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Posted: March 5, 2013

Safety Report: Steward Summit and other News

Safety Steward Summit May 1 and 2

The Hold the Pull, Control the Pressure and Keep the Clearance peer to peer committees are in the process of planning the annual safety summit. In 2012, 34 safety stewards have been added to the safety initiative, most from the Keep the Clearance tree group. The title of this year’s summit is: “Communication: The Key to a Safer Workplace.”

In keeping with this title the primary goal is to fine tune the communications network of the peer initiative between the peer committees and safety stewards. This year’s two-day training event will include speakers and workshops that will focus on developing communications skills and personal interaction within the peer initiative.

The peer committees are requesting that any staff with safety steward recommendations submit as soon as possible before the April 15 cutoff date to have their stewards trained at the safety summit. Letters announcing the summit will be sent to all safety stewards by mid-March with RSVP cards due no later than April 15.

Control the Pressure Visiting PG&E Utility Worker Academy

Many thanks to Joe Osterlund for arranging Control the Pressure visits at the PG&E utility worker academy. CTP committee members have secured 11 dates at the academy in Tracy.

Each academy class at the conclusion of their training will be visited by the business representative and two members of the CTP committee who give the introductory presentation for the peer initiative. Most of the academy trainees have worked few days on the job so the visit is an opportunity to learn about the union and the peer initiative. Since these trainees will be sent throughout the PG&E system, any business representatives who represent gas employees are invited to attend the presentation and Q and A session afterward. Contact Rich Lane for schedule dates.

Hold the Pull Livermore Training Center Visits Reduced

The Hold the Pull presentations at the PG&E Livermore Training Center have been reduced to six visits this year. According to the training center scheduler PG&E will conduct three apprentice and three pre-apprentice classes this year instead of the twelve conducted in 2012. To date the three apprentice classes have been scheduled but the pre-apprentice classes have yet to be scheduled.

Health and Safety Committee Report

New H&S Committee Member Installed

The Local 1245 Health and Safety Committee met on Feb. 21 at the Vacaville hall. Juan Cervantes, tree crew foreman with Tree’s Inc. in Stockton, was installed as a member of the committee to represent line clearance tree trimmers. Juan is a current member of the Keep the Clearance safety initiative advisory committee and a unit chairman.

Lead Based Paint Hazard Reported at TID

During the 1960s and 70s the Turlock Irrigation District bought untreated cross arms and painted them with a yellow lead-based preservative paint. In February, TID warehouse personnel who break down all cross arms that are returned by line personnel requested that the company test the paint residue for lead content. Initial tests concluded that there was enough lead residue to prompt the company to hire an industrial hygienist to conduct training of warehouse and line personnel on hazard exposure mitigation.

Included in the action was that warehouse personnel would also wear exposure patches designed to collect any airborne particles and the patches would be tested for exposure levels based on a time weighted average. TID health and safety manager Rich Eastman indicated that once tests have been concluded he will inform the union of the results.

SMUD Safety News

SMUD FR clothing allotment was discussed. The monetary allotment for FR clothing is $1500 per year per employee along with a $300 boot allowance. Clothing is laundered by the employee as well as repairs.

An incident involving the failure of a remote racking device has led SMUD to research the purchase of other devices. After the research by the research committee is concluded SMUD will buy new remote racking devices for their metal clad switch gear.

Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications has built two sound walls to reduce noise levels in their switch room. Noise levels were tested to be at the 85db threshold allowable for an 8-hour time-weighted average per shift. The first wall was reported to reduce the sound level by 30db and a second wall dropped the level to under 60db. Employees report sound levels to be much more satisfactory.

Frontier has instituted measures for higher security in their buildings when it was found that some ex-employees still were able to access secure areas. The company has also taken steps to train employees in an emergency action plan related to building evacuations in the event of natural disasters, fire or personal threats.

Tree Trimmer Terminated for Burning Down Primary Line

A Davey tree trimmer out of the Redding yard was terminated after he was reported to have burned down the field phase of a PG&E 12kV primary line.

According to the report, the employee, who was part of a two man crew, contacted a single 7.2kV phase and CATV line simultaneously with the un-insulated portion of an aerial lift. The three phase line was protected by a set of fused cut-outs. The cutout fuse associated with the downed line did not open and a primary back feed condition existed for some time until the troubleshooter could open the line. No injuries were reported and the crew foreman witnessed the incident. The line did not fall onto the truck.

The employee was reported to have two years’ experience as a tree trimmer and claimed that the accident was related to the aerial lift controls were opposite of the controls of the lift that he was used to operating. The termination is being reviewed by Business Representative Carl Lamers.

First Responder Training Program

Three training programs in the Madera and Mariposa Mountain Division areas involving 62 Cal Fire firefighters have been conducted since the first of the year. Instructor Rich Lane has been attending steward training conferences to inform stewards of both the First Responder and Peer initiatives. Response to the informational presentation has produced an invite to the Santa Rosa RMC safety kick-off on March 22 for PG&E employees who may be called upon to secure areas during storm damage or other events where emergency responders are overwhelmed.

Accident Reporting

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. All accidents reported this month on the green form as well as accidents reported at the safety committee meeting are listed below.

Near Miss

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.

Hot Elbow Grounded on Pad Mounted Switch

The H&S committee discussed an incident in which an electric crew foreman grounded a hot 200 amp elbow while conducting switching. Capacitive test points were tested at both locations of the feed and indicated a non-energized condition. Mapping that was used in the switching was found later to be inaccurate, leading the crew to think that they were working the right circuit. The problem was further increased when the test points inaccurately indicated a dead circuit that was in fact live. The elbow blew up when grounded but there were no injuries reported but the pad-mounted switch was damaged.


PMH Switch Failures

Since October of 2012 there have been 5 instances where PMH switchgear experienced a line to ground fault during operation of the fuse doors. The failures occurred in the following areas:

  • Kern (2)
  • Sonora
  • Yuba City
  • Fresno

There were no injuries associated with any of these events and in each instance the employees were wearing the proper company approved PPE; which is either double layer FR including a balaclava and goggles or FR rated face shield, or single layer FR and utilizing the stick mounted arc flash shield.

Preliminary investigation indicates that the arc was not broken by the UNI-RUPTER® when the fuse door was opened as designed. A team comprised of representatives from Field Safety, Engineering, Work Methods and Procedures, field employees, and the manufacturer (S&C) have been aggressively evaluating these failures to better understand the failure mechanism in order to develop corrective actions. In addition, the team has been collaborating with Southern California Edison (SCE) and Xcel Energy, both of whom have experienced similar issues, and we have developed the following interim actions pending more detailed thorough analysis of our system electrical characteristics and physical evidence from the failed devices.

  1. Use of company approved PPE for operating PMH switches: which is either double layer FR including a balaclava and goggles or FR rated face shield, or utilize single layer FR and utilize the arc flash shield.

  2. Where feasible, operate an upstream device in lieu of operating a PMH.

  3. Where equipped, utilize the bypass switch to drop load instead of the fuse doors

  4. Minimize exposure by maintaining as much distance from the unit as possible when operating fuse doors.

Note: A mandatory non-test was considered as an interim measure. However, it was found that in each of the incidents a non-test would not have provided additional benefit to the employee.

The company continues to work closely with S&C and other utilities to determine the root cause of these failures and develop long term operation and design strategies. In addition the company is exploring the following:

  • Building an asset registry of locations and styles of PMH switches to enable identification of locations as well as contribute to a replacement prioritization model.
  • Long term replacement strategy
  • Evaluation of alternative switch manufactures
  • Transitioning from PMH switches to PME (dead front) switches.
  • Implement other solutions based on S&C laboratory test results.

Please contact any of the following personnel with questions or comments.

Walt Posey, Manager, Field Safety

Charlie Gebhardt, Sr. Manager, WM&P, Training, and QC

Rudy Movafagh, Manager, Electric Asset Management Engineering

January 28, 2013

In support of making safety the most fundamental and critical element of how we conduct our business, the Company has developed new safety principles. These principles emphasize building a trust based culture, encouraging open and honest communication, understanding underlying causes in order to prevent recurrence, treating safety incidents as learning opportunities, increasing recognition and rewarding of safe behavior, and adopting a behavior-based approach to discipline which decreases the emphasis on discipline.

Under these new principles, discipline for safety-related incidents will only be considered when an employee acts in a reckless manner, demonstrates a pattern of carelessness or non-compliance, puts themselves, their co-workers or the public at risk by intentionally violating a Key to Life, or violates the Code of Conduct.

The parties met recently to discuss the new safety principles, and in particular, the limited role of discipline and the use of a behavior based approach. In the implementation of this new approach, the parties agree to the following as it relates to safety-related incidents.

  1. Non-disciplinary safety discussions are the preferred approach to learn from an incident and develop positive approaches for eliminating similar incidents. These one-on-one discussions are opportunities for open and honest discussion of safety incidents with a focus on understanding and learning. Safety discussions are not considered as discipline or coaching and counselings under the Positive Discipline Agreement.

  2. The parties agree that discipline for safety-related incidents will only be considered when an employee acts in a reckless manner, demonstrates a pattern of carelessness or non-compliance, puts themselves, their co-workers or the public at risk by intentionally violating a Key to Life, or violates the Code of Conduct.

  3. Although there will be significantly less disciplinary action issued with this approach, the Union recognizes the Company’s right to issue discipline and discharge for safety related incidents on the basis set forth above. The Union reserves the right to grieve any discipline or demotion.

  4. The parties agree to review open grievances involving safety related discipline issued to current employees prior to the implementation of the safety principles. Where it is determined that the discipline is inconsistent with the new safety principles, the discipline will be adjusted and the grievance will be closed on a non-precedential basis without prejudice.

  5. During the 2011-2012 General Negotiations, the parties agreed to explore modification of the application of Positive Discipline to safety incidents. The new approach implemented by the Company, along with the understandings reached in this letter agreement fulfills the parties’ intent to reduce the use of discipline while holding accountable employees with poor safety records. With this modified approach, the parties also agree to cancel Letter Agreement 10-36.

Either party may cancel this agreement by providing the other party 30 days written notice.

EH Boot Program (PGE)

The Company and Union have met to discuss the footwear requirement for Electric T&D, Electric Maintenance and General Construction Line Department line of progression field employees exposed to electrical hazards and foot crushing potential. The company has identified four categories of which Electric T&D, Electric Maintenance and General Construction Line Department line of progression field employees would be covered by the Electrical Hazard Boot Program; they are 1. Full-time climbers, 2. Full-time non-climbers, 3. Part-time non-climbers and 4. Intermittent users. A list of classifications for each category receiving boots is attached.

In accordance with Title 400, the following will apply to the Electric T&D, Electric Maintenance and General Construction Line Department line of progression field employees covered by the Electrical Hazard Boot Program:

Submitted by:
Ralph Armstrong
Richard Lane