Safety and Training are High on Agenda for ET&D Partnership

More ET&D Training Helps Reduce Power Line Injuries

The Electrical Transmission and Distribution Strategic Partnership focuses on enhanced safety training. For member partners, the benefits are stacking up.

Real steps are being taken to enhance the safety of power line workers who perform one of the most dangerous yet essential jobs in the country. The Electrical Transmission and Distribution Strategic Partnership, a rallying of trade associations, unions, and contractors, dedicated a week in May to nothing but safety initiatives. The event falls neatly in line with the partnership’s history of safety-focused efforts.

Since its 2004 conception between ET&D employers and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the positive results have been plentiful. Among member partners, their joint efforts yielded fewer fatalities, lower injury and illness rates, and more transmission and distribution training.

In the span of two years, more than 13,300 workers received electrical transmission and distribution training in an industry-specific OSHA 10-hour outreach program. Around the same time, almost 6,000 managers and supervisors added to their qualifications with a Supervisory Leadership Skills training course. Power line safety is a top priority, and quality workplace environments and leadership reduce some level of hazard.

Power line safety should be a steady priority, especially as gas and electric companies are making serious investments to meet growing energy needs. Between two utility companies, the Louisville Gas and Electric Company and the Kentucky Utilities Company, more than 4,000 generation, transmission, and electric and gas distribution projects occurred in the past two years. New projects, like a proposed natural gas line in the same area, require more workers. And new hires often need transmission line training or enhanced safety training to truly fit the bill.

Other eastern regions are investing in similar projects. The Local Infrastructure and Transmission Enhancement (LITE) initiative in New Jersey has completed 24 individual projects since 2011, and it’s still going strong. More than $8 million worth of LITE projects are slated for completion by the end of the year. It seems customers are seeing the benefits of improved transmission lines and upgraded equipment as power line workers see the benefits of targeted safety efforts and ET&D training.

Due to a rise in productivity from fewer workplace accidents and better-trained workers, the benefits are seeping into customer service. Skilled workers with fewer safety concerns will do a better job and create more satisfied customers.

Sounds like the ET&D Strategic Partnership has the right idea.

Work Toward Smarter Power Grid With T&D Training

The Federal government is making decisive moves toward clean, sustainable energy and biofuels, but the workforce has yet to catch up.

Last year, President Obama took action to help solve two of America’s most pressing problems: rising unemployment and the energy crisis. The accelerated construction of seven electric transmission lines that began in 2011 is expected to transform the nation’s electric system, give the public more energy choices, and create thousands of jobs.

As Cyprus discovered when one of its power plants caused the power grid to collapse and left the entire island without electricity for hours, a minor glitch at one station can unleash a chain of malfunctions at other power plants. To avoid similar outages and grid failures in the U.S.—like the cascading power failures in 2003—President Obama’s energy transmission initiative will modernize the grid to make it safer and more secure. Mid-March of this year, the president, the Department of Agriculture, and the Energy Department also agreed on significant funding to support research and development of advanced biofuels and other bio-based products. The Federal government is making decisive moves, but the workforce has yet to catch up.

Now that construction of the transmission lines is underway and new jobs are emerging, there aren’t as many skilled laborers to devour the opportunities. Smarter electric grids will help the growth of clean energy industries and biofuels, which will lead to eventual cost-savings for consumers, but a qualified workforce is the first step. Regulating and distributing electrical power via transmission lines is critical to an efficient infrastructure, and some are turning to electrical transmission training to give new hires the skillsets they need.

In fact, according to OSHA, over 3,000 workers successfully completed transmission and distribution training in 2010. Not only does T&D training give workers in need the means to fill available jobs, it helps lower the number of on-the-job accidents and fatalities. Safety procedures are a huge component of electric distribution training, with specific lessons about high-voltage line safety, electrical grounding, and other electric or construction-related hazards.

As finance and energy columnist John Kemp  writes, “the grid is only as strong as its weakest link and its capacity to react to failures once they happen.” If workers don’t have the competency to detect disturbances quickly enough, entire states and regions (or islands) can wake up to no power. New monitoring units have been installed to help identify and isolate problems on individual lines and specific zones, but the data alone will not guarantee a more secure grid. Operations and procedure will have to be improved as well, and given the lack of ready T&D skills, electric transmission training might be the solution.

One thing is for sure—President Obama can’t solve unemployment by creating highly technical jobs without considering if enough of the unemployed have the training, knowledge, or experience to meet the demand.

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