Key Takeaways
  • Building on prior studies that identified inattentiveness as a causal factor of incidents, this article discusses research to determine whether attentiveness of electric power line installers could be increased through cognitive training exercises.

  • The authors used the sustained attention to response task (SART) to assess the effect of training.

  • Researchers observed a statistically significant beneficial effect of cognitive training on SART performance.

  • The power workers' 4-year incident histories subsequent to the study indicated safer on-the-job performance by those who had received cognitive training than for the control group. However, sampling concerns indicate the need for additional research to better evaluate the relationship between cognitive training and on-the-job incident rates.

Investigating the causal factors of electric line worker incidents is of high priority due to the decades-long record of incidents in the electric power industry. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2018), 152 electrical line installer fatalities occurred in the U.S. in 2011 through 2016. For the individual years, the fatality numbers were 26, 27, 27, 25, 26 and 21, respectively. These rates often account for the ranking of electric line installers among the most dangerous professions in the U.S. Major contributors to electric line work incidents include electrocutions, machines, tools and vehicles (BLS, 2018). Closer inspection of these contributors reveals that their antecedents consist of attentional, strategic or knowledge factors (Reason, 1997). The study presented in this article investigates the role of sustained attention as a primary contributor to electric line worker incidents.

Little research exists concerning the safety of electric power line installers and, to the authors' knowledge, no research is available regarding attentiveness as a causal factor of installer incidents. Specifically, the effect of sustained attention and vigilance (cognitive skills of immediate relevance to incident prevention for these workers) has not been examined. Past studies of cognitive-training regimens have evaluated both the effect on the trained task and transfer of training benefit to related but untrained cognitive tasks.

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