Live-Line Work on the Jersey Shore

Early on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the Eastern Seaboard. She spanned 1,100 miles and was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Sandy’s impact was devastating, taking the lives of at least 131 people, leaving 7.5 million customers without electricity and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Answering the Call
On November 1, 2012, thousands of electric utility personnel and contractors answered the call to assist East Coast utilities with repairing damaged distribution and transmission power line infrastructure. Three U.S. Department of Energy power marketing agencies – Bonneville Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration – also participated, lending transmission crews and resources to the effort. Southwestern and Western were assigned to assist Jersey Central Power & Light, a FirstEnergy company.

Upon arrival in New Jersey, both agencies merged their transmission maintenance personnel and equipment. We communicated our combined crew capabilities to JCP&L and were then given various restoration assignments. Several of our transmission line crews were directed to repair damaged distribution circuits in JCP&L’s Union Beach district. Other transmission line crews were assigned to repair damaged 34.5-kV subtransmission circuits between Seaside Heights and Mantoloking on the barrier island. Lastly, a Southwestern/Western transmission crew was tasked with repairing damaged insulators on the energized Cookstown-to-Larrabee 230-kV transmission circuit using the live-line hot-stick method under a hot line order (HLO).

Several factors made the live-line hot-stick assignment unique for us:
• Southwestern/Western transmission crews had never jointly performed live-line hot-stick work.
• Southwestern/Western transmission crews had never performed live-line hot-stick work on an investor-owned utility transmission circuit.
• Southwestern/Western transmission crews borrowed live-line tools owned, tested and maintained by JCP&L to accomplish the work.

Clear and Consistent Guidelines
What made the assignment safe to perform was the fact that the combined Southwestern/Western transmission crew agreed on procedures that were based on live-line work guidelines developed by Western. What follows are some of the live-line procedures that helped ensure the safety of the crew:
• A supervisor was designated and assigned to be in charge of the personnel at the work site. The supervisor chosen was also the HLO supervisor. He was responsible for ensuring that the HLO perimeter provided was adequate. He was in non-work status while procedural live-line work was being performed, serving as an observer and directing all aspects of the live-line work.
• A combined crew of qualified lineworkers was selected to perform the energized work. These lineworkers were chosen on the basis of their knowledge, physical fitness and demonstrated proficiency in performing live-line transmission work on energized equipment.
• A written procedure was developed for the specific live-line work that was to be performed. The procedure specified the minimum crew size, the principal tools to be utilized and each major step in the procedure to be performed. The written procedure was reviewed and discussed among the crew during the tailgate safety meeting and prior to performing the work.
• An arc hazard analysis was performed on lines and equipment. The arc hazard analysis documented the calculated level of exposure in the form of calories per square centimeter at the work location. Additionally, the arc hazard analysis data was part of the discussion during the tailgate job hazard analysis.
• A job hazard analysis was performed to identify hazards and potential accidents associated with each step of the task. The crew then discussed solutions designed to prevent an accident from taking place. Additional topics discussed during tailgates included what was to be done and in what sequence; how it was to be done and by whom; possible hazards and how they were to be addressed; the status of energy sources; personal protective equipment; and changes in procedure and the scope of the work.
• All tools and equipment were inspected and checked to ensure they were rated for the voltage to be worked. The live-line hot sticks were confirmed to be electrically tested and were cleaned and visually inspected before use. The synthetic ropes used were checked for cleanliness and maintained in a clean, dry condition.
• Emergency rescue procedures were discussed and developed for the particular type of structure being worked on. Prior to starting work, the crews ensured the availability of proper rescue equipment and the required number of qualified climbers to facilitate quick rescue of a worker in the event of an accident.

By following agreed-upon guidelines, the combined Southwestern/Western transmission crew replaced the damaged 230-kV insulators using the live-line hot-stick method under a HLO without incident. JCP&L was able to maintain balanced load levels while keeping power flowing through its transmission grid as the damaged insulators were replaced and while distribution circuits were repaired and re-energized. Notably, because of the methods adopted by the combined crew, JCP&L was able to keep circuits energized to maintain what post-storm service still existed when so much of its infrastructure was down.

About the Author: Will Schnyer, CUSP, is a division maintenance manager for the Rocky Mountain Region of Western Area Power Administration, a power marketing agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. He is a Certified Utility Safety Professional and has more than 27 years of experience working in the electric distribution and transmission field.

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