On the night of Sept. 10, Columbus Line Crew Supervisor Sean Dugan responded to a report of a pole fire in Southeast Columbus. Any burning equipment would have been immediately visible in the darkness but, when Dugan arrived at the intersection, nothing was glowing. He took out his flashlight and began diligently inspecting the area but there was no evidence that anything unusual had occurred.
What he did next was the reason Dugan’s peers have voted him AEP Ohio Safety Champion for the month of November.
“I could very well have given up on it. We were pretty busy that night and it would have been a normal thing to just call it in and say, ‘Hey I checked it out but I didn’t see anything,’” Dugan said. “But I wanted to spend just a little more time before I was sure there was nothing wrong. So I decided to look around a little bit more.”
It took some time but Dugan finally spotted some charring on one of the utility poles — a safety red flag.
The extra effort paid off. Dugan didn’t know what he was looking for but, after shining his light on four nearby utility poles, he finally spotted some burn marks – a telltale red flag. After investigating, he discovered the pole grounding wire was energized – a serious safety issue.
At that point Dugan radioed for help. It was difficult to tell what was causing the energized wire because all the equipment on the pole appeared to be in good condition. So Dugan began testing each piece of equipment individually until finally identifying arrestors that needed to be replaced.
“There’s a good chance that if I had left then the entire pole could have burned in half,” he said.
One of AEP’s core safety tenets his to “Keep a Questioning Attitude,” and Dugan is being lauded for demonstrating it in spades.
“Sean made sure the scene was safe and called for additional assistance to determine the cause,” said Chris Echard, a safety and health consultant for AEP Ohio. “He didn’t quit. This is a great example of quickly recognizing a hazard and keeping himself and the public safe.”
Published December 4, 2019