Power For Your Life Podcast | Season 1 - Episode 11
Now that summer is officially here, your electric cooperative urges you to stay safe while working on home improvement projects, traveling or working on your job site. Learn summer safety tips from Greg Hambrick, safety and loss control instructor at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. Plus, discover how the wet bulb globe temperature impacts stress on the body in the summer heat from Sid Sperry.
Transcript – Power For Your Life – Season 1 | Episode 11
Original release date: July 3, 2020
Hi, my name is Kevin Sullivan and I am with Osage Valley Electric Co-op and what I like about the co-ops is I feel like I'm part of the group. I can tell that the co-op works hard for the team members and it's not just a big corporation. So, I appreciate that.
Welcome to the Power For Your Life podcast, where we focus on energy efficiency, the value of electric cooperative membership and safety around electricity. I'm Darryll Lindsey, your host. Today's topic is summer safety. My guests are both from the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. First, let's visit with Greg Hambrick, an instructor in the safety and loss control group. Greg joins me by phone today and Greg, thanks for taking time today to share how to stay safe during this summer season. We've had a strange few months here in our country with a pandemic. But now people are starting to get back to a few things normal. We're going to be doing more things outdoors. So, what's the first thing people should remember when it comes to safety?
Greg (Guest): When we do work outside or do play outside, power lines are all around us, both overhead and underground. Every household, every business, most out buildings are connected to electricity some way. They tend to fade from our sight. They tend to just blend in. They become part of the landscape that we see every day. Overhead power lines are typically bare wire that's only insulated from the pole it's attached to. It's not designed to offer us any protection from contacting electricity. We can see them if we make notice of them, but we don't hear anything, we don't feel anything unless something goes wrong. So, when we're talking about outdoor activities, my suggestion is be sure to consider your surroundings no matter what you're doing. Take the time to understand where the power line is on your property for all the buildings. Know where they attach to at your home. You know, our outdoor activities include things that we do for work, things that we do for play or recreation. Just all kinds of outdoor activities. So that offers many opportunities to come in contact with power lines by mistake as we're going about whatever we're doing with our outdoor activities. You know a great safety slogan when we get in that season for outdoor activities is look up and live.
Darryll (Host): That's a great motto to live by. Let's talk about some specific areas Greg. Tree trimming, heavy equipment operations, or even fishing in your favorite spot. What do I need to know about power line safety in those areas?
Greg (Guest): The first rule that everyone that needs to understand is with that we need to maintain at least 10 feet a separation from any power line. That means never go inside a 10-foot circle; that separation from power lines no matter what we're doing. Now, sometimes that's easy to overlook. We can talk about tree trimming. I'm going to kind of throw ladder use into that topic as well, because a lot of times homeowners especially do use ladders as they trim trees or maybe we've had a little wind storm and they’re cleaning up some minor damage from that. That 10-foot rule applies, and I can't stress that enough with 10 feet of separation. First and foremost, trimming tree limbs when there are power lines nearby is just a very dangerous process to undertake on your own. When power lines run through or very near trees, they're harder to see as they go through those limbs, especially when there's foliage on those limbs. Even if you think that well, I've got this long saw that I'm using from the ground, I'm not gonna be up in the tree. Many times, those saws are not made out of non-conductive material and there's no way to know if they offer you any protection. Plus reaching up in a tree with a long saw makes it even more difficult to see exactly where the saw head is and what it may come in contact with. As you cut limbs and do this tree trimming, those limbs could fall on a power line that you may be unaware of, or even force the saw into that power line. Of course, you could easily touch the power line with the saw, and we've kind of already explained why that's a dangerous aspect. Of course, if you climb up in the tree, you could easily become in contact directly with the power line that you don't see that's running through that tree. And your weight on that lamb could cause a branch to push down into a power line. You know I mentioned the use of ladders with storm cleanup or even maintenance on a home in and around that, and kind of throwing these two things into that same topic of discussion. Many homeowners have aluminum ladders. They're not fiberglass ladders that are made out of non-conductive material and that just increases the possibility of being injured, being shocked by electric power line that you may overlook overhead. One of the other things that I believe you mentioned is, you know heavy equipment use, heavy equipment operations. Whatever operation, whatever work you're doing with heavy equipment, the 10-foot rule applies. Some
heavy equipment gives you the ability to reach with that equipment and it will raise up off the ground or you know, do different things. Anytime someone's operating heavy equipment, their focus is usually more on the task that they're doing with that piece of equipment rather than how close they are to things such as power lines. Some equipment certainly is tall enough to contact overhead power lines. A lot of times heavy equipment is used for excavation. Always remember if you are excavating or pushing dirt or working with the ground in any way, always call the national 8-1-1 system to know where the underground lines are for the utilities. You mentioned recreation and fishing. No, I'm not a fisherman by trade or--or habit or recreation. I don't in my lifetime haven't done a lot of fishing, but I got a lot of friends that that do. Simple thing of relaxing and going out for a day to spend on the lake or around a pond, we wouldn't think that there's anything dangerous about that. But casting a line unknowingly into an overhead power line could be deadly on the spot. And you know earlier I mentioned that safety slogan for outdoor activity certainly applies here is to look up and live. Know-know your proximity. Know your surroundings. So, no matter what your outdoor activity, you know there's a lot of things that can-can fall into this. Always have a way to communicate, no matter where you're at in case something happens in case there's an emergency. Always make sure someone knows where you're gonna be that day are good rules of thumb to put into place for outdoor activities. And have a thought about... “OK, if there is an emergency today, what do I do and how will I respond today?” Many times, I've heard of and read about accidents where someone panicked and actually became another victim on that accident site for a number of reasons. Now that's why we have the professionals at our beckoned call when we dial 9-1-1 and have those folks come in and handle the situation. I think it would be responsible of myself to go ahead and mention at this time vehicle crashes with poles. This is another opportunity that we have to educate ourselves and understand about overhead power lines and what the potential dangers can be in a vehicle/pole crash. In other words, were a vehicle of some kind hits a power pole and it breaks because of the impact. The opportunity for the wires to-to come loose from the pole and be down on the car or the vehicle is certainly a concern. Many times, if that happens, the power can still be on even though it may not look like it. If it's safe for you to stay in the car, that's the best thing that you can do. Now there's a lot of quick decisions that have to be made that way, but the bottom line is it's possible if you step out of that car and there are power lines on it, you could be shocked and injured or worse… from-not from the impact of the accident, but from the power lines. That's a conversation within itself, Darryll. And, but I felt like it needed to be mentioned here this morning, as we had this discussion.
Darryll (Host): I totally agree. It's an unfortunate accident that could have tragic results. Especially in the night time hours or when it's raining. It's difficult to see downed power lines in those conditions. And as you state, if you're involved in a vehicle crash with a utility pole, the best thing to do is just stay in that vehicle and called 9-1-1. We know that power lines and ladders don't mix. Let me provide you with a scenario. I have a barn that desperately needs to be painted. There is electric service attached to the barn. So obviously I need to put up a ladder so I can paint around those connection points. How can I do that safely?
Greg (Guest): I'm gonna back up just a few moments to what I said earlier at two or three different times. Always maintain 10-feet of separation from any power line that's on. You know, the 10-foot rule applies there to you repainting that structure. Initially, don't do it. The best thing that I can suggest, uh, I guess I should say, don't do it until. One of the things that your local cooperative, in almost any case that I can think of, would be happy to come out there and work a timeline out with you when you can be there and they can be there… and make arrangements with them... they'll come out and the easiest thing to do would be for them to turn your power off while you climb that ladder upon your structure and get that spot inside that 10-foot rule painted so that you don't inadvertently come in contact with a connector that may be bare or a connection that you may be unaware of, or wire that you could inadvertently touch. I work with a lot of cooperatives in the state of Oklahoma, Darryll. I can without question say that-that all 13 of the cooperatives that I call on for safety related issues would be happy to make arrangements with their membership to come out and create a safe environment for a short period of time while they're doing something. That's beyond the scope of what the cooperative can come do and paint the side of your barn for you. But they're happy to come make that environment… Maybe you need it done that way for half a day. You can do without your power on that particular day with planning for a few hours. They may send a service representative by and disconnect your power temporarily while you do the work. And say, ‘Well right after I grab lunch, I'll be back by and get your power back on’. Uh, things like that happen all the time with homeowners that have the understanding about a safe way to do something around their home. Making a phone call, making arrangements with your local cooperative is really easy to do because that's what they're there for, is to serve the membership and we certainly as a cooperative family, want to do that in the most safe and efficient way that we can.
Darryll (Host): The best thing in all these situations, contact your local electric cooperative and they can help. Greg Hambrick from the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. Thank you for joining me today. Let's take a short break and when I come back my next guest will share tips on surviving the summer heat... when I return.
Darryll (Host): Energy saving tip number 88. Monitor your home’s relative humidity in the summer. If it consistently stays in the 60% range or higher, ask your HVAC technician about lowering your central air conditioning unit’s indoor fan speed.
Darryll (Host): Back with more of the Power For Your Life podcast. Our topic today is summer safety tips. And my next guest is Sid Sperry and Sid is the director of public relations, communications and research with the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. And Sid, before the break, Greg Hambrick shared important information and tips about power line safety while many people are starting summer projects. But while we need to be safe around power lines and equipment, we also need to take care of ourselves in the heat and humidity. Talk about the effects of summer heat on our bodies.
Sid (Guest): As we know you know, beginning here in Oklahoma, certainly even in May, and continuing into June as our country gets into the hotter months of June, July, August, and even into September, the heat in its impacts on our bodies can have some devastating results sometime. So, it's always good for people to be aware of not just the temperature, but other conditions. And we'll talk about that in just a little bit. And the kinds of effects that temperature, humidity, solar, sun angle, those kinds of things can have on the body, especially if people are working outside or doing activities outside as compared to being inside the home where it might be air conditioning or air conditioning is in place... those kinds of things.
Darryll (Host): I know that some of the things you're involved in his research into how the heat effects our line workers. One of those research elements is the wet bulb globe temperature. Sid, can you explain what that is and how it is determined?
Sid (Guest): Typically, most utilities look at and most state public utility commissions in the United States use the heat index or commonly heat index in the summer wind chill index in the winter time. But the heat index is a measure of heat stress. Uh, we call it apparent temperature because it's how the temperature feels on your body. But it's a measure of heat stress that uses only the outdoor temperature and the relative humidity. And it's typically calculated in shady areas or areas of shade. Where the wet bulb globe temperature is different is that it's a measure; it's also an apparent temperature. But it measures heat stress in direct sunlight. And it takes several different measures into account. The first one is obviously temperature. The second is the relative humidity. The third, however, is wind speed. The fourth is the angle of the sun and how that impacts exposure and then cloud cover or solar radiation. So, there are several more factors in the wet bulb globe temperature measurement rather as-as compared to the heat index. To give you an example, many of the military agencies…the one that comes to mind for me most readily is the United States Marine Corps. And we know what those guys are like. They-they're pretty tough, but in their training exercises they do not use the heat index. They measure the wet bulb globe temperature because it's in their opinion and in most
military agencies, even OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)…they think the wet bulb globe temperature is a better measurement or indicator of the heat stress impacts on those who are outside in direct sunlight. So, it's-it's, we think it's a better guide. The wet bulb globe temperature is typically a better guide for managing workload whether it's our lineman that are out doing the line work or we just referenced military folks that may be outside anyone, any worker that is outside, transportation officials. Those folks that are out building our roads and infrastructure. Those folks should be, in my opinion, more aware of what the wet bulb globe temperature is and the impacts there of heat stress as compared to the heat index.
Darryll (Host): An interesting perspective there with a number of factors that make up the wet bulb globe temperature.
Sid (Guest): Yeah, I find it somewhat interesting too, that until very recently, probably not until the last three to five years maybe, the National Weather Service, had always used the heat index. Now they still use heat, index and most weather entities-private and governmental-use the heat index obviously, because so much of our government reporting as I mentioned, the state public service commissions, gauge the impacts on people in homes based on the heat index. But for those people that are outside, the better gauge in most professional opinions is the wet bulb globe temperature. And I will say that the National Weather Service in Tulsa, OK has actually been a national leader in moving the National Weather Service to posting wet bulb globe temperatures now across the US at their weather forecast offices. So, it's something that's becoming much more widely used and much more widely known.
Darryll (Host): We sweat for a scientific reason: to cool our bodies. If something goes wrong, there can be a domino effect. Sid, talk about the varying levels of heat stress on the body.
Sid (Guest): Well as you mentioned, we-we do sweat for a reason. When we have moisture on our-on our skin it acts as a coolant to help the body. When we perspire, it's actually helping us cool our body down. As our body warms and if we begin to either be exposed to or as our body heats up, we start to lose or impact that rate of transpiration or evaporation of that moisture. And when that become begins to decrease then not only will our body temperature rise, but that impacts our bodily functions from our brain activity and that certainly can lead to what-what I would call a shutdown in some cases of some bodily functions. And it can lead to confusion. It can lead obviously to elevated body temperatures. When we know-when we’re not sweating, that's not a good thing, if you will. So, the indicators of heat exhaustion are: We can become lackadaisical. Obviously, very tired. We can become confused. We may not be able to make the kinds of decisions that we need to be able to make simply because we've been exposed to high degrees of heat. And we may not be aware of that. The onset can be quite- quite quick. It can happen in a matter of minutes, all depending upon the temperature, of course, and our exposure to the sun.
Darryll (Host): You've talked about the different types of heat stress now give us some tips on how to keep safe in the heat.
Sid (Guest): I think the list, which should certainly include obviously keeping ourselves hydrated, drinking lots of water. Even our clothing that we wear. Loose, lightweight clothing is always a good thing. If we can work when were outdoors in a cool or shaded area that's beneficial as well. Along with that work, I think it's-it's good that more frequent breaks should be taken during the heat of the day. Now there's nothing wrong with going over and getting another glass of water out of that cooler that we have on the back of the pickup, for example. We should try to protect ourselves with hats or things that help keep us shaded to some degree. I know our line workers obviously wear long sleeve shirts and protecting their skin to some degree…. Those are-those are the things that are most typical. Slow down a little bit. It's-it's not always good to keep that hard driving pace sometimes. We need to slow our body down just a little bit when these-when heat factors begin to have an impact on us. So, mostly try to stay aware of the temperature, what did humidity might be. Know the sun angle that you're working in…if it's a very hot part of the day, say in the 2:00 to 5:00 PM range. Peak sun angles that might be having an impact on your-your body; and then, as I said, find a shaded area. Get some rest, drink lots of water and try to stay hydrated as much as possible. Those-those are certainly things that we should be aware of as we go outdoors in higher temperatures.
Darryll (Host): You mentioned sun exposure and sun angle. Tell us is sunscreen really that important?
Sid (Guest): Well, in my younger days Darryll I told you that I probably didn't give a lot of credence to sunscreen. But my mind has been changed. That's largely due to my family and friends that have told me time after time that it's best for me to put on sunscreen when I'm out mowing. And even though I might not be able to avoid that farmers tan if you will, it's still a great idea to have at least a minimum SPF-15. I would probably even recommend something higher to have on if you know that you're going to be out in the sun. Put it on before you go out. Let it get well attached to the skin if you will so that you do have maximum coverage before you go out. It does make a big difference. Certainly, the back of our ears are sensitive areas. The back of our necks; if you're in shorts, your legs, your top of your feet that are sensitive. And me, I have a bald head. I'm going to put a hat on and make sure that I cover my ears if I can with kind of a floppy brimmed hat. But sunscreen is something that I think we all should-should wear and-and not just as soon as we get outside, as we just said. Put it on before you go out. Give it time to dry just a little bit before you go out into that sun and not just slap it on when we rush out to the pool.
Darryll (Host): This last item has been in the news in recent weeks. Hot cars. We all know that our car can reach incredibly high temperatures rather quickly. What's the first thing we should do when we turn off the engine?
Sid (Guest): Look in the back seat! The first thing we should always do, Darryll, is to make sure that we have no young passengers or even elderly passengers with it. We know that their location. And we know that it's time for us to move them out of the vehicle and to make sure that they're going to be safe. All too often I-I, it just breaks my heart when I hear these stories about a mother or father or a grandparent that has been taking care of a young child that may be strapped into a car seat. And it just takes literally a matter of seconds for temperatures inside a vehicle to-to reach extremely high deadly levels. When someone might run into a Quick Stop and be detained for some reason; that it can literally just take a matter of minutes before temperatures inside a car up to 150 and 160 degrees can build up and can have a very quick impact on a small child or an older adult. So, look in the backseat looking if you're in a multi-seat vehicle, get out of the car, make sure that you've checked the back... second row seats, the third row, whatever. Just to make sure that no one is there and if they are certainly take them out of the vehicle before you go inside.
Darryll (Host): And Sid, I think the same thing can be said about our pets. We can't just run into the C-store and leave them unattended even for a moment. All these tips are good things to remember as we move into the summer season. Sid Sperry from the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, thank you for joining me today.
Sid (Guest): Thanks, Darryll. Appreciate you having me on.