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Improving the Safety of Electric Utility Workers with Modern Tech

May 7, 2021
Here are three ways to protect your linemen through technology such as augmented reality, drones and safety devices.

According to research information by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, thousands of power line workers face potentially fatal injuries. These injuries occur due to falling, electrocution, burns and lacerations.

OSHA regulations for a qualified electrical worker state that the need for safety and skills training is paramount. Tasks like operating electrical equipment and repairing components have the highest propensity for accidents. Thus, workers should receive basic training and monitoring.

Even so, there are more technologically advanced ways to improve the safety of electric utility workers. Some of them are discussed below.

1. The Use of Augmented Reality. Did you know that modern technology can improve the safety of electric linemen? Augmented reality has been a useful tool in not only improving safety behavior but also providing work guidance in real-time.

The safety aspect involves attaching an augmented reality device to the workers’ helmets while they are working on electric poles.

Because augmented reality technology offers a direct or indirect view of a physical environment, it is easy for electric utility workers to know what is to come.

Secondly, augmented reality is one of the use cases for electric lineman training. Utility workers can easily interact with the 3D models to gain a better understanding of the equipment that they will use in their line of duty.

 It gives them a first-hand view of underground assets and complex opponents that may cause accidents.

 This way, linemen will know what to do and how to counter work-related scenarios that may not necessarily be safe.  

2. The Use of Drone Technology. Maintaining and inspecting high voltage transmission lines is something that a majority of electric utility workers do.

Even with the right safety gear,  this is as dangerous as the job gets. However, the use of drones in carrying out electric inspections makes it safe for the power linemen.

For instance, Pacific Gas & Electric is an electric provider that uses drones for powerline inspections. This makes it easy for the company to keep its power linemen safe from danger. Indiana Utility is another electric provider that embraces the use of drones.

 Drones improve safety by accessing areas of high voltage with ease. This is a welcome solution for electric linemen as it minimizes hazardous work. And because drones can capture comprehensive data, they revolutionize how electric companies operate.

3. The Adoption of Safety Devices in Inspection and Maintenance Procedures. Long gone are the days when linemen had to rely solely on their own skills and experience to carry out electrical inspections and maintenance. This was a risky endeavor, especially for companies that did not focus on the safety and reliability of these professionals. 

The good news is that the evolution of technology has brought about devices that can significantly reduce different safety risks. Some of those safety devices are:

Infrared Windows. These windows effectively access electric risk points that are located inside equipment parts. They are placed at targeted inspection points like cable terminations to provide full access to the connections without subjecting linemen to the significant risks that come with the removal of panels.

Online Monitoring Systems. Attached directly to electrical enclosures, online monitoring systems identify early-stage issues to avoid system damage. As the data is wirelessly transmitted from one point to another, it allows linemen to monitor trends safely, without manually looking for impending issues.

Ultrasonic Ports. The purpose of these ports is to detect tracking problems in electrical distribution systems. They collect essential data and allow simple plug-in measurements to be used. This means that linemen can safely collect data on energized equipment without subjecting themselves to danger.

The main benefit of using these safety devices is that they remove the incidents that threaten the safety of electric linemen. Most importantly, they provide an efficient pathway to asset reliability. They call for less manpower and lower costs of personal protective equipment.

Apart from this, safety devices offer a way for companies to comply with recommendations for safety inspections and guidelines.

Parting Thoughts
In addition to these safety measures, electric utility workers should not forget about all of the standard safety procedures like receiving proper training, wearing the appropriate safety gear, working in teams, and having all their equipment tested. 

Lastly, they should also have access to safety courses that teach them how to follow LOTO procedures, as well as any other relevant safety programs, depending on the type of tasks they perform and the type of equipment they are working with.

Electric utility workers need to have high safety standards to offset the high level of risk that comes with the job.

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