“Safe by Choice” at the Merom Generating Station

EnergyLines June 2019

 

This month’s cover story connects to Hoosier Energy’s commitment to be “Safe by Choice.” The continuous improvements made to safety processes is a vital component of operations.

 

This is why employees at the Merom Generating Station have identified the need for advanced training with specific electrical equipment. New equipment will help employees gain experience while working in a safe environment.

 

Operations Training Programs Specialist Matt Figg is excited to be able to put the new equipment to use.

 

“This may be one of the times where Hoosier Energy is ahead of the (safety training) curve,” said Figg.

 

This is training that transforms employees as they increase skill and improve safety.

 

There is risk when working around electrical equipment. As employees at the Merom Generating Station face these risks, they do so as safely as they can. Having a workforce that is ‘Safe by Choice’ is why Hoosier Energy provides extensive training. This is why new equipment has been installed at the station to help employees gain experience with a variety of electric circuits.

 

When a fault occurs in a circuit, the possibility of an arc flash increases. Arc flashes can occur without warning. The energy they release can create temperatures up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit – more than three times hotter than the surface of the sun.

 

Damage to nearby equipment can occur as the heat from the arc can melt metal and cause fires. Humans in the area of an arc flash can experience severe burns, collapsed lungs from the intense pressure, or ruptured eardrums from the sound pressure of the blast.

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires electrical equipment to be de-energized before work begins. This process significantly reduces the likelihood of arc flash injuries.

 

One example of when an arc flash might occur at the Merom Generating Station is during a procedure called racking a breaker. This process is used to de-energize equipment. This is similar to flipping a breaker at a residential electric box. At a power plant, racking a breaker similarly disconnects a high voltage circuit from the source of electricity.

 

The process of racking a breaker can take place multiple times a day at a generating station. For example, if a piece of equipment requires maintenance, racking must occur to disconnect the power to the equipment so that needed repairs can be made safely.

 

The Merom Generating Station has become an industry leader in developing switchgear simulators for training. A driving force behind installing training equipment like this is the workforce being ‘Safe by Choice.’ Matt Figg, Operations Training Programs Specialist, is proud to be safety conscious.

 

“This may be one of the times where Hoosier Energy is ahead of the (safety training) curve,” said Figg.

 

While the training equipment is new, the Merom Generating Station has had zero injuries due to an arc flash. Figg says the goal is to continue to provide training and practice in a safe environment.

 

The training equipment includes a variety of voltages based on common types of switchgear used at the station.

 

 

This allows employees to gain confidence as they work on non-energized equipment.

 

Through a window on the side of the training breaker, workers can see inside equipment and watch as the disconnect occurs during racking.

 

Employees will also hear what it sounds like to rack a breaker – a sound similar to an iron gate closing. It is important that employees become accustomed to this sound so that when they are working with live equipment, they know what to expect.

 

 

Employees to be trained using this equipment include boiler house/ Flue Gas Desulfurization operators and material handlers. This training can expand to include electricians and control and instrumentation personnel as well as engineers.

 

Safety and training instructors at the station hope to begin switchgear training using the simulators later in the year.

 

 

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