‘Spring training’ underway for G&T’s maintenance crews

This spring the operative word is “training” for the 173 Tri-Staters comprising the association’s south, west and east maintenance regions that service the G&T’s vast, four-state network of transmission lines, substations and telecommunications sites.

A confined space simulator was added to this year's Competency Week training, which is ongoing through May 9.

Orchestrated by Wayne Martin, Tri-State’s training coordinator is tasked with organizing and scheduling the annual Competency Week multi-location event. This year, the program consists of a series of three-day training windows that kicked off on March 12 at the Rio Rancho, N.M., field facility and will close out on May 9 at the Montrose, Colo., maintenance center.

The training classes are conducted by a total of eight Tri-State and contracted trainers, who provide specialized instruction for each of Tri-State’s transmission, substation and telecommunications personnel. Logistically speaking, that’s no small feat considering the geography of Tri-State’s maintenance crews, which are stationed at field offices across the four-state service area.

The two-month long Competency Week program is held at three Tri-State locations. The association’s southern region maintenance crews gathered at the Rio Rancho facility March 12-14. East-side crews were split up for training in Sidney, Neb., during the weeks of March 26-28 and April 9-11. Likewise, the larger head count on the west side calls for two weeks in Montrose, Colo., starting April 23-25 and closing out the last session May 7-9. Splitting up the crews is also designed to keep some personnel available in case of system emergencies,  such as an outage.

“One challenge in planning these sessions,” explains Martin, “is that each location must be coordinated and organized individually, so there’s no ‘one size fits all’ to the planning. For example, we have two regions that requested EHS (environmental, health and safety) training, along with their annual staff meeting curriculum incorporated into their programs and one region that does not want the EHS training included,” he said.

“Even the two separate weeks scheduled at the same location are individually customized due to changes in the number of employees attending each event,” said the training coordinator. “I try to keep the size of the classrooms small to encourage interaction between employees and instructors.”

Bucket truck rescue exercises are a critical part of the maintenance training that is being held this spring in all three Tri-State regions.

The primary focus of this training is OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) compliance and refresher training to make sure Tri-State’s field personnel are fully competent in each unique craft.  Some OSHA requirements are common among all maintenance disciplines such as rigging, hoisting and load charts as well as fire extinguisher use.

Speaking of fire prevention, Tri-State’s safety department has recently acquired a firefighting simulator that provides interactive fire fighting scenarios for classroom training.

Another added learning tool for this year’s Competency Week training is a confined space simulator that allows field crews to practice rescues in very tight spaces, such as inside a vault or transformer.

Some other courses that are being conducted during this system-wide training series include aerial bucket rescues, excavation awareness, pole-top rescue, telecommunications tower rescue and self-rescues, as well as classes on proper grounding techniques.

“Each week involves a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on field exercises,” Martin said. “But, the goal of this program is to compress valuable training experience into just a few days to make the most efficient use of our employees’ time, while making a minimal intrusion on their work schedules.”

Martin credits the success of this program to the support he receives from fellow employees. “I could not do this without the tremendous support I receive from the many employees and managers that I lean on to make Competency Week the success that it has become,” he said.

 

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