Safety Equipment Testers are the Only Thing Coming between Linemen and 40,000 Volts of Electricity

By June 1, 2016 No Comments


The Arizona Republic, 22 May 2016

“Purple bolts of electricity crackle inside the as technician Bruce Redford runs a batch of rubber gloves through a routine test for holes.  The gloves, standard equipment for about 2,200 SRP employees who work on the electrical system, must be tested every six months to ensure they have no cuts or punctures.

A single pinhole could be deadly, sending thousands of volts into a lineman’s hands.  Gloves are tested by submerging them in electrically charged water to see if the voltage can penetrate any part of the gloves. If so, the glove is taken out of service.

‘I have 2,000 employees and their lives are right here,’ Redford said.  ‘We do take pride in what we do.’

The laboratory, which has a budget of about $550,000 a year, also tests the ‘hot sticks’ linemen use to open switches and de-energize power lines, rubber blankets used to insulate live power lines in the vicinity of where linemen are working, and other SRP equipment, such as equipment to prevent falls.

Three employees work full time in the lab.  SRP has maintained the lab since 1975 to meet requirements set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Safety gets lots of attention at electric utilities because while mistakes happen in every industry, they often are fatal when they occur on the electrical system.  OSHA uses a standard incident rate to compare injury statistics across industries, and it is the rate of accidents per 100 full-time workers.

In 2014, the U.S. average across all industries was 3.4. The 2015 figures are not yet published.

Arizona’s two biggest utilities have accident rates lower than the national average for all industries.  SRP boasts a rate of 1.56 accidents per 100 workers for 2015.  Neighboring utility Arizona Public Service Co. had an even lower rate of 0.67 in 2015.  In 2014, the most current information available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 electric utility workers were killed nationwide. None were from SRP or APS.”

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