Tree Trimmer Fatality: The union received notification from SMUD that a Wright Tree line clearance tree trimmer was killed on the job on August 22 on SMUD property. According to a preliminary report from Business Representative Junior Ornelas, Joseph Cooper (41) died while performing line clearance from an aerial lift, and it appears that he came into contact with 21kV. Members of Cooper’s crew performed CPR until Sacramento fire crews arrived and he was transported to UC Davis Medical Center, where he was pronounced deceased. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Two Serious Tree Trimmer Lacerations: In two separate incidents this year, tree trimmers were injured by chainsaw contacts on their arms that required surgery. In the first incident on March 17, a tree trimmer working for Asplundh Tree Expert in Fallon, Nevada, suffered a severe laceration under his left arm when he was struck by a chainsaw. The accident report stated that the trimmer had made his bottom cut and while making the top cut he did not leave enough holding wood, and the limb suddenly separated. He took his left hand off of the saw handle and reached for the limb. The saw was suddenly thrust up and the running saw contacted the underside of his arm.
In the second incident on July 17, a climber was in a tree working a twin leader top. He was tied off with two points of contact. He was cutting one of the leaders, and when it started to fall, he reached out and lost his balance causing him to spur out. The saw was in one hand and fell across his left forearm causing a large laceration. He was transported to the hospital for surgery and released about three hours later.
Dan Boschee (Frontier Communications): A vendor, Ladder Giant, came on site to demonstrate fall restraint. There are hooks installed at mid-level in case a vehicle was to hit the ladder and the person in fall restraint could not fall to the ground. This is in response to a technician who died in Washington State when he fell and rolled into a ditch and was undiscovered for several hours. He died of head injuries. The attachment is from a carabiner attached to the D ring on the restraint harness attached to the ladder.
Sean Stevens (SMUD): No serious injuries to report at SMUD. Continue to see soft tissue injuries and third party involved vehicle accidents. A SMUD employee was riding a bicycle through company parking lot and was hit by another employee in a company vehicle. No serious injury.
SMUD has started a pilot program for field personnel with stretch and flex, which is increasing in intensity with exercise devices being included in a more advanced exercise regimen. The committee commented that the training at the NSC conference showed the effectiveness of light exercise to reduce various injuries. The difficulty is getting buy-in with employees.
First Responder training is still on hold but the intention is to still create a program. SMUD approached IBEW about support in the Spring but nothing has happened yet. Initially, there was an incident in which a car hit a pad-mounted transformer and responding firefighters made contact with the transformer case prior to utility response, leading SMUD officials to be concerned about firefighter training related to recognition of electrical hazards.
Mike Gomes (Modesto Irrigation District): A journeyman lineman cut his left index finger open while working on underground cable to install a transformer. While stripping insulation with a spiral cutter, the journeyman used a knife to finish a square cut on poly insulation and the knife slipped along the length of his left index finger. The cut went through the leather glove required 8 stitches to close the wound. Employee had knife professionally sharpened and went into light shock so crew foreman had to treat for shock before transporting to the clinic.
There is a problem with easement proposal for 230kV work hot. Towers are scheduled to be replaced within the right-of-way easement. Employees have not done this type of work before, and crew foremen have attended a class but crew confidence on how to perform the work is low. Discussion was that NV Energy does this type of work all the time and could recommend work methods. Another problem is that towers to be replaced have lead based paint, and employees have no training in remediation of old paint. Tower bolts have been painted so many times bolts can’t be turned. Employees and the company are working on how the work can be done safely.
MID has started a trial program for performing hot wire pulling. A problem arose when wire pullers were found to be out of compliance for air quality emissions, forcing some pulling equipment to be taken out of service.
Water treatment plant has a “man down” system in an enclosed secure facility. The thought is a person who fails to report on to a control operator through the use of sensors would automatically trigger a response for help. It has many limitations and would effectively be a recovery system rather than a means to respond to an emergency if a person working alone cannot communicate a problem at their location. Committee discussed that PG&E warehouse group has a “report on/off” system so supervision is aware of the activities of a person working alone at night.
Joe Joaquin (PG&E Gas Operations): ‘EE’ was removing pipe wrap on ¾ “steel pipe with a butter knife. While dragging the knife on the pipe towards the body of the ‘EE’, the knife caught a burr on the pipe. This caused ‘EE’ to put pressure on the knife with the ‘EE’s left hand, which caused the knife to cut through the glove and cut ‘EE’s left index finger. ‘EE’ took the glove off and wrapped his finger with a rag. ‘EE’ along with another crew member drove from the jobsite to CareOnsite and called the 24/ 7 nurse hotline. ‘EE’ received first aid from the nurse at CareOnsite. ‘EE’ returned back to work and is scheduled for a follow-up.
Heat Illness: Employee was working their first day in the field with temperatures over 100 degrees all day. Near the end of the day, the employee complained of dizziness and not feeling well. He was taken to the hospital for heat related issues, was kept overnight and hooked up to an IV. He also had kidney failure related issues. He was released and went home for the weekend. He seemed to be OK on Monday, but started to complain of other issues on Tuesday that may be related to heat illness or other medical issues. Committee discussed the importance of new employees becoming acclimated to extreme heat, drinking plenty of fluids and reporting any symptoms of heat stress immediately.
Broken Weld on Vacuum Truck in Bay East: While doing a daily inspection on a Ditch Witch vac truck in Antioch, a crew found a significant break to a weld of the trailer mount on a 1200 gallon Ditch Witch vac. This is the weld that holds the tank in place. PG&E issued a notification to inspect the frame on all vac trailers daily and communicate anything unsafe to supervision.
Dane Moore (PG&E Electric Operations): Another boom contact recorded to add to the eight already reported over the last several months. This happened in Central Coast. Report was jib got onto a slack span and cause an outage. No one hurt. Information came from outage reports on PG&E intra-web.
Vehicle Roll Over: On June 20, at approximately 17:00, a four-man M&C crew from San Luis Obispo was working in Morro Bay on a new business job consisting of reframing poles and replacing a conductor. The job was located on private property. The crew consisted of an Electric Crew Foreman, two Linemen and a Pre-Apprentice Lineman. One of the Linemen was driving an F550 Trouble Truck on a dirt road, exiting the job site, when the incident occurred. The Lineman reported being in the middle of navigating a bend in the road when the truck came off the established road and rolled over down a steep embankment to the left approximately 50 feet. Both side curtain airbags deployed. The Nurse Report Line was called and the employee was taken to the hospital for evaluation. The attending doctor released the employee to full duty that same day. The employee was not injured in the incident.
Carlos Rodriguez-(Tree Trimmers): One soft tissue injury and a knee twist injury. Utility Tree has removed all ropes that are the same color and color-coded ropes used for specific uses in the work operation. Hard hats are also being color-coded; for example climbing lines are orange, second attachment on saddle is yellow, 1/2 inch line is blue and used with pulleys handling loads. So far it is not known if other companies are using the same system but this method helps to organize the selection process. The committee commented that a color-code system would be good for new employees and organizing the work operation.
Close Call Reported on Local 1245 Website: “We were going to remove a ponderosa pine, 120 ft by 25dbh in the distribution line. We were two crews, one of the foremen decided to climb the tree to put the rope, but when he got half-way there, he decided to tie the rope due to the fact that the tree showed signs of not being safe. When he came down from the tree, we all agreed on which direction we would walk when the tree would begin to fall. But a bad cut changed everything. We tried to pull but it was hard to steer the tree on the direction we wanted it to fall. Suddenly the tree fell in an unexpected direction which put us in a bind because there was not enough space for us to run since there was a stream. There was no other alternative, we leaped into the river, desperate and frightened because the tree was falling . Fortunately no one was injured, but if the stream had been deeper we could have been hurt.”
Tree Trimmer Nearly Pulled into Chipper: H&S committee discussed an incident that took place on August 16 in which a tree trimmer working on a job in Napa became entangled in a pull line while he was chipping brush. The pull line had become entangled around the employee’s neck while he was feeding brush into the chipper and a crew member in the aerial lift was screaming to get him help while the employee was being pulled into the chipper. The chipper was stopped in time and the employee was transported to a hospital in Napa for injuries related to oxygen deprivation from the choke hold the rope had on him. The company involved was Gorilla Tree, a non-signatory employer to Local 1245 who was working for the City of Napa. The committee thought the incident was important to report.
Al White (PG&E Restoration) On June 17, at approximately 10:33, a three-man Substation crew from North Valley area was assigned to remove old lighting wire from some conduit. The job was located at Manteca Substation. The crew consisted of a Journey Electrician and two Apprentice Electricians. The crew decided to use the mini excavator to pull the wire out when it wouldn’t move in the conduit. While the electrician was rigging for the second attempt, the equipment operator adjusted his posture and inadvertently moved the joystick control, which moved the boom and pinned one of the apprentices against the structure. The operator immediately realized the situation and swung the boom in the other direction. The Nurse Report Line was called and the employee was taken to the hospital for evaluation. The attending doctor released the employee to full duty that same day.
Three Form 173 injury reports were reported to the IBEW International Office in the month of August.
–Rich Lane, IBEW Business Representative