Company cited by OSHA for lamp ballast incident

According to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), changing a ballast in a 277 volt circuit is the #1 cause of electrocutions for IBEW trained electricians. The combination of the shock and fall can result in serious injure/death. OSHA cited a hospital recently due to a fatality while an employee was changing a lamp ballast. Click here to read the OSHA News Brief. Also, article 410.130 (G) of the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires a ballast disconnect on new fluorescent fixtures.

Click here for information on our February 10, 2017 NFPA 70E course in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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Arc-Rated Clothing – laundering practices

A common question is raised during my NFPA 70E electrical safety courses: what precautions are necessary for laundering arc-rated garments. A few suggestions:

1. Always follow manufacturer recommendations.

2. Do not use fabric softener or bleach.

3. Do not use dryer sheets as Dryer sheets as they add a small amount of fat and a Quaternary ammonium that can weaken the fabric and reduce flame resistance.

For more information on electrical safety attend one of our upcoming NFPA 70E seminars:

Raleigh, NC: October 28, 2016
Greensboro, NC: November 18, 2016

Click here for more information.


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FAA Unmanned Aircraft System (Drone) Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently placed new regulations into effect regarding the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – sometimes referred to as drones. Below is a summary of key points of the new regulation.

What is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS)?
• An unmanned aircraft system is an unmanned aircraft and the equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of that aircraft.
• An unmanned aircraft is a component of a UAS. It is defined by statute as an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
• The NEW Small UAS Rule (Part 107), including all pilot and operating rules, is in effect as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on August 29, 2016.
• An unmanned aircraft system (UAS), sometimes called a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard – instead, the UAS is controlled from an operator on the ground.
• When you fly a drone in the United States, it is your responsibility to understand and abide by the rules.
• The rules for operating an unmanned aircraft depend on why you want to fly.

To fly UAS for commercial use, you must follow the FAA’s set of operational rules (known as “Part 107”). These rules went into effect on August 29, 2016.
What is a commercial use of UAS?

Any commercial use in connection with a business, including:
• Selling photos or videos taken from a UAS.
• Using UAS to provide contract services, such as industrial equipment or safety inspections.
• Using UAS to provide professional services, such as security or telecommunications.
• Using UAS to monitor the progress of work your company is performing.
• What are some examples of commercial uses of UAS?
• Real estate, professional photography, film or television production, services for mapping or land surveys, agriculture, construction and engineering, security.

What requirements to fly commercially?
Remote Pilot requirements:
• Must be at least 16 years of age.
• Must hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of someone holding a remote pilot airman certificate (Pass Part 107 exam).
• Must pass the applicable Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting.

UAS requirements:
• Must weigh less than 55 lbs.
• Must undergo pre-flight check by remote pilot in command (You or the person supervising the operation).
• Location requirements:
• Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required Air Traffic Controller (ATC) permission.
• Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission.

If I meet all the requirements to fly commercially, what are the operating rules?
• Fly under 400 feet above ground level (AGL) or, if flying at an altitude higher than 400 feet AGL, stay within 400 feet of a structure.
• Keep the UAS in sight, either by the remote pilot in command or a visual observer.
• Fly during daylight hours or civil twilight hours with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
• Fly at or below 100 mph.
• Yield right of way to manned aircraft.
• Do not fly over people.
• Do not fly from a moving vehicle.

What is recreational use of sUAS?
• Operation of an unmanned aircraft for personal interests and enjoyment.
• Using a sUAS to take photographs for your own personal use would be considered recreational; using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation.
• Should check with the FAA for further determination as to what constitutes commercial or other non-hobby, non-recreational sUAS operations.


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OSHA Recordkeeping Standard and post-incident drug testing

I recently had a question concerning OSHA’s Recordkeeping standard with respect to employee injury reporting and discrimination by drug testing. Federal OSHA states the following:

“The rule does not prohibit drug testing of employees. It only prohibits employers from using drug testing, or the threat of drug testing, as a form of retaliation against employees who report injuries or illnesses. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and this rule would not prohibit such testing.”

Click here to read the OSHA link.

As stated by OSHA, drug testing to comply with state and federal regulations is not considered retaliatory. In addition, many companies have mandatory drug testing programs including post-incident testing. It appears the key issue is whether or not employers who perform drug testing have a consistent and documented drug testing program – not just used as a retaliatory tool discouraging employees to report injuries and illnesses.


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Race Report – 2016 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

I completed the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon with one year of training. It was a great experience. Alcatraz is an iconic race – swimming 1.5 miles in frigid waters from Alcatraz to shore; bicycling 18 miles up the steep San Francisco roads, finishing with an 8 mile run, including the infamous Equinox Sand Ladder – 400 stairs climbing up the side of Baker Beach. For the 2016 race I had two primary goals – improve my speed in bicycling and running. I made significant improvements in both and feel I came into the 2016 race in far better cardio condition as compared to 2015. Also, my goal in the swim was to lower my 2015 48 minute swim time by three minutes to 45 minutes. Two days prior to the race (Friday) I did a pre-race swim to practice my open water sighting. The currents were extremely smooth – I am confident I would have completed the swim in 40 minutes had I swam the entire course on Friday. I went into Sunday feeling very good about the swim.

My nutrition Saturday and Sunday morning was probably better than any race I’ve ever had. For Alcatraz you really need to have your nutrition nailed down – it’s not the place to get hungry midway through the race. I jumped off the boat and everything felt great – for about a minute. I immediately noticed how strong the current was – waves were coming over top of me. I fought very hard to swim towards shore before making a right-hand turn but the current was too strong. I was making progress but the waves were pulling me away from shore. I continued swimming wondering when would I finally arrive at St. Francis Yacht Club? About 5 minutes from shore I saw a jet ski pulling another athlete towards shore. I was later informed that over 25 athletes had to be rescued because of the strong currents. I finally made it to the swim exit – 17 minutes slower than my 2015 time.

My slow swim time put me significantly behind my 2015 pace. However, on the bicycle I finished two minutes and 35 seconds quicker than 2015. Onto the last leg – the run. The 2016 run course was one-half mile longer than the 2015 course. My pace was actually 43 seconds per mile quicker than 2015. I completed the race with a time of 04:10. My 2016 time was 10 minutes slower than 2015, however, the overall average time for all athletes was 20 minutes longer as compared with 2015. Race organizers stated the water was the roughest in several years. Overall, I felt good about the event – my bike and run were significantly improved and I completed a very challenging swim. Most importantly, I wasn’t injured!

Thanks to all who helped made it possible!
There are so many people to thank for supporting me on this venture! Joseph and Carolina Lepera, who not only talked me into entering Alcatraz, but housed and fed me. My triathlon coach, Emily Cocks, who developed a customized 2016 training program, answered all of my questions along the way, and frequently checked in to see how my training was progressing. Coach Pedro Ordenes, of Water World Swim, for his expertise in instructing me how to complete the swim from Alcatraz to St. Francis Yacht Club. A special thanks to all the volunteers who made this such a great event!

Attached link is Alcatraz swim. I’m wearing the orange swim cap.


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UNC Worker burned in electrical incident: January 20, 2016

On January 20, 2016 a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill employee was burned in an electrical incident and transported to the hospital. Click here for more details.

Do your electrical employees wear arc-rated clothing to protect them in the event of an electric arc? On February 12, 2016 I will be teaching a one day NFPA 70E electrical safety course that reviews the requirements for arc-rated clothing. Click here for more details.NFPA70E_02122016


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Lepera + Associates, PC renews Sponshorship agreement for 2016 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

I am very pleased to announce Lepera + Associates, PC  has agreed to renew their sponsorship agreement as I prepare for the 2016 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I completed Escape from Alcatraz in 2015 — this will be my second time entering this event.  Click here to read the full press release.


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PPD Beach 2 Battleship 70.3 Triathlon: Race Report

After completing the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, I had several people ask me about my future triathlon plans. Training for Alcatraz was a challenge – a monumental swim in the frigid San Francisco Bay, followed by an 18 mile bike ride up and down the STEEP city roads, concluding with a hilly 8 mile run – including the infamous 400 step Equinox Sand Ladder. My response to these questions was that I was taking some time off to rest, heal, and just enjoy life. Which I did – for three weeks… I began considering a half-iron distance triathlon: 70.3 miles (1.2 mile swim; 56 mile bike ride; 13.1 mile run). Living in North Carolina, several triathletes mentioned the famous Beach2Battleship (B2B) triathlon held in Wilmington, North Carolina. B2B is an iconic race. The swim takes place in a channel that is connected to the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway; so it’s a salt water swim but not in the ocean. The bike course takes competitors from Wrightsville Beach, through the northern section of Wilmington and then up towards White Lake – one of the best half iron distance bike courses on the east coast. The 13.1 mile run begins at the Wilmington Convention Center and finishes in downtown Wilmington just across the river from the historic USS North Carolina Battleship.

In mid-June, plenty of slots remained for the 70.3 There was no sense of urgency to register. However, on July 1, things changed in a hurry. I checked the B2B website at 12:00 pm and 200 slots were still open. At 4:30 pm, however, only 12 slots remained. I realized I better make a decision right now or the decision would quickly be made for me… In a rush, I registered with mere minutes to spare.

Since I was officially registered, I expected my training preparations to be completed without a hitch. Things went according to plan for two days. At the very end of my bike ride, I attempted to climb a small lip on the pavement to move over for a car that was behind me. Big mistake. My bike immediately flipped sideways throwing me towards the sidewalk. I sustained a deep bruise to my shoulder. An orthopedic surgeon advised me not to swim for three weeks. I began several weeks of physical therapy. Slowly, I began to build up my yardage in the pool. I was very concerned whether the shoulder would be capable of withstanding a 1.2 mile swim on race day.

I must state that preparing for a half-iron distance triathlon is an order of magnitude more challenging than training for Alcatraz – which was definitely a challenge in itself! With a 56 mile bike ride, my coach Emily Cocks gradually increased my bike workouts until I could ride for over 4 hours. With running, I steadily built my endurance until I was achieving 9 mile runs. About three weeks prior to B2B I was confident that I was in the shape required to complete the race.

Race day! Great weather! A thousand butterflies in my stomach. Race organizers had everything extremely well organized. My shoulder was feeling strong but I was concerned if I would injure it during the swim. No worries. The shoulder felt great during the entire swim. Upon reaching the swim exit, someone pulled off my wetsuit and off I went onto the bike leg. With a few exceptions, the B2B bike course is extremely flat. Makes biking a piece of cake – right? It’s true; when you’re riding a flat course the pedaling is easier. But, you’re pedaling all the time…And, we had a strong headwind for the first 40 miles… Finished the bike feeling strong. One more leg – a 13.1 mile run! Four miles longer than I had ever ran and after a long swim and bike ride. The run course takes you through downtown Wilmington – the spectators were simply incredible. During the run people kept repeating my name, encouraging me to continue. I wondered how they knew my name and realized my name was stenciled on my racing bib… For the first three miles, I didn’t stop at an aid station. Miles 4 – 6 I began stopping at each station. I buggered on until I reach the turnaround – halfway done! Started running and walking. Powered on for the last four miles. I made it – 70.3 miles! With a time of 07:10, I’m certainly not going to break the sound barrier (first accomplished by Chuck Yeager, a West Virginia native, by the way) but that wasn’t my goal. I was ecstatic to complete a half iron distance triathlon with less than 1.5 years of training. I want to personally thank all of the B2B volunteers and spectators who encouraged me. I can’t thank my coach Emily Cocks enough. She transcended the wildest expectations I have as an athlete by developing an incredible customized training plan and promptly answering my many training questions. The most profound statement she made at the beginning of my training was “You’ll really find out a lot about yourself preparing for a 70.3” Spoken like the oracle she is! For more specific logistics on the B2B triathlon please read the Swim Bike Mom race blog.

So, what’s next? I think I’m ready for some time off…


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Robot kills worker at Volkswagen plant (July 1, 2015)

This incident emphasizes the need to enforce safe work practices for employees entering robot cells to perform setup type activities. A risk assessment for each robot cell should be performed according to the recommendations specified in ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012: Industrial Robots and Robot Systems – Safety Requirements.

BERLIN (AP) — A robot has killed a contractor at one of Volkswagen’s production plants in Germany, the automaker said Wednesday. The man died Monday at the plant in Baunatal, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Frankfurt, VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said. The 22-year-old was part of a team that was setting up the stationary robot when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate, Hillwig said. He said initial conclusions indicate that human error was to blame, rather than a problem with the robot, which can be programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process. He said it normally operates within a confined area at the plant, grabbing auto parts and manipulating them.


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My 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon experience

My 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Experience
In June of 2014 I read an article about triathlons. I’ve been physically active all of my life so this sounded like a great way to exercise with a specific goal – completing a triathlon. Coincidentally, a triathlon was scheduled two months away at my local gym in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Also, the gym had a series of clinics scheduled for new triathletes – what luck! I told one of my best friends, Joseph Lepera from San Francisco, California, about my plans. He encouraged me and told me I would probably start doing more triathlons in the future. I said “absolutely not – I’m doing one and that’s it!” Joseph suggested I enter the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. He told me it was a difficult course (1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz Island to shore; 18 mile bike ride; 8 mile run) and hard to get into. I said “no thanks!”

A month into training, however, I was hooked! I loved how my body was responding to three functional sports – swimming, biking, and running. A month later, I completed the UNC Meadowmont Sprint Triathlon (250 yard swim, 9 mile bike ride, 5K run). I immediately signed up for a second more difficult triathlon. Believe it or not, I also decided to enter the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon! Alcatraz is a difficult triathlon to get into – I would have to enter the lottery. However, another option was attending the November 2014 Escape from Alcatraz Academy conducted by Eric Gilsenan which would automatically qualify me. In October, prior to the academy, I completed my third and longest sprint distance triathlon.

Alcatraz Escape Academy
I arrived in San Francisco the day before the Alcatraz Escape Academy. The water in the San Francisco Bay is frigid – normally around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. To help prepare for the shock, I went for a swim (in my wetsuit) in Aquatic Park. The water was frigid! My face and feet immediately went numb. But after about 2 –3 minutes my body adjusted and I felt fine. Doing a trial swim really helped me the next day. At the Academy, we did each of the three events with a break in between. We boarded a boat that took us parallel to Alcatraz. I was really nervous about the swim – strong currents and cold water. When I jumped into the water, I felt comfortable. At the end of the swim I realized I needed to become a far better swimmer to enter Escape from Alcatraz, but at the same time, it really boosted my confidence that the swim was doable. At the start of the bike ride, I met professional triathlete Emily Cocks. The 18 mile bike ride is flat for about two miles. However, the remaining 16 miles are all hills! In my experience, hills are about three times more difficult on a bike than level ground. On to the run… The eight mile run, starts like the bike ride – flat for a couple miles followed by hills. The run course has about 500 stairs including the infamous Equinox Sand Ladder at Baker Beach. Not being a good runner and nursing a hamstring injury, I struggled but completed the run.

At the end of the Academy I realized I had a LOT of training to do to successfully complete Alcatraz! However, I had seven months to prepare. I took a couple weeks off to heal and to develop a training schedule.

Training Preparations
The best decision I made was deciding to have Emily Cocks develop a customized five month training plan! Every workout outlined precisely what I needed to accomplish. I trained five days a week. Every day but one consisting of multiple activities, such as swimming/biking or biking/running. I was already in good physical condition, but after a week of training it became apparent I would need to be in MUCH better shape to complete Alcatraz. I swam three days a week starting at 5:00 am – short distances, long distances, intervals, conditioning drills, you name it. The bike workouts started at one hour per session and eventually extended to 2.5 hours. Since I was recovering from a hamstring injury, my runs initially started at 20 minutes eventually extending to 70 minutes. At first it was really difficult; it took my body a couple months to adjust to the demanding workout schedule. The Saturday morning workouts were always the longest – a long bike ride followed by a 30 minute run. In early January, I remember being totally exhausted – I didn’t know how I would ever finish the race! One day after a heavy snow storm, my gym was closed and the roads were covered with snow. I improvised by running in a paved parking lot in a shopping center. Another January day, I completed the bicycle ride when it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside. My feet were frozen, but I laced up my running shoes for a 30 minute run. Steadily, however, I got into better and better shape.

There were only two activities that ever questioned my resolve to participate in Alcatraz – bilateral breathing while swimming and the dreaded bike ride up the hill on Booth Road Drive in Chapel Hill. Bilateral breathing is important because it teaches you to breathe on both sides and increases aerobic capacity. But the first couple times I tried it, I was starving for oxygen. Within a month, however, I wondered what the fuss had been about! Alcatraz has some really STEEP hills. On every ride, I would bike up Booth Road. It’s only about 200 feet long but it’s one of the steepest hills I’ve ever climbed on my bike. After three months, I was climbing the hill twice during each bike workout.

In April (two months prior to Alcatraz), I completed an Olympic distance triathlon. This was my longest triathlon to date and gave me lots of confidence that I was close to where I needed to be for Alcatraz. I completed two more months of training with no significant injuries. On to San Francisco!

Pre-race preparations
I arrived in San Francisco on Thursday – three days prior to the Sunday race. To get acclimated to the water, I attended an evening swim clinic conducted at St. Francis Yacht Club (near the swim finish). I felt like I was on a roller coaster! The water was far choppier and colder than I recalled seven months earlier. Also, it seemed like I swallowed about half the water in the bay! I could only pray the water would be smoother on race day. On Saturday I picked up my race packet and attended a mandatory athlete meeting. I walked over to Aquatic Park and decided to swim one more time in hopes of bolstering my confidence following my lackluster swim on Thursday. As soon as I got in the water I felt great! The water was much calmer and I had a great swim. This was a much needed boost of confidence. When I went to bed I kept repeating the phrase “get to shore – get to shore!” Simple instructions…

Race day!
I’m a morning person – but waking up at 3:20 am?!? I took my bike to transition and got everything ready. Since Alcatraz has you start the race by jumping off a boat, you catch a bus from Marina Green to Pier 3 to board the boat. I ate breakfast (two baked potatoes), put on my wetsuit, and boarded the one-way boat ride. There was a lot of nervous energy from first-timers, like myself. Fortunately, I talked to a couple athletes who had completed Alcatraz multiple times and they gave me some great last minute tips. About twenty minutes before the swim, a calmness and confidence came across me. Nearly one year of training would soon be put to the test!

The swim – the hardest part is jumping off the boat…
As soon as I jumped into the Bay I relaxed and felt totally comfortable! Water temperature was nearly 60 degrees with smooth currents. I spotted my course to land from the volunteer boats in front of me as well as fellow athletes. When you swim from Alcatraz to the St. Francis Yacht Club, you don’t swim directly from point A to point B. You swim towards the shore line and make a right-hand turn as you get closer to shore. I did experience rough choppy waters a couple times. Turns out the rough Thursday swim experience was great preparation! I realized I was close to shore when I could see the Stucco roof of the St. Francis Yacht Club. Made it to shore! On to the bike ride…

The bike – hilly San Francisco
When I told my Mother I was training for Alcatraz I mentioned the hilly terrain of San Francisco. She said “just like on TV, right?” Exactly… During training, the bike ride was the leg that I feared most because of the hills. However, with all the hill climbing I did during training, I did fine. One memorable event occurred while I was climbing the hill by the Cliff House. I heard a female shout “Jon Wallace!” I wondered how Joseph’s wife Carolina managed to get several miles from Marina Green to the bike course?!? However, it turned out to be my coach Emily Cocks. She said “you’re looking great (fortunately, I was passing someone on the hill)!” I asked her what happened and she said “flat tire.” I’ve had a few myself, so I know the feeling. Last leg – the run.

The Run – almost there!
After I completed the bike ride I realized I was going to make it. Eight more miles! The run started on flat ground for about the first two miles and then I climbed some steep hills followed by about one hundred stairs. I descended onto Baker Beach for a nice run in the sand until…the Equinox Sand Ladder – 400 stairs in the side of the hill! The longest continuous set of stairs I’ve ever climbed. I grabbed the cable and pulled myself to the top. One last half-mile hill and the remaining three miles is all downhill. But not so fast – I tweaked my hamstring about 100 feet after finishing the Sand Ladder. Two people stopped to see if I was ok. Every person I met (athlete, volunteer, race coordinator) was always super friendly and helpful to me. The last three miles of the race went by in a blur.

I did it!
I crossed the finish line and a volunteer high-fived me and handed me my medal. A year of training and I completed my goal. I felt great and had fun! My friend Joseph, his wife Carolina, and their 3 month-old son Antonio met me at transition to congratulate me. With a time of 03:59:30, I certainly didn’t set any course records. I wasn’t exactly a “ball-of-fire” as my Father likes to say, but that was never my goal. Setting the goal in 2014 to finish the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon was a monumental accomplishment for me. I always say goals that don’t scare you aren’t set high enough! With less than one year of training, I completed Alcatraz and got into incredible physical condition!

Thanks to all who helped made it possible!
There are so many people to thank for supporting me on this venture! Joseph and Carolina Lepera, who not only talked me into entering Alcatraz, but housed and fed me on two different trips. Eric Gilsenan, who taught the Escape from Alcatraz Academy, and provided great race information and support. My triathlon coach, Emily Cocks, who developed an incredible training program, answered all of my questions along the way, and frequently checked in to see how my training was progressing. Coach Pedro Ordenes, of Water World Swim, for his expertise in instructing me how to complete the swim from Alcatraz to St. Francis Yacht Club. A special thanks to all the volunteers who made this such a great event! Most important of all, thanks to my parents… for having me!

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