2023 Safety Project Tasks

Safety Projects Tasks for 2023

Planned 2023 Research

Research will be provided in multiple forms, including:

  • Results from experimentation and analysis
  • Reference guides, practical manuals, and training videos
  • Workshops, meetings, and webcasts

This project examines the safety of utility workers and the public while they are on or near utility distribution equipment. Focus areas include work methods, equipment, and technologies to help utilities improve safety. The Safety research project for 2023 consists of the following tasks:

Workshops: New activities in 2023 are two workshops aimed at serious accidents and fatalities (SIFs). These workshops may help utilities compare their practices and approaches with others in the industry. The workshops will also help prioritize future research.

  • Workshop on Underground Safety: Key focus areas include lockout and tagout, manhole entry procedures, dealing with live-front equipment, cable identification, and other hazards.
  • Workshop on Overhead Safety: Key focus areas include use of coverup, practices for gloving, practices for hotsticks, and technologies for worker protection.

Backfeeds: The EPRI safety task force identified backfeed from distributed energy resources as the highest research need. These backfeeds can increase hazards to workers and can lead to energized downed conductors. To evaluate the risks and identify improvement options, EPRI plans to evaluate distributed energy resources (DER) technologies and aggregate contributions from inverters. In addition, review of lockout-tagout procedures may identify options to reduce risks. This effort extends work started in 2022 with the goal of producing a training video on this topic.

Downed-Conductor Prevention and Detection: Downed conductors remain a challenge for electric utilities. EPRI has investigated and evaluated various approaches to downed conductor detection, including electrical measurement, high-speed signal processing, and methods based on advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). In 2023, plans are to evaluate new technologies referred to as “falling conductor” detection. This approach uses SCADA and high-speed communications to detect when a conductor breaks. Tests will include different failure modes and locations. Another effort will evaluate technologies to detect incipient faults that could lead to downed conductors. This includes splice failures and other scenarios with series arcing.

Arc Flash: Arc flash is a hazard to workers, and an effective worker-protection program involves many facets that touch on work methods, personnel protective equipment, system protection, and analysis. In 2020, EPRI produced an arc-flash guidebook that covers recent changes in the industry. For 2023, EPRI plans to continue to evaluate ratings and selection of arc-rated FR clothing. In 2022, testing showed that samples purchased from a major online vendor had ratings that were 40% below the advertised rating. Follow-up testing with more vendors and more types of clothing will be evaluated. Practices with FR clothing and other PPE will also be evaluated. Importance of tucking in shirts will be evaluated. The result will be a video aimed at line workers.

Protective Equipment: Utility workers rely on many types of protective equipment to enhance their safety, including insulating gloves and sleeves, hotsticks, rope, flame-resistant clothing, insulating boots, and more. In 2021, EPRI produced an online reference on protective equipment. The main plan for 2023 is to continue the testing of mechanical integrity of insulating gloves and evaluation of aged samples that was started in 2022.

Technology for Workers: EPRI intends to continue to investigate digital systems to improve safety for workers. One approach is to use images to verify good usage of insulating covers and otherwise identify safety issues on structures. This could be based on image processing, artificial intelligence, or other advanced technologies.

Practices: Contact to energized lines remains the number-one threat during live work. To reduce these risks, EPRI intends to focus on practices for insulation and isolation and use of coverup. EPRI will also evaluate practices for accident investigations.

For more information on the 2023 plan for safety, contact Tom Short