By Ralph Armstrong
PG&E: FR Clothing Communication
Below is the communication that was sent out last month regarding the new FR Allowances. Everyone should have their allowances available; however, Riverside has mentioned that the two busiest times for them are when these allowances are first issued and everyone is placing their orders at once and at the end of the clothing allowance cycle when there is a rush to use the allowances that have not been spent. There was some discussion about possibly staggering allowances by groups to help avoid a backlog and some delays. If a person is not in immediate need of the clothing, waiting a month or two to place their order could improve the turnaround time.
Flame Resistant (FR) Clothing Allowances Increased
Providing employees with the appropriate personal protective equipment and apparel to safely perform their job is a top priority for PG&E.
PG&E and union leaders have recently reached an agreement to increase the FR clothing allowance for employees who work on or near energized electrical facilities, or whose work may expose them to flames or arc-flash incidents. Effective August 1, the following FR clothing annual allowance levels are:
Full-Time FR Clothing Users: $500, an increase of $50 per year
Part-Time FR Clothing Users: $250, an increase of $25 per year
PG&E’s FR clothing supplier has updated the user allowance accounts on their website and the funds are now available to users. Consistent with past practice, unused allowance amounts cannot be rolled over into next year’s funds. Visit Riverside website to check your account or order FR clothing.
Barehand Oversight Committee
PG&E / IBEW Barehand Oversight Committee met at Vaca Dixon Sub on July 31. This committee was put in place as part of a Letter Agreement back in 1990. This committee was established along with the Rubber Glove Committee to provide overall guidance, review issues of system-wide concern, resolve issues and have the ability to cancel either application for cause. The committee consists of three members from the IBEW and three members from PG&E management. These meetings haven’t taken place in a while although the LA states that they will meet on a regular basis and this is the intent moving forward. A rewrite of the charter is under way and one of the biggest issues we are dealing with involves parts of the CalOSHA variance for performing Barehand work in the state.
The variance is clear with regard to receiving approval from CalOSHA for any changes to the program or procedures. Several years ago PG&E had CalOSHA observe the use of helicopters as part of the program. From all accounts (PG&E / CalOSHA) this method was approved; however, there are no approval letters from CalOSHA for using this method on file. This method has been suspended until this letter is obtained. We have been in discussion with CalOSHA, which was able to provide us with every variance request related to this work in the state; however, the approval letter was not included. I have been working with CalOSHA. As of last week they were able to locate a draft version of the letter and were still in search of the signed copy which may have never been issued. The feeling is we are getting really close to resolving this issue and resume using the helicopter as part of the Barehand program.
The next step will be to sit down with OSHA and discuss the best way to move forward with updates to the program and its procedures. Next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.
First Responder Program
The first responder program has made visits recently to Winton Cal Fire, Susanville Police Dept. and Fire Dept. and is scheduled to do training with the City of Alameda Water District in early September. The Alameda public works request was not for emergency response in particular but subjects such as excavation safety, low voltage rules and hazard identification in relation to utilities. The first responder program does take safety subject requests by entities other than emergency response as long as it relates to electrical or gas utilities. San Rafael PG&E M&C requested an electrical safety presentation for their staff safety kick-off in the early summer and it went well.
Forms and guidelines are on the website. Units should use 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. Any accident reported this month on the green form, as well as any accident reported at the safety committee meeting, is listed below. This is our best resource to share the information with the rest of the membership. We are continuing to see an increase in the number of these forms being turned in and want to thank everyone who is doing this.
Arc Flash Incident
On May 5, 2013 a four-person crew consisting of one third-step apprentice cable splicer (injured employee), one sixth-step apprentice cable splicer, one equipment operator, and one upgraded cable crew foreman, was dispatched to replace a failed underground transformer.
The crew arrived on scene and installed grounds on a portion of the P-1103, 12kv circuit. Grounds were installed isolating the failed transformer at an underground (round enclosure – T-331) single-phase transformer location and an underground junction box. After installing grounds at the transformer location, T-331, the circuit was reenergized, picking up all customers except those normally energized from the failed transformer that was being replaced. While T-331 was a single-phase transformer, circuit P-1103 was a three-phase circuit. Therefore, there was an energized third phase installed on the wall of the transformer enclosure by means of a 200-amp straight plug feeding a 200-amp elbow. After grounds were installed, the P-1103 circuit was configured so that the three cables leading to the failed transformer were isolated and grounded. The terminals of the transformer and the straight plug on the wall were now energized with temporary “candled” elbows installed.
The crew replaced the failed transformer without incident, at which time they reported off the circuit and prepared to remove the grounds and return the transformer to its normal operating condition. The task at hand was to remove the grounds from the de-energized cables and install temporary insulated stand-off brackets on the cables. Next steps would have been to de-energize the portion of the circuit; install the cables back on the operating terminals at T-331, and the junction box at the other end of the clearance limit.
When the crew arrived at T-331 to remove the grounds and install the insolated standoff brackets, the two apprentices prepared to remove the grounds. The third-step apprentice (injured employee) removed the candled elbow from the energized straight plug installed on the wall of the enclosure. The sixth-step apprentice placed a hot stick on the grounded cable in preparation for removing the grounds and an arc ensued. Approximately four seconds later, the circuit closed into the fault and a second arc occurred. The circuit cleared itself leaving the straight plug terminal energized and exposed without an elbow on it. The sixth-step apprentice’s safety vest was smoldering from the arc flash; however, there were no injuries at that time.
The third-step apprentice (injured employee) then attempted to reinstall the candled elbow on the straight plug. Upon attempting this, another arc flash occurred, injuring the employee since he was now standing directly above the transformer enclosure. The employee received serious second-degree burns to his hands and first-degree burns to his face.
The third-step apprentice was injured as a result of first removing and then attempting to reinstall the candled elbow.
Fall from Tree
On July 22, 2013 a line clearance tree trimming crew was assigned work to remove several long branches from a 26″ DBH Jeffrey Pine that is approximately 60′ tall located along side of a house and behind a wooden fence approximately 35′ from the road. The branches were to be removed as it was identified as encroaching into the wire clearance zone of a 14kV power line.
The work plan called for one employee to use the 75′ bucket truck to tip back branches from the subject tree to obtain the required clearance for the power line. However, because the bucket truck could not reach far enough, it was decided that another employee would climb the tree and finish pruning the tree to contract specifications that calls for trimming to trunk on conifers. Since the bucket truck was working within 10 feet on the power lines, it was also decided that a third member of the crew would spot for the bucket truck while also observing the employee climbing the tree from the street.
One employee proceeded with climbing the tree and removing a few stubs during his ascent. While the employee working from the bucket truck got back into pruning position and began tipping the branches back.
The employee climbing the tree got into position to work the tree, he threw his climbing line (blue rope) up and over upper branches and around the trunk of the tree. According to the employee, he pulled the climbing line to his saddle where he thought he had connected the rope snap to the saddle’s D-ring. He then pulled himself forward towards the tree to release pressure on the lanyard, where he then unsnapped his lanyard to reposition it up higher on the trunk. He then let go of the tree to reposition the lanyard.
The employee fell approximately 25′ from the tree striking the side of a fence and then landing on a wheel barrel which then apparently flipped landing on top of him.
It was determined that injured employee had not snapped his blue line onto the D-ring of the saddle and when he released his lanyard he fell to the ground.
The injured sustained several broken bones and is recovering.
Non-IBEW 1245 Accidents
On July 30, 2013 at approximately 9:45 am, Journeyman Lineman Ben Cool, working for a contractor, died as a result of an electrical contact. The cause of the accident was a difference of potential between two ground sources.
Ben was working on a de-energized Bonneville Power 115kv line in Gold Beach, OR. The crew task for the day was to move steel horizontal switchgear over two feet, in order to provide better clearance for the jumpers. While Ben was standing on the steel structure he made contact with the line, which were both grounded at different potentials.
This accident didn’t take place in Local 1245’s jurisdiction. It is still under investigation and there will probably be more that comes out of this. I feel it is important to expand on what appears to be the direct cause of this accident based on the information provided, which appears to be contacting 2 different grounds. This is an issue that often goes overlooked and has the potential to be deadly.
Not too many years ago there used to be signs and stickers everywhere with the catch phrase “If it’s not grounded it’s not dead.” With that phrase the thought was that we were protecting ourselves from the line being energized by accident.
With the demand for electricity and the amount of transmission lines that occupy the same right of way or bay in a substation, induced voltages to de-energized lines is a real problem even when grounds are applied.
I like to refer to ohms law when I am discussing the unique hazards with this. We all know that if we know what the current is traveling through a ground cable which can be measured with an amp probe and we know what the resistance of our ground connection is then we will know what the available voltage is when referenced to a remote ground resistance of zero.
4 amps of current from induced voltage
25 ohms of resistance on a ground
4 x 25 = 100 volts when referenced to ground at zero resistance
If you change any of these numbers on a job site the voltage number changes as well. Let’s say that there is another set of grounds on the line, such as when we bracket ground that has a different ground connection that enter your work zone. The calculations is set up for this in Example 2
4 amps of current from induced voltage
100 ohms of resistance on a ground
4 x 100 = 400 volts when referenced to ground at zero resistance
You will see in this scenario that by changing the resistance of the ground connection which is easy to do in this scenario there is a difference of 300 volts between the two different grounds.
If a worker were to bridge those two different potentials serious injury and death are likely. Keeping everything on a worksite at the same ground potential is extremely important especially when induced voltages are present. There are a lot of situations where induced voltages aren’t present and we get away with bridging these two systems and in most cases aren’t aware that it happened and setting ourselves up for an accident in the future.
With this unfortunate accident I just wanted to try to expand a little further on this hazard and stress again that understanding the hazard is the first step in protection yourself and your co-workers.
West Texas Helicopter Long Lining fatalities
(From a news source published on 8/5/13)
Two workers have fallen to their deaths when a cable suspending them from a helicopter hit a power line they were inspecting, according to eyewitnesses.
It happened around 9 a.m. near CR 4200 and CR 4501.
The men, 26-year-old David Edward Oliveira of Turlock, California and 27-year-old Christopher Geoffrey Breed of Moscow, Idaho, were working on a new Wind Energy Transmission Texas (WETT) transmission line.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman says the helicopter was able to land safely, but the pilot was transported to the hospital with unknown conditions.
A frayed cord connected to a helicopter could be a key piece of evidence to the investigation. Just yards away yellow tape wrapped around the area where the two men fell to their death.
“The lines are an average of 230 feet,” said Martin County Sheriff Woodward.
Martin County Investigators say they were tethered to the helicopter working on power lines that transfer windmill energy, when the cord snapped.
“There was a failure with the tether and two individuals were killed,” Woodward said.
Aerial power line inspections and maintenance is an uncommon sight. According to the company, Haverfield Aviation, they are one of the few operations that do this in the nation.
Many West Texans passing by recorded the aerial practice on their phones. Ishmael Gamboa an oilfield worker in the area was one of them.
He recorded from the same location of the accident in Martin County just a week before the incident.
“I saw it on the news and could help but think these were the guys, this was the helicopter,” Gamboa said.
Haverfield Aviation employees tell CBS 7 they are mourning the loss of two great coworkers who were very skilled at what they do. Sheriff Woodward says the company flew to each home Monday to personally notify the families.
Contractor Gas Pipeline Inspection Aircraft Fatalities
I am notifying you of an incident that occurred today at approximately 11:40 am with a contract fixed wing aircraft that resulted in (2) fatalities while performing aerial patrolling for our Gas Operations. No PG&E employees were involved in this incident.
The plane crash occurred (6) miles southwest of Paradise, CA (near Chico) which also sparked a vegetation fire. We are making internal & external notifications associated with this incident and will cooperate fully with the National Transpiration Safety Board (NTSB) in the investigation of this incident.
We will be standing down on all aerial patrol activities for the next (2) days.
The Safety Committee is encouraging everyone to report all near misses to the committee through our IBEW1245 Safety Matters web page. Anyone with a near miss should sanitize the report to omit names and companies as the intent of reporting a near miss is to provide others with information about potential hazards that members find in the field in order to provide awareness to others of those hazards. The latest near misses have been posted on the Near Miss page.
Ralph Armstrong is Assistant Business Manager, IBEW 1245