The following is an excerpt from Ice Miller's Pathways to Success for Utilities Guide which provides insights on a variety of topics potentially impacting utility service providers.
In 2013 alone, 4,405 workers died on the job in America. On average, that was 85 deaths a week and more than 12 deaths a day. Generating power and maintaining electric and gas transmission and distribution systems can be hazardous. Workers in the electric power industry are potentially exposed to a variety of serious hazards, such as arc flashes (which include arc flash burn and blast hazards), electric shock, falls, and thermal burn hazards that can cause injury and death. Accordingly, employers in the electric power industry are required to implement safe work practices and worker training requirements beyond those required of employers in other industries, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Standard. (29 CFR 1910.269).
To ensure employee safety, it is critical that employees follow proper procedures at all times. Procedures implemented with employee buy-in are more likely to be followed at all times and can help control hazardous situations. Therefore, utilities should collaborate with employees on safety measures. Managers can work with employees to think about how procedures are or could be bypassed (intentionally or otherwise), and then develop and implement steps to prevent mistakes.
Internal audits can help utilities proactively address potential safety issues. These audits should be performed by a professional. A true safety professional can work with utilities on a full-time, part-time or consulting basis. It might be appropriate to have a third-party conduct a safety audit. Utilities should consult with counsel to determine whether the results of a third-party safety audit are admissible and how to structure the audit. Remember you must be ready to immediately make any necessary changes to abate hazards or enhance safety programs and practices.