SAFETY CORNER – High-Risk Problem-Solving

Scotty MacNeill, National Safety Director

The UWUA National Safety Committee regularly conducts detailed reviews of incidents that result in injury or death with the goal of correcting mistakes to prevent future mishaps union-wide. The review typically includes: an incident summary, containment of damage, causes, and corrective actions. Below is an example of such a review.

Fall from Pole

Incident Summary: In the process of transferring a transformer and equipment to a new 50’ foot class 4 pole, an apprentice, while drilling a hole, severed his safety strap, falling 30 feet to the ground. He was taken to the hospital with severe injuries. Fortunately, he is recovering.

Containment: Safety flash and safety stand down to electric operations demonstrating and explaining the cut through hazards associated with drill bits and wood pole fall restriction devices along with mitigation options.


  • Human Root: Apprentice was unaware that their positioning strap was on top of the drill bit when they engaged the drill.
  • Physical Root: Positioning strap severed into two pieces.
  • Systemic Root: Operations was not aware the hazard existed for the positioning strap to be cut through and therefore did not have controls in place to mitigate the hazar


Corrective Actions:

Develop training to educate and explain the cut through hazards associated with various types of equipment and wood pole fall restriction devices. Training to include:

  • The education for placement of fall protection — keeping the fall protection straps below the work location and education of the hazards associated with equipment that could damage fall protection equipment.
  • This education will be incorporated in all training classes.
  • Develop a standard to provide oversight and training instruction for development of apprentices.