When it comes to safety and using power equipment around utility lines, we don't just reinforce this message over and over and <em>over</em> with our own associates. We also make sure our partners and their crew members are aware of best safety practices as well. So we offer safety training and presentations to utilities, highway departments, arborists, and anyone who has to trim trees and work around power lines.

Recently, Daniel Mekkes, Townsend's corporate training specialist, gave a chainsaw safety presentation to the Boone REMC group here in Indiana. Daniel has done several talks for different REMCs around the country, so he was asked to visit with the Boone linemen and show them how to  safely operate a chainsaw and to remove trees and branches.

"About 80 percent of the time, the problem linemen have to deal with are trees and branches on a line," said Daniel. "There's a lot of pressure on that line, but it's strung as tight as piano wire, and when that pressure is removed, it flies back like a jet."

Daniel said it's like firing a bow: when you release the string, it snaps back into its original position. And if a lineman isn't careful, they can be seriously injured or killed when they remove a limb or fallen tree from a power line. So Daniel showed them how to secure and anchor a line down, with the help of a groundman so they could take the tree off the line.

"The line is anchored to the ground, or a vehicle, or something else capable of holding it down," said Daniel. Then, when the limb is free, the line is released under a controlled circumstance.

Daniel said he spent all day with the crews, spending time both in the classroom and out in the field, discussing these and other safety precautions we teach to all of our associates.

Daniel speaks throughout the United States, in any of the 34 states Townsend covers. He's been doing it for 30 years, and still likes seeing the results of his teaching efforts pay off.

Daniel said, "I remember once, when I was teaching a group of men about this subject. We had one big guy who was so excited when he got his tree off the line, he jumped up and down like a cheerleader and shouted a big 'wa-hoo!' He got red in the face, and the other guys had a good laugh, but it was so spontaneous because he was so excited. I love moments like that."

If you would like to learn more about our safety classes, you can contact us and ask for more information, or to speak with our safety professionals.
Posted: 8/29/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Driving a truck is a lot different from driving a car. Your truck is bigger and heavier, which means it's slower off the start and it takes longer to slow down or stop. It maneuvers like a cow, so you can't make the quick, sharp motions you could in a car. That means you have to respond to potential accidents a lot differently from the way you might when you're in your own car. With the fall weather coming, we're getting closer to the months you'll be driving in inclement weather. Wet roads, snowy roads, and fog all make for hazardous driving conditions, so it's important to make sure you follow these important driving safety tips.

1. Perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection.

road-923273_640.jpgWe've talked in the past about how important it is to perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection, making sure that all parts of your vehicle are functioning properly and are not worn or broken. Your safety, as well as the safety of the other drivers on the road, depend on everything working properly. And if drivers and their foremen can pass a complete DOT inspection, they'll receive a $300 gas card from Townsend.

2. Steering to avoid a collision.

Avoiding a collision in your truck is a different matter than doing it in your car.. For one thing, since trucks are more top heavy, jerking the wheel too hard can cause you to flip over. You also want to make sure of the following:
  • Do not apply the brakes while you're turning. Your wheels could lock up and send you into a skid.
  • Don't turn any more than you need in order to clear whatever you're trying to avoid. You can roll your vehicle over.
  • Be prepared to counter steer after you clear an obstacle. If you're not prepared for it, you won't be able to do it quickly enough should the need arise.

3. Leaving the road.

Sometimes the only way to avoid a collision is to leave the road. You certainly can't just swerve into the left lane to avoid it, because there could be another car over there, or it may be the oncoming traffic lane. So if you have to leave the road to avoid a collision, do the following:
  • Avoid braking or you could go into a skid.
  • Keep one set of wheels on the pavement so you can maintain control
  • Stay on the shoulder until you're able to come to a complete stop.
  • If you need to get back onto the road, turn sharply enough to do it quickly; don't ease back onto the road.

4. Practice proper emergency braking.

How you brake in inclement weather will depend on your vehicle's braking capability or system. If you have an ABS system, you'll want to brake one way, if you don't, you'll need to do it another way. Just remember, emergency braking doesn't mean slamming on the brakes as hard as you can.

If you have ABS, don't slam on the brakes, but do apply them all the way and keep them fully applied. You may hear noises from the brakes, but that's okay. It's the system working. You can even make slight steering movements while you're braking.

If you don't have ABS, apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking them up. Release them if you feel them lock up, and apply them more slowly when you feel the wheels start rolling. This is especially important on slick, wet surfaces.

Now that kids are going back to school and the weather is going to get wetter and colder, you need to practice safe, defensive driving. Make sure your vehicle is working properly, drive at safe speeds, follow at safe distances. Remember to keep your head and don't overreact if you ever have to avoid a collision.

Photo credit: StockSnap (Pixabay.com, Creative Commons 0)
Posted: 8/22/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Winter is not the only time you can slip or fall while you're working. You can slip on wet leaves, wet grass, or even a ladder or truck step. And that's just slipping. You can trip, take a misstep, or even have an unstable surface move under you, and you can take a terrible fall.

Approximately 1,200 workers in the United States die each year as a result of a slip, trip, or fall. And since our crew members spend nearly all of their time working outside in the air or an uneven surface, the risk of an injury is greater.

Here are a few safety steps and procedures we share with all of our associates during their weekly and daily safety briefings

Working and walking surfaces of all equipment, including mobile equipment, shall be made skid-resistant. This also includes different steps on your truck.

Tree-Climber.jpgTree climbers, you need to be secured while you're ascending and the tree. You need to be tied in once the work begins, and stay tied in until it's completed and you've returned to the ground. You also have to be secured when you're repositioning the climbing line.

If you're cutting down a tree or trunk, pre-plan and clear your escape route. The preferred route is 45 degrees in either direction from the line of the fall. Make sure you clear your obstructions before you actually start to cut. Use this path to get out of the way once you have made the cut.

Don't accumulate brush and logs in work areas, as these are tripping hazards. Make sure you have an efficient "branch management" system so brush doesn't accumulate at the worksite.

Similarly, never leave tools unattended if they're not in use. Tools that are temporarily not in use should be placed in a work-site storage location. When you're finished with a tool, return it immediately to the proper storage area on the truck.

Watch out for depressions, holes, and uneven spots in the ground. These can be especially hazardous, because the grass may be long enough to hide the uneven areas, and you won't find it until you step in it. And while we're on the subject, be sure your boots are laced up tight to provide enough support if you step into a hole.

And as we get closer to the winter, there will be more surprise ice patches and wet leaves to slip on. So be careful when you're getting in and out of your truck.

If you have any questions, instances where a piece of equipment is no longer skid resistant, or a your truck's running boards are broken or missing anti-skid measures, talk to your crew leader about it immediately.
Posted: 8/15/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

Townsend operates one of the largest fleets of vehicles in the utility industry. Our equipment operators are driving vehicles that can be 10 tons and larger, so they're responsible for ensuring their trucks follow all the laws and regulations that come with driving vehicles of that size.

Recently, we got word that one of our trucks in the Midwest passed a complete DOT inspection.

Richie Merritt (middle right) and Townsend-DOT-Insepctions-Photo-For-newsletter.jpgShane Morris (far right) have made sure that their truck passed all the necessary inspection checks, and was given a clean bill of health. As part of our DOT inspection policy, when anyone gets stopped and has no citations on their vehicle, they get a $300 gift card, as does their direct general foreman. Shane and Richie's is the first complete pass we've had in this region in a while.

So what goes into getting a clean inspection? We have a video on YouTube (embedded below), which shows what you should be looking for on every pre-trip inspection every morning. We've also summarized the video below, but to get the most complete information, we recommend you watch the video itself. (It's also at the end of this post.)

It demonstrates the essential inspection checks you need to perform every day before it's released for work, in order to have a fully-compliant vehicle that will pass any DOT inspection. This has been especially important lately, as some of our areas of operation have seen higher-than-normal DOT inspections, with a high percentage of failures and fines.

Every vehicle requires a 360 degree walk around, starting with the front.
  • Look for puddles that would indicate leaks.
  • Check whether the truck is leaning to one side, which could be a suspension problem, low tire pressure, or a shifted load.
  • Make sure the headlights and running lights on top of the truck are operational, and not loose or broken.
  • Check to ensure the headache rack and bumper and cone holder are not loose.
  • Next, open the hood and make sure all components that use fluids — coolant, power steering, windshield wiper — are attached, hoses are securely mounted, and that reservoirs are full.
  • Make sure other engine components are securely fastened, wires are secured, and belts are not frayed.
  • Check the wheels and make sure everything is securely fastened.

When you check the sides of the vehicle, check the following:
  • Anything under five feet in length or 1100 pounds must have at least one tie down.
  • Mirrors and brackets should be tight.
  • Doors must open and close properly.
  • Steps must be securely mounted by their bolts.
  • The fuel tank must be securely mounted, and its various parts — cap, safety chain, seal, and steps — are tightened down.
  • Make sure the work boxes are securely latched.
  • Make sure the outriggers and outrigger pads are in the correct position.

At the rear of the truck, check these items:
  • The tailgate is securely mounted to its hinges and its bolts are not loose or missing.
  • The tailgate chain should be secured by its chain.
  • Check all tail lights, brake lights, reflectors, and license plate lights that they're working and not broken.
  • The work boxes should latched and locked.
  • Check the pintle hitch and pig tail interface to make sure they're securely mounted and not damaged.

Move under the vehicle for a quick check.
  • Make sure the frame is not bent or twisted and everything is securely mounted.
  • Check that the drive shaft is not bent and is securely mounted.
  • Make sure the exhaust system is properly mounted, is not dented, and does not have any leaks.

Finally, check the inside of the vehicle.
  • Make sure fire emergency equipment is on board.
  • Check that the fire extinguisher is fully charged and properly rated.
  • Make sure you have all three emergency triangles in their box.
  • Make sure your six replacement fuses are onboard.
  • Make sure you have all the vehicle documents, including the vehicle's Cab Card, insurance card, the DOT yearly inspection report, and pre-trip and post-trip book.
  • Always have your driver's license and your DOT physical cards on you.
  • Make sure the seat belts properly latch and they are not cut or frayed.

Start the engine and check for a Safe Start. Make sure the parking brake is set, transmission in neutral, and clutch is depressed. After you start, look for the following:
  • The ABS and Check Engine lights go on and then off.
  • Make sure the oil gauge, temperature gauge, ammeter, and volt meter are working properly and rising to a safe level.
  • Grab the steering wheel and tug back and forth to see if there is any play.
  • Make sure the mirrors clean and adjusted to your sight requirements. Make sure they're properly secured and not cracked.
  • Check the windshield for cracks and looseness.
  • Check the wipers for proper movement and make sure the fluid is working.
  • Check the heater and AC, even in the "off" season.
  • Make sure the dashboard lights work properly.
  • Ask a crew member to make sure all the exterior lights, turn signals, flashers, low beams and high beams, and brake lights work properly.
  • Check the brake for leaks by pressing the pedal and looking for a big drop on the brake air pressure gauge.
  • Perform other brake checks as described in the video.
You are now finished, and have completed the pre-trip vehicle inspection. If you can complete this check without finding any problems, you will pass any surprise DOT inspections that may come up as you drive from one job site to the next. Be sure to fill out the pre-trip and post-trip inspection reports before you leave in the morning and when you're finished at the end of the day.

A thorough pre-trip inspection should take you 10 – 20 minutes, and it may seem like we're being overly concerned. However, there are too many ways something could break and cause a serious accident and injury or death, whether it's to one of our crew members or to a member of the public. By performing pre-trip checks, we can identify problems before they become dangerous, and we can avoid needless safety violations and fines as well.

Posted: 7/27/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation

While we hope it never happens, there may be a time where you have to help an injured coworker and provide first aid for any kind of blood-producing wound. So it's important to know about bloodborne pathogens (BBPs) and how to reduce the risks of contamination.

Bloodborne pathogens are diseases transmitted through contact with human blood or other bodily fluids. (Note: This does not include sweat. You can't get a bloodborne disease from someone else's sweat.)

These diseases include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B, and C, and tuberculosis (TB). The CDC also includes staph and strep infections, gastroenteritis-salmonella, and shigella, pneumonia, syphilis, malaria, measles, chicken pox, herpes, urinary tract infections, and blood infections.

600px-Biohazard_symbol_(red).jpgBasically, if a BBP enters another person's bloodstream through an open cut or a mucosal membrane (such as getting a blood droplet in your eye or nose), they can become infected and contract the same disease.

If someone becomes injured and you're going to provide first aid, it's important that you take steps to reduce your exposure to potentially-contaminated blood. This is sometimes referred to as Universal Precautions, which means treating all human blood and fluids (except sweat) as if they were known to to be infected with BBPs. That includes wearing the proper protective equipment when giving first aid.

All of our trucks and job sites have first aid kits that contain nitrile gloves (made from allergy-free products that feel like latex), face masks, micro-shields, and safety glasses. They must be used by all first aid providers before rendering any kind of first aid.

We also provide BBP kits for disposing of all medical waste and cleaning materials. All medical waste — bandages, bandage wrappers, medical sponges, nitrile gloves, cleaning material — must be placed in the appropriate bag and given to the first responders for proper disposal. If EMTs are on the scene, they have the facilities and know-how to properly dispose of the medical waste, so make sure they take it. If you transport an injured coworker to the hospital yourself, be sure to take the disposal bag with you. Do not just dispose of it in the regular trash or leave it behind.

When cleaning up, use the materials provided or a combination of bleach and water. Never reuse cleaning materials used to clean up medical waste. Dispose of everything once it has been used or even just opened.

If you believe you were exposed to biological fluids on the job site, or you notice that you or someone else failed to follow these precautions, notify your supervisor immediately. Even if the injured person is confident that they don't have any bloodborne diseases, that doesn't mean they don't. They could have been unknowingly exposed themselves years ago without realizing it.

Of course, the best way to prevent being exposed to BBPs is to avoid being injured in the first place. Practice safety at all times, and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

If you have any questions about protecting yourself from bloodborne pathogens, please ask your foreman. Remember to wear the right equipment if you have to administer first aid, even for small cuts and scrapes. And let your supervisor know if you think you were exposed, however briefly, to possible contamination.

Photo credit: MarianSigler (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
Posted: 7/26/2018 1:00:00 PM by Townsend Corporation