Tuesday, 09 June 2009 00:00


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Author - J. McDonald

Submitted By - J. McDonald
In my own words…
“Close Calls” are very common in the workplace. They are incidents that don’t cause an injury or some other kind of property damage only because there was nothing in the way to be damaged, or no one close enough to be injured. Why report or talk about accidents that didn’t happen? Because it’s the very tool that helps us all manage an effective safety program. It’s how we all learn and grow when people are willing to share their real life stories. Usually, “Close Call” incidents trigger the fact that something is seriously wrong. They allow us an opportunity to correct the situation before the same thing happens again and causes a serious injury or death. 
For the past few months, I’ve been sharing with you some “close call” stories from linemen around the country. I’m sure we have all learned something from these hair-raising stories that in some cases, I’m sure, were difficult to share. Here’s one I’d personally like to share with you.
About 40 years ago, I was working 2nd shift as an electric troubleshooter in the Pekin, Il., outlining district for CILCO. I got a call about 7:00 o’clock in the evening to go to a little town south of Pekin, called Manito, IL, on a partial light. Now, it was one of those days that the temperature had gotten up to 98 degrees during the day and was still hovering in the lower 90’s at 7 o’clock that evening…it was hot and it was humid. When I arrived at the house with the partial light, I was greeted by a young couple and 2 small children who told me half their house had lights. Well, I walked over to the meter and took a read and sure enough, we only had 120-volts coming in. I glanced up at the weatherhead and it looked OK, so I walked out to the pole…it was a transformer pole…there were two other services coming off of it and the secondary dead-ended on the pole, 2- # 4’s and a
# 6, bare copper…some of you can relate to that I’m sure. The secondary ran for one span where it dead-ended again and two more services coming off that pole. So, 5 customers in all on this secondary district, one of them in trouble. As I glanced up at where the triplex tapped onto the secondary, I noticed that the insulation on the triplex had melted back about 3 or 4 inches on one of the hot legs.  Realizing that this was probably the problem, I got the necessary things to make the repairs, my belt and my hooks, and I climbed the pole. When I got into the secondary area, I belted off and reached for the faulted leg, and at the same time, I took one more step with my left foot to get comfortable…into a crack on that pole. Now I slid what must have been 10 to 15 inches is all, but that action threw me into the secondary at which time I received a tremendous jolt and I started the secondary bouncing and firing in mid-span. I immediately grabbed the top leg of that secondary and pulled it towards me as hard as I could, trying to remove the slack and stop the arcing.                                                                                                   
When I did so, it broke in my hands, came down across the neutral and other hot leg, and blew the transformer fuse that was pointed at my right shoulder-blade…little pieces of silver fuse link entered my shoulder. Now, instead of a partial-light, I’ve got 5 no-lights…and there I stood…stunned, hurting, hot, scared, embarrassed…I climbed down that pole as fast as I could, ran to the truck and called Peoria Electric Service…and the conversation went like this. “154 to Peoria Electric Service.” The dispatcher came back with, “This is Electric Service, go ahead Mac.” You won’t believe my next line. I said, “I think I will take about 5 customers out of lights down here in Manito, I’ve got a small problem with a secondary.” The dispatcher said, “10-4 Mac, let us know when you get them back on.” “10-4…will do.” What did I do? Within a couple minutes of something that could have been very, very serious, I started to hide it. A couple hours later, when I got things put back to normal, I went straight home…I had my wife give me first-aid and as she was pulling these little pieces of silver fuse link out of my shoulder, I shared with her my story that I’m sharing with all of you right now. But wait a minute!!! Two hours earlier I was hiding it and now I’m sharing it. You see, I trust her…she’s understanding…she’s reassuring…why didn’t I go back and share my story with the guys I work with? Pride, embarrassment, ridicule from my peers…I could just hear them the next night when I show up at 4 o’clock to go to work, “Well, what are you going to burn down tonight, McDonald?” And I don’t need that…and how about my boss? Do you think I want to share with him? You see, he thinks I’m good!!! 
It was then that I started realizing the frequency of “close calls” and how the sharing of these stories could benefit us all.   Together, we all can make a difference by just sharing. If you have any “close calls” that you would like to share so others can learn and grow, please fill out one of our close call forms or just jot it down on a piece of paper and send it to headquarters with (Attention Eric) on it. An investigation will follow and we will get your personal approval before we put it into a safety bulletin to share the learning opportunities with the rest of the USC employees’…thank you…Jerry   
A wise man once said:
“A person who makes a mistake and does not share…is making another.”
                                                                 HAVE A SAFE DAY!      
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