agree on. A large portion of these concerns could be disputed by the companies as to their impact on employee safety since a lot of them dealt with company safety rules implemented after an accident.
The November meeting was called to serve as a safety meeting and workshop intended on focusing on what “We as a Union and a Craft can do to improve safety”.
The November meeting had two outside speakers there to help set the tone and get everyone in attendance thinking and focusing on the topic of what we can do to improve safety. There were 58 members from 15 different employers and 20 IBEW 1245 staff in attendance. The list of employers who had representative there were:
PG&E, SMUD, TID, MID, Outside Line Construction, City of Redding, City of Shasta Lake, Truckee Donner, Asplundh Tree, Lassen MUD, City of Santa Clara, City of Alameda, NV Energy, WAPA, CalNevJATC
Improved Personal Responsibility. When the topic of “What can we do to improve safety” was focused on there was an overwhelming response from all in attendance that each and everyone one of us needs to do a better job in ensuring that safety is the main focus on our jobs. This was also the most consistent feedback on the comment forms returned. Getting this same message to the masses would be beneficial to help reinforce the message that in the end safety on the job is your responsibility as well as our (IBEW) commitment to maintaining a safe work environment.
Both speakers received mostly excellent and some good reviews from the group with several comments recommending that they be made available to everyone to re-enforce the message of personal responsibility for making safety on the job the top priority.
Although there were breakout sessions with PG&E and everyone else, there were similar items that the group felt could be addressed with help from the union:
íƒËœ The union should work harder with the companies to build an atmosphere of trust on both sides without the fear of discipline. There is a real opportunity to learn from others near-misses and accidents however a lot of things maybe going unreported for fear of discipline. This fear is preventing the flow of information that could prevent other serious accidents. Near Miss programs are not being used within the company’s due to fear. Even when companies ensure they can be made anonymously this tool is not being used.
íƒËœ Positive Discipline. This is in conjunction with the above discussion regarding the way companies have moved away from the positive discipline process. Again if this is
íƒËœ There were some discussions pertaining to the creation of separate safety committees for each unit. This was a requirement before in the past however it was never done and was replaced by the green forms now being used to share safety concerns.
íƒËœ Getting the Safety Message to everyone. There were several comments and discussions pertaining to how to get this same message to everyone. A couple groups suggested that I attend short work group meetings to discuss what we all should be doing as well as letting everyone know what we are trying to do here with respect to sharing of information. Try to be more visible to the membership and help answer questions that they may have.
íƒËœ Shop Steward Training and support. There could be more focus on the use of shop stewards and some additional training as it pertains to Safety. This could create a better avenue to help identify and address potential safety concerns.
PG&E Breakout group spent a good portion of their time addressing deficiencies in the apprenticeship program. They big ones are addressed below which could be addressed through the Joint Committees.
íƒËœ Apprentice training issues are still a hot topic and can be addressed by the unions continued involvement in the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees by addressing the feedback from this meeting. Some of the apprenticeship issues that should be addressed are;
a. The apprentice’s monthly evaluations are not being filled out by the foreman on the job but rather by the supervisors. The Joint Committee should address this in order to get an accurate evaluation of the apprentice’s progress by those who are working with them. There should also be a way to share these deficiencies with a new foreman as for things to watch out for. The current system allows for just about anyone to sign them off because in some cases the foreman wont. There needs to be a requirement that the foreman play a big part in this along with the school.
b. There needs to be a process developed that would make sure the foreman’s assessments are entered in to the apprentices record
c. We need to develop an avenue jointly where it would be easier where apprentices could be removed from the program when they are not progressing the way they should be.
d. Apprentice ratios are too high and needs to be addressed in the Joint Committee. There is fear that with more lineman becoming eligible for retirement that this could actually increase.
íƒËœ Troubleman and Journeyman Training. There are concerns regarding the way new troubleman are trained. They are usually sent out in the field on off shifts to handle whatever is thrown their way. This should be addressed to the company that when a new troubleman takes a job there should be a ride along training period (SMUD has a 3 month ride along period) as well as some type of Emergency Response Training and standardized substation training given to all Journeyman.
íƒËœ Safety Walk Around Committees The Union needs to maintain the walk around committees and make sure the they are send out schedules of the walk arounds to all employees involved. Alert the company in the significance of the walk a rounds.
íƒËœ Grass Roots Safety Program has no approval or no input from the Union. Union needs to involve themselves in the Safety Process. All members present either did not know about the Grass Roots program or had no faith in it.
íƒËœ Information There were comments made that they feel a large portion of the work force may not be aware of some information such as the 2 man rubber Gloving requirement being voluntary. There is an assumption that some members are doing this because they are being forced into it and not knowing it is voluntary. This message should be reinforced with the membership. There were some who mentioned that not everyone has learned or heard of the Cardinal rules.
IBEW LOCAL 1245 SAFETY COMMITTEE: DECEMBER MEETING
The Local 1245 Safety and Health Committee met on December 17, 2009 in Vacaville at the Local 1245 Union Hall.
The December meeting was attended by: Darryl Rice, Dan Boschee, Al White, Michael Gomes, Art Torres and Bob Burkle. Those not in attendance were Ralph Armstrong and Sergio Munez.
Discussion of the following subjects:
1) Grounding discussion. A lineman at SMUD asks “How do we know that there will be no current flow past a set of grounds?” The committee discussed this in terms of bracket grounding and single point grounding. Both of these work methods are based on theories, and to the knowledge of the committee are not based on any proven experimentation. To our knowledge, neither has there been any field testing of these methods to study the actual flow of electrical current during a fault. There have been test performed on this and will be discussed with the committee during the January Safety Committee meeting. Here is a link to a TD World article published a couple of years ago regarding this: //tdworld.com/mag/power_western_measures_steptouch/
2) Changing a switching order. The discussion of this subject was based on a case of a SMUD switching order, which was changed, when it became evident that the clearance point on one end of a clearance was configured so that grounding would have been hazardous. There was another alternative open point, which was close to the first. The foreman requested a change to the switching order, and it was granted by the control operator. One of the key elements of this simple story is that we must remember to speak up when we see that a better way is possible. Some of us in linework have developed a misconception that when a switching order has been written and approved, it cannot be changed or it is “asking for trouble” if we make a request for a change. We should always try to do what we can to make it safer, even if it requires a delay.
3) Jumpers as a part of the clearance. The Committee discussed the inclusion of high side jumpers in a clearance versus just having a set of disconnects as the open point or “boundary” of a clearance. A brief tally of how it is done revealed that most clearances do not include the high side jumpers. They are usually part of incidental work that related to the clearance. Santa Clara now requires the inclusion of the high side jumpers, because it is felt that the clearance should involve all conductor and connectors at each open point.
4) “Fit for Duty” is a question in the written tailboard form that is being filled out by foremen each day at PG & E. This box is not filled out, because it is felt that making such a determination is not the work of the foreman.
5) A tally of the committee members revealed that as of now only PG &E requires a written tailboard each morning. SMUD is considering this option. Santa Clara used to do a “Daily Work Plan” signed by the foreman, but does not now practice this procedure. All properties perform a tailboard each day. Santa Clara is now going to be utilizing a magnetic information poster that will be filled in at each work site. The poster makes note of the work location address, any circuits being worked on, emergency contact numbers, and other specific information. The purpose of this poster is to provide anyone on the crew a quick reference during an emergency to prevent a delay in finding an address, or figuring out which circuit is being worked on, etc. It could even be used by a passerby if they encounter an injured employee.
6) PG &E is going to 24” cones for all work. This is a problem for all of the crews, because the racks and holders for cones on the vehicles do not accommodate the larger cones. Therefore, managers are suggesting to crews that the cones be tied on, thrown in the back of trucks, or other make-shift methods, and this will eventually cause some sort of injury if the company does not design a new rack very quickly, and retrofit all the vehicles. This is the cart before the horse.
7) What is the best way to hire apprentice linemen? That is a question that was put out to the committee by one of the members, today. There was agreement that the best way is to see an employee in action for a length of time before making a recommendation to place that employee into the apprentice program. The reason it is difficult to hire an apprentice lineman is because a lineman has to have enough brains to understand electricity, but must also be good with tools and equipment it’s difficult to establish one test to screen an applicant for both skill sets. The scenario exists where apprentices are hired, then after being hired, it is discovered that they cannot perform up to an acceptable level on both skill sets. It is costly and difficult to fire an employee after they have worked for a time. The answer is having a good test that covers both skill sets. It’s not practical to hire an employee as a groundman, like we used to, then select ones from that group for the apprenticeship. SMUD has or used to have a classification of “pre-apprentice”, whereby employees could prove themselves worthy of continuing into the actual apprentice program. MID will be hiring 10 new apprentices in the coming year.
8) The committee discussed the dangers of digging to locate underground equipment, without a USA. Whether a foreman has a USA or not, it is still the responsibility of the foreman to make sure no other equipment is damaged. If a job is not an emergency, it does not make sense to dig without a USA. Even if it is an emergency, the foreman takes on a lot of responsibility to ensure the safety of employees and public, not to mention the prevention of damage to equipment and loss of service. The use of vactor equipment and hand digging is far more favorable than a backhoe, whenever UG equipment is close or the depth has not been proven.
9) As an additional note to item #9, it was discussed that the DitchWitch Company makes a tool that uses forced water jets to dig, in conjunction with a vactor truck. This allows for fairly fast earth penetration, without the risk of ripping up underground equipment
Local 1245 Safety Committee
Ralph Armstrong, Business Rep/Safety Chairman