Equipping for Excellence
The photos on the walls in PSNH’s Pittsfield Training Center cafeteria are so numerous and colorful, you barely notice that there are tables and chairs, too. It’s a “wall of fame” of PSNH line crews over the years, and Glenn Couture, supervisor of Training and Methods (pictured), is proud of the fact that, though off the beaten track, the road to field worker excellence at PSNH since 2006 has gone through this small community northeast of Concord.
“Everything we do here is about safety,” Couture says. “Every class presented—physical skills or work method—is delivered in a manner to coincide with our company’s safety culture and keeping the work force safe.”
Inside the Pit
Multi-faceted training for lineworkers tasked with repairs and restoring power, and for detailed damage assessors who help speed the identification and repair of trouble spots during an outage, takes place at the former area work center. A two-bay garage serves as an all-weather learning center for everything from lineworker “hot stick” techniques to storm service restoration training. Off the garage is a room filled with recently acquired computers for centralized online training. Outside, there’s a yard of poles to climb, transformers and other line devices to identify, and wiring to safely install.
Affectionately known as “The Pit” when it first opened, the modest but well-equipped Pittsfield facility is a far cry from PSNH’s former training headquarters—a rustic two-room trailer, with no phone or running water—located in a field near Merrimack Station in Bow. “And hornets. I’ll never forget those hornets flying around while class was going on,” Couture recalls.
Recently, the Training Center helped equip a new group of detailed damage assessors, who are now part of a team of about 100 PSNH employees serving as the eyes and ears in the field during a storm restoration effort. “The training experience is crucial,” Couture emphasizes. “Partly as a result of the historic Snowtober effort, the training has become more involved and detailed than ever.” In addition to classroom training, detailed damage assessors must complete online courses ranging from safety and electricity basics to equipment identification.
First Step to the Big Yellow Truck
Pittsfield is also home-away-from-home for lineworkers in training—the crews who operate the big yellow PSNH trucks. The four-and-half-year process to first class lineworker begins typically with a six-week basic training—everything from online study to hands-on skills in operating a digger and bucket, setting a pole, and basic rigging (knot tying).
Those who pass advance to a five-day insulate/isolate school for basic training in 5 kV rubber gloving work, such as for moving live wire from one pole to another. The next step is passing a five-day live-line tool school, where candidates get familiar with the aforementioned hot stick. “Whatever a worker can do with their hands gloving, they can do with a hot stick—hoisting and splicing wire, moving phases, etc.—they learn the basic skills, and the tools are used here,” Couture explains. The final stage is passing a three-day advanced rubber gloving course, after which the employee is qualified to perform supervised 34.5 kV glove work (higher voltage lines require a higher level of protection).
And then that’s it? Hardly. Experienced lineworkers are required to take a refresher course every two years.
“There’s almost always something going on here,” Couture acknowledges, reflecting on the number of PSNH employees who have gone on to become skilled, safe workers in the field. Walking through the outdoor training area, he muses, “Sometimes, I do wish we had more space in the yard…”
But at least here, there are no hornets.