UI crew performs safety demonstration for Chinese task force

A United Illuminating crew demonstrates how they safely work on energized overhead wires.
A United Illuminating crew demonstrates how they safely work on energized overhead wires.

A line crew from the United Illuminating Co. (UI) recently showed a delegation of Chinese safety experts how they’re able to work safely on energized overhead wires carrying 13,800 volts of electricity.

As the Chinese safety task force looked on from across the Post Road in downtown Fairfield, the UI crew geared up in hard-hats, heavy gloves and rubber arm coverings.

Before work started, they held a brief “tailboard meeting” — a routine pre-work review of potential safety issues the crew might encounter and strategies to address them.

Line workers then ascended via the bucket truck, first covering exposed live wires with bright orange insulators to minimize the chance of contact.

They worked at a deliberate pace to mount a “power bank” — consisting of three new transformers — on the pole, in order to address a low-voltage issue that had been affecting that part of the distribution circuit.

Lines turned off for work in China

In China, such work is often performed on lines that have been de-energized, which means that customers lose service while the work is under way.

UI line workers, on the other hand, often work on energized lines, relying on specialized equipment and extensive training to protect them, said Scott Murphy, UI manager of overhead and underground power delivery.

‘Second nature’

“Safety is an integral part of our line workers’ training program, and we work year-round to keep that training fresh, until it’s second nature,” Murphy said, adding that UI line workers undergo a five-year apprenticeship, focusing heavily on safety, before they become fully qualified.

“When you’re working 45 feet off the ground on lines carrying high voltages of electricity, it’s your training that allows you to finish the job safely and go home at the end of the day,” he said. “Our line workers and supervisors understand and respect that.”

Joseph D. Thomas, UI vice president for electric system operations, added, “At UI, we take pride in our safety practices, and we’re always grateful when we have an opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with others.”

Observing safety practices in U.S.

The Chinese task force included safety officials representing a collection of governmental, industrial and utility groups who are participating in an informational tour to observe U.S. safety practices.

The visit was arranged by Terex Corp., the Westport-based manufacturer of UI’s bucket trucks, and its Massachusetts-based distributor, the James A. Kiley Co.

“With the recent expansion of the Chinese economy, the need to provide reliable energy to the businesses, hospitals and other power-critical customers becomes greater, as does the need to do hot-line work which requires the proper training, tools and work policies to do it safely,” said Jim Lohan, vice president for sales at Terex’s utilities division.

“We’re pleased to work with UI to demonstrate how this equipment can be used, in combination with rigorous training, to safely and effectively work on live electrical equipment,” said Jim Kiley, vice president of the James A. Kiley Co.

About United Illuminating

UIL Holdings Corp. serves more than 700,000 electric and natural gas utility customers in 66 communities across Connecticut and Massachusetts, with combined total assets of over $5 billion. It is the electric provider in Shelton.

Based in New Haven, UIL is the parent company of the United Illuminating Co., Southern Connecticut Gas Co., Connecticut Natural Gas Corp., and Berkshire Gas Co., each more than 100 years old. The company employs more than 1,850 people in the New England region.