By Michael Sullivan, vice president of Transmission and Distribution
May is National Electrical Safety Month, which is a pretty important topic for PSEG Long Island. The safety of our customers and employees is a key part of our mission, and we have spent quite a bit of time over the past eight years giving electric safety demonstrations to school classes, scout troops and more.
Home electrical safety is one thing. Keeping high voltage workers safe as they maintain a transmission and distribution system that serves 1.1 million customers is more complex.
PSEG Long Island achieves this with enormous attention to detail, relying on procedures and a workplace culture that are laser-focused on the ever-present hazards of electricity.
We have detailed operational instructions that must be followed by system operators in our distribution and transmission control rooms in order to properly de-energize equipment before it can be worked on when required for the safety of the worker, including “hold off” tags that indicate that the equipment cannot be re-energized until proper notice is given by the crew in the field.
There are also many times when lineworkers must go up in a bucket truck and work on energized equipment. Obviously these situations carry greater risk for our employees. They have to follow carefully crafted procedures while wearing carefully tested personal protective equipment like thick rubber sleeves and rubber gloves, and using carefully tested tools.
PSEG Long Island and our partners at IBEW Local 1049 also work hard every day to create a workplace culture of safety.
We have safety committees that operate at three different levels within the company. These allow our Local 1049-represented personnel who are involved in this type of work to interact with management personnel all the way up to the vice president level to discuss safety issues and get them resolved; to purchase safety equipment; or to obtain better equipment than we might be using.
A lot of these discussions are about small things. For example, based on input from the safety committees, we have begun to switch from using a hydraulic press to a battery-powered press to connect two primary wires up in the air. It might not sound like much, but it takes a lot of strength to hold up those hydraulic hoses when you’re in a bucket 40 feet off the ground. And does a battery-powered press prevent electric shock? Not directly, but fatigue can be an incremental factor in a serious injury. In short, we sweat the small stuff because it causes the big stuff.
So this year, for National Electrical Safety Month, consider doing something small yourself. Check our website for safety tips and choose something fairly easy to practice. Always stay away from downed electrical wires. Check all your electric cords for visible damage. Or even just make sure that all your outlets and wall switches are cool to the touch, because unusual warmth may indicate an unsafe wiring connection. Sweating the small stuff is something we all can do to make ourselves and our loved ones a little safer.