Football season is here, and hunting season is right around the corner. That means it’s also outage season for the electric power industry.
Planned outages allow utilities to take equipment out of service for maintenance, replacement or new construction. The timing is dictated by the utility owners and the regional transmission organizations that oversee the power grid. Planned outages can last from 15 minutes to months, and they can be continuous or intermittent. Most occur late in the year because loads are lower than during the peak summer and winter months. In addition, utilities need to use up their capital budgets for the year.
The height of outage season is between Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Christmas. With the rush to perform outages as quickly as possible, they often entail 12- to 16-hour workdays and seven-day workweeks for crews. Given the pace and intensity, along with the weather conditions, the potential for injuries is significant. To combat these risks, following are a number of best practices that can be used in your organization to help keep crews safe during outage season.
Site-Specific Safety Plan
Safely performing an outage begins with the crew developing a comprehensive, site-specific safety plan that – at a minimum – addresses manpower, equipment, logistics, training and emergency response. Because planning for most outages takes months, there’s plenty of time to thoroughly address safety.
When developing the safety plan, establish how many workers will be needed to perform tasks safely and efficiently. In particular, consider work hours, because expecting workers to put in too many hours increases the risk of something going wrong on the job. Do you need 10 employees to perform 16-hour shifts seven days a week, or is it more prudent to ask 20 employees to work 10-hour shifts for five days?