2017 Research Portfolio

Environment

Program 62 - Occupational Health and Safety

Last Updated: 01-Jun-2016
Program Description

Workplace injuries affect employee health, quality of life, occupational productivity, and job satisfaction. Efforts to reduce the burden of injuries and illnesses, medical costs, and productivity losses, while helping to improve worker morale and workforce retention, are a critical part of electric power company operations. Within the electric power industry, typical risks may result from poor ergonomic design in equipment, misguided procedures, and long-term or repetitive exposure to various physical and chemical agents. Companies must develop strategies capable of protecting workers while meeting compliance with worker health and safety requirements for reliable, uninterrupted delivery of electricity to customers. Regulatory standard setting and rulemaking by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), as well as sister agencies in Canada and the European Union, influence the amount of exposure monitoring, injury prevention and training programs, and engineering controls or best practice guidelines required within the electric sector.

The Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Occupational Health and Safety program provides scientific research needed for informed decisions about control methods geared toward workplace injury and illness prevention. Products, tools, and design recommendations emerging from this research help electric power companies maintain safer, healthier work environments and control labor-related costs. The research identifies injury and illness trends, develops cost-effective ergonomic interventions and designs, and addresses critical occupational exposure issues. The program serves as the foundation for occupational health and safety–related work within the electric utility industry.

Research Value

Lost productivity and medical costs from occupational injuries significantly contribute to operational costs, reliability, and workforce retention within the electric power industry.  Scientific research provides the basis for informed health and safety practices for current and anticipated future electric utility infrastructure. This program provides the scientific research needed for informed decisions on strategies for injury prevention, safety program targets, exposure controls, regulatory compliance, and intervention and training methods.The research provides insight into future health and safety deliberations and an integrated approach for occupational planning in the electricity sector based on the integration of health, exposure, and surveillance data. If effectively integrated within the safety management systems of electric power companies, EPRI products and research results may contribute to the reduction of these effects.

Approach

This program delivers research, data, analyses, and expertise that help electric power companies effectively address occupational health and safety issues. The program transfers information, knowledge, and research results through many avenues:

  • Easy-to-read handbooks describing ergonomic interventions, best practices, and design guidelines
  • Presentations to industry, the scientific community, and regulatory agencies
  • Monthly webinar forums for discussions on recent safety research topics of interest
  • Reports and peer-reviewed literature on toxic and potentially toxic workplace exposures that provide data for regulatory guidelines and compliance
  • Annual Safety research conferences, technology R&D initiatives, and thought-leadership-driven cross-organizational collaborations
Accomplishments

The Occupational Health and Safety Program strives to produce leading edge research in several worker safety and health-related arenas.  Among the accomplishments of the past year and continuing into the coming year are the following studies:

  • Heat Stress:  Development of new measures revealing significant increases in core body temperature and associated physiological strain with various electric utility industry specific scenarios
  • Occupational Health and Safety Database:  Industry’s only detailed data source for longitudinal tracking and analysis of injury/illness surveillance data
  • Ergonomic Research:  Evaluation of ergonomic impacts and intervention on bucket control-related muscle strain/fatigue; also provides a decision tool design for EPRI ergonomic handbooks implementation
  • Occupational Exposure Database:  Utility membership database tool designed to provide industry specific sampling and exposure incidence information – for identifying constituents of concern
  • Noise Exposure Risk:  Electric utility industry specific research characterizing occupational noise environment and potential risk of worker noise-induced hearing loss and evaluating reduction measures
  • Driving Safety:  Research on recorded driving event data and its feasibility in predicting geospatial risk, i.e. “Risk Mapping” to support safety planning and driver coaching
Key Activities

The following key electric utility industry research challenges have been categorized by EPRI’s advisory team and informs a 2017 and beyond action plan:  1) Identifying and quantifying human health impacts associated with exposure to chemical, physical, and biological hazards, some of which have yet to be characterized, 2) Providing cost-effective countermeasures and intervention strategies to facilitate mitigation of workforce health and safety risks,  3)  Developing and using information integration tools for better assimilating workforce-related adverse health incidence data, 4) Establishing industry-wide safety risk management process improvement guidelines and standards and 5) Fostering a “Beyond Compliance” approach through establishment of an EPRI Safety Center of Excellence.

To date, several major areas of research have been established and expanded to characterize risks to the electric utility workforce and determine efficacy of countermeasures and intervention methods.  Program highlights include ongoing world-class applied research structured into the following project areas:

  • P62.001 - Occupational Health and Safety Database:  A unique source of detailed, comprehensive, standardized injury and illness rates and statistical analyses specifically for the electricity industry; it serves as a baseline measure of injury occurrence for the sector, enabling consistent long-term analysis, benchmarking, and anchoring of leading safety and injury prevention indicators.
  • P62.002 - Ergonomics Research:  This research identifies injury trends; characterizes new occupational human factors and ergonomics risks; and develops potential new cost-effective, end-to-end ergonomic interventions and/or designs to help ensure workers are free from disabilities when they retire.
  • P62.003 - Occupational Exposure and Health Studies:  These research studies focus on building infrastructure for exposure characterization and health impacts of temperature extremes, noise, chemical and industrial hygiene stressors, and other safety concerns (such as shift work and driving safety) within the electric utility sector to inform regulatory policy and health-protecting strategies.
Estimated 2017 Program Funding
$1.4M
Program Manager
Lovely Krishen, 865-218-8075, lkrishen@epri.com
Non-EPRI Members: Contact Program Manager - Lovely Krishen; 865-218-8075; lkrishen@epri.com
Last Updated
  • P62.001 - Occupational Health & Safety Database
    01-Jun-2016

    This surveillance project produces the Occupational Health and Safety Database (OHSD), a unique source of detailed, comprehensive, standardized injury and illness rates and statistical analyses specifically for the electricity industry. This database serves as a baseline measure of injury occurrence for the sector, enabling consistent long-term analysis, benchmarking, and anchoring of leading safety and injury prevention indicators. The OHSD provides a linkage tool for analyzing the effectiveness of injury control, safety intervention strategies, and regulatory requirements around a given reference point (sector and individual company level).

    This research will also identify key, leading indicators which can be used throughout the electricity industry to monitor and evaluate proactive injury and illness prevention efforts. By establishing common leading indicators useful data can be provided to members to establish benchmark levels of performance in prevention activities.

  • P62.002 - Ergonomic Research
    01-Jun-2016

    A long-term series of field observation, laboratory, and engineering studies has characterized the role of ergonomic factors across work tasks, resulting in process recommendation and design remedies across the sector. This project continues to mature by analyzing the translation and relative success of this science within the sector, including helping identify methods for economic evaluation and effective application. These studies will continue to identify and feed back into the development of additional ergonomic research.

    This research will also explore corollary and causal relationships between intervention strategies and actual injury performance. This will involve a detailed review of specific injury types (e.g. soft tissue, sprain and strain) and the subsequent impact of the mitigation strategies had on reducing these types of injuries. Intervention strategy specifics, implementation timelines, training and education efforts will be analyzed to show the relationships.

  • P62.003 - Occupational Exposure and Health Studies
    01-Jun-2016

    This research investigates relationships among injury and illness occurrence rates, lifestyle factors, and workplace exposures. Current issues of interest include exposure to physical (temperature extremes and noise) agents, chemical (beryllium, sulfur hexafluoride decomposition, dioxin/furan) agents as well as respiratory (silica, welding fumes, etc.) agents. Development of a comprehensive, sector-specific exposure database continues in order to better inform workplace monitoring, thereby providing significant cost savings by pooling available industrial hygiene data from participating companies.

    Exposure characterization and epidemiologic research will continue to address occupational and lifestyle factors potentially associated with injuries and illnesses, together with statistical analyses of existing occupational exposure and health information, provide further insight into causal relationships and mitigation strategies. The research will seek to develop processes members may use to successfully protect employees from exposure constituents, as well as provide proactive engineering controls which can be incorporated into operational activities reducing exposure potential.