Tdworld 14501 Euo 31 Safety

Best Practices for Writing Safety Procedures

Aug. 22, 2018
It can be challenging to write procedures for the line workers, troubleshooters and electricians

High-voltage line work is risky business, with hazards associated with most of the tasks performed on routine or emergency jobs. Electrical workers must adhere to volumes of regulations, policies, procedures and work practices, engrain them into their memories and execute them daily. In turn, they can work in not only a safe and productive manner, but also remain in compliance with regulations.

However, confusion can set in about procedures and regulations. For example, high-voltage electric lineworkers and their companies use OSHA 1910.269 as a baseline to develop their own internal work and safety procedures. Meanwhile, they must not only ensure that the procedures are aligned and don’t conflict with OSHA, but also follow state and local regulations governing work practices and procedures.

Overcoming Obstacles

When looking at procedures, it’s important to determine who is writing them at your company. Typically, engineers are the primary developers and writers of these work procedures. If you are fortunate enough to have a safety department, then a safety employee might be tasked to write the procedures.

The best scenario, however, is to create committees comprised of individuals with different job skills and essential functions within the company. That way, they can bring subject matter expertise to the table when crafting procedures.

It can be challenging, however, to write procedures for the line workers, troubleshooters and electricians. Asking these workers to come out of the field to serve on a committee may not be feasible. Rather than attending meetings, the vast majority would rather focus on performing their work.

The other obstacle stems from the supervisors, who may or may not enable the field workers to actively participate in the development and writing of procedures. If they do give them permission to attend meetings, they must adjust their work schedules and reallocate resources to keep the work flow moving. Without the “hands-on” expertise and experience of the craft workers, the development of work and safety procedures will be difficult.

Aligning Procedural Development

The procedures should be written to include a clear set of steps, and these must be followed and not deviated from to perform a task safely and productively.

The procedures must be in compliance with existing regulations. Also, if the procedures are new to the department, it’s important to train the workers as the information is shared via meetings, tailboards or other methods. Ideally, the craft workers will provide the real-world knowledge and the safety department will provide the regulations, background, compliance issues and dates for implementation. In addition, the engineering group will provide expertise on any new equipment and devices placed into the system that would require a policy or procedure development or modification.

Training Workers

After the new procedures have been introduced to the affected work groups, the training department will then develop, facilitate and deliver training sessions. These training sessions will focus on any new procedures, which require the development of guidelines, job aides and other tools.

For example, when a utility brings me on board to write policies and procedures, I request all their existing procedures, related training materials, and contact information of the key individuals who revise and update procedures. I also ask for the name of the procurement person and all the individuals who are stakeholders in this process. Finally, I ask the proper questions such as the purpose of the procedure, the identity of the users and the name of any other departments with a similar procedure who will need to be notified of any changes that might affect their work practices.

In the transmission and distribution industry, companies segment their departments to focus on specific areas of service delivery. While these departments are separate, they often interact with each other on several levels. By changing one procedure, it’s important to keep in mind that you may impact how another department performs their work.

Formatting a Training Document

As you develop your procedures, it’s often effective to use a generally accepted format or template. Rather than writing procedures in bullet points, it’s more effective to list them numerically and alphabetically in a consistent manner throughout the entire document. For example, I often see the following formatting:
• Font – use Arial, Calibri or Helvetica, which are all easy-to-read fonts that are easy to format.
• Font Size – the body of the text should be 12 point.
• Line spacing – In my opinion, 1.15 is better than 1.0 because it makes it easier to read the document.
• Alignment – either left or full is preferred. Left alignment means the text aligns to the left of the document in-line. Full is where the body of the text is aligned like a block, even alignment on both sides.

On the first page, you should place the title of the document. The header must include the name of the company and the logo, procedure title, procedure number, department, and the last update. The footer should mention the procedure number and page number, file name and path while the body of document is the title of the procedure.

For the second page, you must feature the name of the company, department, a signature page for approval, and procedure title. On the footer, use the procedure number and page number, file name and path.

Then on the third page, include the procedure number, department and name of the procedure, and on the fourth page, list the table of contents.

From here, you can begin to add content and assign numbers. For example:
1. Introduction – “These Standard Work Procedures are intended to ensure consistent and practical policies for grounding de-energized conductors and equipment as required by …”
2. Purpose – “Grounding is required for the protection of the worker and for system protection when working on de-energized high voltage lines or equipment.”
3. Scope – “These procedures can be used for overhead transmission conductors, equipment and devices.”

After the scope of the procedure has been written, you can start adding content and numbering it in a consistent manner using the numbering list in Microsoft Word. Here is an example of numbering:

As you can see, there is an orderly, standardized method for procedure development and writing that you can use in your organization to maintain clarity, focus, communication and readability. Additional considerations such as approval processes, archiving, reviewing, roles and responsibilities are necessary in order to develop, write and maintain excellent procedures for the safety of the worker and system reliability.

Maximo Fuentes ([email protected]) retired as the Grid Assets T&D Line Supervisor-Business Operations for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in Sacramento, California. He now owns a consulting business, Grid Resources, a company that provides technical consulting, leadership development and expert witness services to the Transmission and Distribution Utility Industry ( Fuentes is also a general business partner for West Coast Utility Solutions – North and a member of the Transmission Distribution Maintenance Management Association.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!