Promoting Safety Among Employees

June 17, 2015 by Ryan McCabe Poor, Partner | Melissa Proffitt, Partner | Michael Cracraft, Partner
Promoting Safety Among Employees

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 Ice Miller - Promoting Safety Among Employeesimplemented 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.

In addition, utilities should implement regular training sessions for employees and use those sessions to listen to employees’ issues. Testing should be added to the training schedule. Managers and supervisors who have been through OSHA safety investigations know that one of the first things that occurs is an interview of employees. Even if the employer has all of the right policies in place, and may even do training, employees still may not understand (and may tell OSHA they don’t understand) what they were supposed to do. Accordingly, utilities should document their training, the testing, and conversations with employees regarding safety. Utilities also should consider scheduling and documenting toolbox talks (short prewritten OSHA safety messages designed to heighten employee awareness of workplace hazards and OSHA regulations). Utilities also may want to retain sign-in sheets from toolbox talks.

Utilities should be aware that federal OSHA has recently enacted new requirements for reporting serious injuries and deaths. Previously, employers were required to report all fatalities and the hospitalization of three or more employees within eight hours. Under the new reporting requirements, which became effective January 1, 2015, employers are required to report all work-related:
  1. Fatalities;
  2. Inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees;
  3. Amputations (including fingertips); and
  4. Losses of an eye.
Fatalities must be reported within eight hours. Inpatient hospitalizations, amputations or eye loss must be reported within 24 hours. If a fatality occurs within 30 days of the incident, the report must be made within eight hours of learning of the death. If a hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss occurs within 24 hours of the incident, the report must be made within 24 hours thereafter.
To learn more, download the Pathways to Success for Utilities Guide or contact any member of Ice Miller's Energy and Utilities Law practice group. 

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