Is ineffective training compromising electrical safety at your plant?

Feb. 22, 2018
Thomas Wilk says don’t let a lack of support keep you from getting training.

You might remember a safety incident from last December, when Amtrak 501 was making its inaugural journey on a new Seattle-to-Portland run. While approaching a bridge over I-5, the lead locomotive and all 12 passenger cars derailed without warning. Three people died and more than 100 were injured.

Preliminary data from the data recorder showed that the train was traveling at 78 mph (almost 50 mph over the speed limit) when the incident happened. However, over the next month, sources emerged claiming that the crew did not feel fully confident in the training they had received.

According to a January follow-up report from CNN: “Engineers and conductors had safety concerns, citing rushed and ‘totally inadequate’ training which left them feeling dangerously unprepared for the new route, according to multiple sources, including several directly involved in the training. ... Some training runs were performed at night, with as many as six or more crew members stuffed into cars with just three seats, which meant some trainees rode backwards, in the dark, the sources said. Engineers felt they did not get enough practice runs at the controls and could not properly see to familiarize themselves with the route.”

The sentiments reported by these engineers and conductors were echoed by respondents to our electrical safety survey. When asked to rank their top electrical safety challenges, nearly one-third chose “poor/ineffective training” – a response large enough to make it the second-highest safety concern. (“Poor/ineffective equipment maintenance” ranked slightly higher, and it’s easy to see the connection between the two.)

From the Editor

This article is part of our monthly From the Editor column. Read more from Thomas Wilk.

One-third of respondents also reported that they had not ever received training on NFPA 70E. That question was phrased carefully: Aside from practical considerations like money and time, there’s nothing to stop plant/electrical professionals from seeking out training on their own time, especially if you’re feeling like the crew of Amtrak 501 and can tell that weak training is about to become a matter of life and death.

In a change of topic, I want to use the rest of this editor’s note to introduce you to Influential Women in Manufacturing, a new program at Putman Media focused on recognizing and honoring women who are making a difference in the manufacturing space.

For the next two months, through March 31, you can nominate women you see leading the charge for industrial innovation and manufacturing leadership. To be considered for the program, potential candidates should have at least a few years of experience in the manufacturing/industrial production field.

Note: There is no limit on nominations; you can submit as many as you have time to complete. Please share the word – we’re looking forward to hearing from you! The full nomination form is available at http://plnt.sv/IWIM.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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