Northern Safety & Industrial

Utilities - Our crucial power, heat, and water systems

The utility industry maintains the infrastructure needed to provide electricity, gas, and water, including wastewater and sewage, to the entire country. Over 500,000 people are employed performing field repairs, keeping water flowing safely through pipes, and tending to power lines. These workers face many challenges in their day-to-day job activities, including electrocution hazards, falls from height, and long hours on the road. The industry itself faces its own set of challenges like consumer demand and cost pressure. Look to us for the products and services to help you work safely, increase productivity, improve workflow, and still attain long-term growth and profitability.

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Health & Safety Hazards

Slips, Trips, and Falls

There are numerous hazards in the utilities industry that could cause slip, trip, and fall accidents. To keep themselves out of the ER, employees should wear footwear with non-slip soles that provides adequate traction and is appropriate for the work conditions. Avoid falls by keeping walkways free of clutter, using ladders properly, and utilizing guardrails, scaffolding, and personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) when necessary.

Struck By/Caught In/Caught Between Incidents

Utility employees work around heavy, powerful objects and machinery. Pinch point accidents can also cause painful injuries, with poor lighting being a contributing factor as well. Hard hats, steel toe footwear, and safety eyewear are among the personal protective equipment (PPE) that prevents injury.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

When workers lift heavy objects, reach overhead, bend into awkward positions, or perform repetitive tasks, they are prone to painful MSDs. These conditions include sprains, strains, and other damage to muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons. These injuries, and their accompanying costs, can largely be prevented by applying ergonomic principles.

Electrical and other Hazardous Energy

Uncontrolled electrical or hazardous energy can harm workers if machinery isn't operated or maintained correctly. Both operational and lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures should be followed at all times. Utilizing proper head protection, gloves, and clothing can significantly reduce the likelihood of employee injury should an accident occur.

Confined Spaces

Utility employees may have to work in tanks, manholes, sewers, and in other situations where there is limited entry/exit and unfavorable air quality. These confined spaces may be oxygen-deficient or contain toxic, combustible fumes and must be tested prior to entry. It's crucial that workers be protected with air ventilation systems, personal gas monitors, lighting, PPE, and rescue equipment.

Biological Hazards

Those who work with wastewater may come in contact with fungi, parasites, viruses, and bacteria that could cause illnesses like hepatitis, typhoid fever, and salmonella. Employers must follow the hierarchy on controls to eliminate these hazards. Employees should operate according to best practices, follow proper procedures, and wear PPE to help reduce risk.

Combustible Dust

Workers who are exposed to combustible particulate matter face fire and explosion risk. Employers must develop and implement a combustible dust inspection and control plan and work to eliminate or reduce sources of ignition.

Extreme Temperatures

Some utility employees may be exposed to excessive heat and cold, making their jobs more difficult and putting them at risk for illness. High heat and humidity cause dehydration, heat stress, and even heat stroke. Frequent breaks, proper hydration, and air circulation help workers stay well. Cold temperatures may lead to frostbite and hypothermia. Wearing warm gloves and clothing reduces risks.

Burns

When electric currents come in contact with the body, it can cause electrical burns. Workers must use proper LOTO procedures, be cognizant of live wires, use insulated tools, and proper clothing and gloves.

Noise

Plant employees are often in loud environments. Prolonged exposure to both loud noise and sudden bursts of noise heavily impact hearing. OSHA requires employers to address hazards to hearing. Controlling noise exposure and using ear plugs and ear muffs prevent hearing loss on jobsites.

Chemical Exposure

Burns, dermatitis, and inhalation sickness can affect those who work with dangerous chemicals. Workplaces with hazardous chemicals must use engineering and administrative controls, identification labels, safety data sheets (SDS), and employee training to limit exposure. Gloves, sleeves, coveralls, respirators, and spray socks are examples of helpful PPE.

Hydrogen Sulfide

H2S is highly toxic and flammable, making it a concern among workers. It can cause headaches, nausea, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, and even death. Employers should use engineering and administrative controls to protect people. Ventilation procedures and PPE also lower exposure.

Regulations


Recognizing and controlling hazards is essential in averting injuries and deaths among utility workers. To prevent these incidents and remain compliant, safety programs should be structured according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. A successful program should encompass the hierarchy of controls, training on operational procedures and risks employees might encounter, as well as proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Read below about some of the regulations put in place by OSHA.

1910.134

A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee.

1910.1200

The purpose of this section is to ensure that the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported or classified, and that information concerning the classified hazards is transmitted to employers and employees.

1926.651(b)(1)

The estimated location of utility installations, such as sewer, telephone, fuel, electric, power lines, water lines, or any other underground installations that reasonably may be expected to be encountered during excavation work, shall be determined prior to opening or excavation.

1910.147(c)(5)(ii)(B)

Lockout devices and tagout devices shall be standardized within the facility in at least one of the following criteria: color, shape, size. Additionally, in the case of tagout devices, print and format shall be standardized.

1926.501(b)(1)

Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.

1910.301(b)

Wrenches, including adjustable, pipe, end, and socket wrenches shall not be used when jaws are sprung to the point that slippage occurs.

Resources

Safer Tree And Limb Removal

Unfortunately, workers are killed and injured every year while performing tree care, including trimming limbs and removing old, diseased trees. Crews assigned to the arduous task of trimming and felling trees must use careful skill to avoid risks, especially power lines.

The Effects Of Heat And Humidity On Workers

For those working outdoors on power lines or city sewer systems, hot temperatures and high humidity pose health risks. The risks are higher if performing strenuous tasks, being new to working in extreme heat, or if wearing non-breathable protective clothing.

What Is Suspension Trauma?

Orthostatic intolerance, due to constricted blood flow, may also occur. Unfortunately, this condition can make a rescue even more difficult.

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Technical Services

The Technical Services Department is your source for comprehensive safety solutions. Look to us for equipment rentals, scheduling repairs, and professional maintenance and inspection teams.

Advantage+ Rx Safety Eyewear Program

An easy, cost-effective way to provide safety eyewear for workers who wear prescription glasses.

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Direct Connect Employee Voucher Program

Proprietary procurement software with lightens the load of purchasing and distribution of employee PPE and supplies.

Product Selection Guides

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