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Transmission and Distribution high voltage line work is risky business, with hazards associated with a majority of the tasks being performed on routine and emergency jobs. In the Transmission and Distribution industry there are volumes of regulations, policies, procedures and work practices that electrical workers must adhere to, ingrain in their memories and utilize daily to not only work in a safe and productive manner but to also remain in legal compliance with those regulations.

Amongst the workers there can be confusion about procedures and regulations. Let's take OSHA for example, high voltage electric lineworkers and their companies use OSHA 1910.269 as the baseline for the development of their own internal development of work and safety procedures and ensuring that the procedures are aligned and don't conflict with OSHA. Additionally, there are state and perhaps local regulations governing work practices and procedures.

The question you must ask is "Who is writing the procedures at my company?" Typically, engineers are the primary developers and writers of work procedures, and if you're fortunate enough to have a safety department then someone there might be tasked to write the safety procedures. Actually, the best scenario is to create committees with individuals from the department who have different job skills and essential functions within the company who can bring subject matter expertise to the table when crafting procedures. However, this presents a challenge when writing procedures for the line workers, troubleshooters, electricians, network electricians etc. Getting these people to come out of the field to be on a committee is something the vast majority of them don't want to do. They would rather focus on performing their work rather than attending meetings. The other challenge is from their supervisors, will they enable these folks to actively participate in the development and writing of procedures which will require them to adjust work schedules and reallocate resources to keep the work flow going. Without the "hands-on" expertise and experience of the crafts workers, development of work and safety procedures will be difficult.

Procedures should be written such that there is a clear set of steps that are followed and not deviated from in order to perform the task safely and productively. Procedures should not be written where steps are provided in bullet points but rather numerically or alphabetically and should be consistent throughout the entire document. When writing procedures, it is important that they are in compliance with existing regulations, that training is in place if the procedures are new to the department, or that information is released and shared with the affected work group via meetings, tailboards, or other methods to ensure that the workers know the new procedures. Ideally the crafts workers will provide the real world knowledge, the safety department will provide the regulations, background, compliance issues and the dates for implementation; engineering will provide expertise on any new equipment and devices placed into the system that would require a policy or procedure development or modification. The training department will develop, facilitate and deliver training on any new procedures that require them or develop guidelines, job aids and other tools that can familiarize those affected by the new procedures. When a utility brings me on board to write policies and procedures, I request all their existing procedures, related training materials, contact information of the key individuals who revise and update procedures, the procurement person, and all individuals who are stakeholders in this process.

Ask the questions, what is the purpose of the procedure, who will be using the procedure, are there any other departments who have a similar procedure who will need to be notified of any changes that might affect their procedures and work practices? In the transmission and distribution power industry companies can and do segment their departments in order to focus on specific areas of service delivery. You have overhead transmission, overhead distribution, distribution underground, fault locating, troubleshooting, substations, network, meter and service, system operations (transmission and distribution), etc. These departments are separate however they will interact with each other on several levels and by changing a particular procedure you might impact how another department performs their work.

How do you write the procedures, and what format/template is used? It has been my experience that there are some generally accepted formats for writing procedures, here is one that I typically see.

Font - use Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, these are all good fonts, easy to read and format.
Font Size - the body of the text should be 12 point, that is standard.
Line spacing - In my opinion, 1.15 is better than 1.0, easier to read the document.
Alignment - either left or full. Left alignment means the text aligns to the left of the document in-line. Full is where the body of the text is aligned like a block, even alignment on both sides.

1st page (the title page) Header contains - name of the company and the logo, procedure title, procedure number, department, and the last update. Footer - Procedure number and page number, file name and path. Body of document is the title of the procedure.
2nd page - Header contains - name of company, department, signature page for approval, and procedure title. Footer - Procedure number and page number, file name and path.
3rd page - Header contains - Procedure number, department, Name of Procedure, etc.
4th page - Table of Contents

From here you begin to add content and assign numbers:

  1. Introduction - "These Standard Work Procedures are intended to ensure consistent and practical policies for grounding de-energized conductors and equipment as required by ..."
  2. Purpose - "Grounding is required for the protection of the worker and for system protection when working on de-energized high voltage lines or equipment."
  3. Scope - "These procedures can be used for overhead transmission conductors, equipment and devices."

After the scope of the procedure has been written you can start adding content. "How do you number the steps?" If you're using MS Word you can set it up using the numbering list, Word will format the listings, you must be careful because sometimes the numbering doesn't exactly align correctly. I recommend manually numbering everything that way you don't get frustrated when Word makes changes that you don't want. An example of numbering:

1. Requirements for Overhead Grounding

  • 1.1 General Requirements
  • 1.1.2 Applying for Clearance
  • 1.1.3 Switching
  • 1.1.4 Testing de-energized
  • 1.1.5 Signing on the clearance
  • 1.1.6 Installing grounds
  • 1.2 Step and touch potential
  • 1.2.1 Step potential
  • 1.2.2 Touch potential

As you can see there is an orderly, standardized method for procedure development and writing that you would use in your organization to maintain clarity, focus, communication, readability, etc. There are additional considerations such as approval processes, archiving, reviewing, roles and responsibilities, etc. that are necessary in order to develop, write and maintain excellent procedures for the safety of the worker and system reliability.


Maximo Fuentes has over 34 years in the Transmission and Distribution Power Industry. He has constructed, maintained, and led line crews as a foreman and line supervisor. Experience - Mr. Fuentes has been at the forefront of delivering training to utilities from power to telecom. Leading a team for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, he developed and was in charge of creating the largest service provider for training in 2000 for SBC (Southwest Bell) for their field staff to install the largest rollout of DSL.

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