More than 150 attendees from across the United States, Canada and even Europe came to Loveland, Colorado, May 17-18, to share best practices in utility field work, get an update on federal regulations and learn about the latest advances in safety equipment.
Navigating new rules
The 2016 Fall Protection Symposium, cosponsored by Western and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, offered an in-depth look at all these topics in depth. With the new fall protection standards Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted last year, on-the-job safety has become a lot more complex, and many utilities are still climbing the learning curve.
Modesto Irrigation District, a water and electricity provider in California’s Central Valley, is just beginning to develop its fall protection program. MID Line Construction Manager Marty Gonzalez came to the event in part for the networking opportunities. “We want to learn more about what utilities with established programs are doing,” he explained.
Gonzalez also hoped to pick up more safety tips for MID crews and look for better tools, an interest many attendees shared.
Several equipment manufacturers were on the agenda and had tables in the conference room to display their latest products. Vendor presentations ranged from the traditional—harnesses, belts, fasteners and ropes—to high-tech. In the latter category, Fabio Bologna from the Electric Power Research Institute discussed the barriers as well as the potential for drone use in utility maintenance work.
Keeping up with OSHA
The 2016 symposium attracted many alumni from the previous event who were eager to hear about lessons learned from the first year of applying OSHA regulations. “Things can change quite a bit in one year, so it is worthwhile to get updates and talk about where we can make improvements,” noted Sam Waggoner of Xcel Energy.
David Wallis, who authored and contributed to safety and health standards as director of the OSHA Office of Engineering Safety, shared his extensive knowledge of electrical safety standards and work rules.
Increasing safety and protecting utility workers from dangerous falls is an ongoing challenge that requires commitment from every power provider. Western thanks Tri-State and all the professionals who helped make the 2016 Fall Protection Symposium a success.