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OSHA Electric Transmission and Distribution Safety Partnership Identifies Best Practices to Increase Lineman Safety

Aug. 1, 2008 -- When the electrical construction industry sets its mind to something, it means business – particularly when it comes to safety. Four years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) partnered with six electrical contractors, one union and two industry organizations to create an unprecedented Electric Transmission and Distribution (ET&D) Safety Partnership focused on reducing worker injuries and fatalities.

The Partnership's ability to drive change in an industry with deep-rooted traditions, work processes and methods is real. Its impact is due largely to the fact that, combined, member organizations reach more than 80 percent of the lineman community. One of the Partnership's most tangible successes is the industry-wide implementation of Best Practices -- processes or methods that can be applied throughout the electrical industry to reduce the frequency of incidents.

Through one of four Task Teams, the Partnership researched, identified, defined and implemented six initial Best Practices. The following summarizes certain Best Practices deployed to and adopted by each partner company.

•The Administrative Controls Best Practice: Developed to eliminate injuries resulting from improper planning by ensuring key job hazards are identified and controlled. It states that the pre-planning process should begin at the pre-bid meeting and extend through the preliminary job site analysis. The Best Practice further states that the contractor request information from the host employer to enable adequate risk assessments prior to beginning operations.

•The Job Briefing Best Practice provides a uniform methodology and outlines the key components of job briefings. During briefings, job sequence should be documented, hazards to be encountered should be identified and steps should be taken to control or eliminate hazards by following certain processes. All crewmembers are to participate in a documented job briefing, to be held at the start of the work shift at the project site.

•The Best Practice related to rubber protective equipment establishes protocols concerning effective inspection. It states that prior to each use, all protective equipment be inspected for any damage, wear or contamination that would compromise its ability to insulate or isolate the linemen from different potentials.

•The Qualified Observer Best Practice states that a crewmember be identified as an observer to ensure clearances are maintained, and personal protective equipment and effective cover-up is installed. The observer shall be capable of identifying nominal voltages, energized components, minimum approach distances and proper safe work practices while crewmembers are working on energized lines.

•The Best Practice related to insulate and isolate procedures states that a safety review, including assurances that company safety rules and proper cover up procedures are in place, be followed and performed by a competent person.

•The Cradle-to-Cradle Best Practice outlines protocols related to effective use of insulating rubber gloves and sleeves. It states that rubber protective insulating sleeves and gloves be worn cradle-to-cradle when working on energized circuits or equipment from an aerial platform. Additionally, the insulating rubber sleeves shall meet or exceed the electrical class rating of the insulating rubber gloves when working on primary conductors.

These six practices are making great strides toward improved safety for transmission and distribution construction workers. Information on the partnership, detailed descriptions of Best Practices and frequently asked questions are accessible on the Partnership's website at www.powerlinesafety.org or on the OSHA website www.osha.gov. Members of the Partnership include: OSHA, Asplundh Tree Expert Company, Inc., Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Henkels & McCoy, Inc., International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), MDU Construction Services Group, Inc., MYR Group, Inc., National Electrical Contractors Association, Pike Electric, Inc. and Quanta Services Inc.

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