Although you probably won't admit it to your family or your boss, there are probably a few rules that you do not follow. Regardless of what your role is in the transmission and distribution world, you may have deemed these rules either unnecessary or irrelevant.

Our jobs are complex, and we have to follow hundreds of rules and procedures. Over time, some rules may have simply dropped out of habit or off your radar. Here are a few of these rules and why you need to follow them.

  1. Maintain your hot equipment

    We use hot sticks all the time in switching and live-line work. The last time you used a hot stick, however, did you wipe it down before you used it and performed a visual inspection?

    Don't forget to follow the rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1910.269(j)(2)(i), which says, “Each live-line tool shall be wiped clean and visually inspected for defects before use each day.”

  2. Take care of your rubber gloves

    Rubber gloves may be the most important tool that a T&D worker uses. One's life literally depends on the care and integrity of that glove. But do we perform a visual inspection and a field air test on our rubber gloves before every use? Sure, we test them when they are new and probably before a big job, but probably not before every time we use them.

  3. Wear your steel-toed boots

    I understand rules vary across the country based on job responsibilities and exposure, but I also understand that many companies require steel-toed boots at all times.

    Several years ago, an apprentice lineman had a nice pair of high-end steel-toed line boots. After a couple years of wear, he sent them back to have them rebuilt. Instead of buying another pair of steel-toed boots to wear when his good ones were out of service, he chose to wear an older pair without steel toes. He thought it was only for a couple of weeks and nothing could happen. Five days later, he was on a crew working some URD, and he dropped a manhole cover on his foot. Without steel-toed boots to protect his feet, he broke three toes and needed pins to repair them.

  4. Inspect your slings

    Most of the time, we grab a sling from a truck and use it. After all, if it's on the truck, it must be OK. Yet OSHA, 1910.184(d) tells us to inspect a sling and all of its fastenings and attachments before use every time.

  5. Look at your wheel chocks

    Many companies require, as do manufacturers, that if the boom is in the air, wheel chocks must be in use. What is your habit and do you even have a chock on your truck?

We may sometimes think that a missed wheel chock here or skipped inspection there is not a big deal. Because we may have inspected our gloves on the last job, we may think there's no reason to do it again. But, if we are going to follow the big rules and entrust ourselves as our brother's and sister's keeper, we have to focus on the small stuff each time, every time. Today, let's pay attention to the small stuff so that everyone on our team can finish safely and go home at the end of each day.


Matt Forck (matt@mattforcksafetyspeaker.com), a certified safety professional, worked as a meter reader and journeyman lineman, and was a member of his utility's safety staff. Today, as the president of K-Crof Industries, he speaks and consults on utility safety. Learn more at www.thesafetysoul.org.