Tri-State training team focuses on once-a-year event

When it comes to completing the necessary tasks of home and work life, there are a couple of different approaches.  One is to address them one at a time, as they come up; another is to take a proactive, ‘bring it on’ attitude and get them all knocked out at once.  Thus was born “Hell Week.”  It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Hell Week is the brainchild of Tri-State’s training department, and its goal is to update employees on their annual certifications required by both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Tri-State during a concentrated, once-a-year event.  Approximately 200 lineman, substation technicians and telecommunications technicians will be trained at one of six different Hell Week events scheduled over the next four months at Tri-State’s field facilities.

Not surprisingly, coordinating such a program is no easy task.  Leading the charge is Wayne Martin, Tri-State’s training coordinator.  Martin joined Tri-State late last summer after three years with Xcel Energy, where he was a supervisor in their electric trouble department for downtown Denver.  Prior to that, he worked for 20 years at Progress Energy in South Carolina.

Hell Week has been on his radar since day one, with detailed coordination tasks for the events coming at him non-stop for the past month.  “My theory behind the name is because I’m catching a lot of hell,” jokes Martin.

When it comes to scheduling and coordinating equipment, people, facilities and meals for more than 200 folks, Martin says that keeping ahead of the game is the key to success, since one seemingly small change affects the entire schedule.

The irony is not lost in the fact that convenience and efficiency were two of the main motivators for the concept of Hell Week.  In the past, a single staff member has conducted the training in bits and pieces over the course of an entire year.  “Our goal is to be efficient and effective with minimal impact on our workforce,” said Martin.  “At least that’s our hope.”

By completing the required continuing education and re-certifications essentially in one fell swoop, Tri-State’s training team aims to decrease the time that employees are off the job and lessen their burden of ongoing and ever-looming training sessions.

“This is the most organized it’s been.  It’s more formal.  We like getting it out of the way around the first of the year,” said Greg Huus, who works on the electrical side of project field support and is based in Sidney, Neb.  “I like how these guys have done it, all the little details in one package.”

Ten different instructors from Tri-State, Western Area Power Administration and the CDL College for defensive truck driving are leading the events of each Hell Week, with 15 support staff from Tri-State involved as well.  “I appreciate the support and can-do spirit of everyone involved, as well as the safety and training department working together to achieve one common goal – having the safest and most well trained workforce possible,” said Martin.

Each week involves a combination of classroom instruction and a variety of hands-on training.  The diverse and in-depth training and recertification sessions include skid steer operation, CPR, rigging, defensive driving, excavations, pole top rescue and much more. 

“If they like it, we’ll do it again next year,” said Marty Burrier, telecom training specialist.

The first week of Hell Week training and re-certification events kicked off in mid-February and the schedule will continue into early May.

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