Brimming with Safety
October 29, 2020
The next time you see one of our line workers or substation electricians working in the field, they’ll probably have as part of their arsenal of personal protective equipment (PPE) a new safety device that’s right at the tip of their hard hats.
New personal voltage and current detectors are currently being distributed to employees across our service territory. The device – which measures about four inches long – attaches to the brim of any standard hard hat and provides field workers with an extra layer of protection against hidden electrical threats in the field.
“We’re always looking for additional ways to protect our employees from life-changing events, and we believe the personal voltage and current detectors will help us in this effort,” said Chris McCracken, manager, FEU Safety. “It is a small piece of equipment that offers big benefits for workers.”
|A Strong Sense of Teamwork
The release of personal voltage and current detectors to FEU employees can be traced back to the Labor-Management Safety Committee, which was created to bring management and bargaining-unit employees together to jointly address safety and human performance issues across the company.
The device was originally suggested by former committee member Doug Haldi, a retired line worker leader at CEI and member of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 270. The company listened to Doug’s suggestion, then researched, piloted, tested and ultimately procured the device for employees.
“Making the voltage and current detectors available to our workforce is a direct result of the strong partnership that has been formed between FEU leadership and bargaining-unit employees to reduce exposure and improve overall safety,” said Laura Redenshek, director, FEU Safety & Human Performance. “It demonstrates what can be accomplished when people work together with the common goal of protecting their coworkers from injury.”
How Does It Work?
The voltage and current detector issues a series of alerts through flashing lights, sounds and directional information to let workers know they are approaching energized electrical equipment. It provides a 360-degree detection area and can be used in almost any work environment.
Senior Safety Representative Stan Holmes II spent 25 years as a line worker and nearly five years as a Line supervisor. He is now training field employees on how to use the new voltage and current detectors.
“Adding this device to existing PPE will be particularly useful during restoration events when live power lines could be entangled in storm debris, or when utility workers are providing mutual assistance outside of their normal service area,” said Stan. “It’s really an amazing device.”
One of the employees currently receiving training is Line Leader David Airgood. With 14 years of experience at Penn Power, David is very familiar with the PPE that line workers rely on every day to complete their jobs safely. He has been testing the sensor for a few weeks, and said he is satisfied with its performance.
“The voltage and current detector is compact and lightweight, so it’s not cumbersome when attached to a hard hat,” explained David. “You can adjust the settings of the audio and visual alerts, and the device can even detect the direction of electric current. It will not only help protect line workers when performing storm restoration work, but when working at night, as well.”
Coming to a Utility Company Near You
FirstEnergy purchased 10,000 of the voltage and current detectors earlier this year for line workers, substation electricians, engineers, hazard responders and any other employee who works around live electricity in the field. They recently were rolled out by Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company (CEI), Toledo Edison, Penn Power, Penelec, West Penn Power and Potomac Edison.
FEU Safety plans to implement the device across all of our utility companies by the end of the year as more employees complete the required training. It will be used in addition to existing PPE and will not replace any of the in-depth safety training that workers complete annually.
“Electricity is the most dangerous threat our field workers face, but it sometimes can’t be detected until it is too late,” continued Chris. “The personal voltage and current detectors will help our employees identity and minimize this threat, thereby reducing their exposure to injury.”
To watch a video that shows the device in action, visit www.safeguardequipment.com.*
* Clicking this link takes you to a website maintained by an outside party that is entirely responsible for the site’s content.