Throughout North America, linemen face the same challenges in the field day in and day out. Rather than reinventing the wheel, utilities are collaborating through the non-profit Transmission Distribution Maintenance Management Association (TDMMA).
Founded in 1975, TDMMA is a specialized organization dedicated to providing access to experience, process and product testimony, training, new tools and techniques to qualified utility professionals. The group provides an information exchange forum for linemen, managers, supervisors, engineers and operations personnel who are responsible for the inspection, emergency maintenance and operation of transmission and distribution facilities and substations.
Each year, TDMMA hosts a multi-day conference consisting of a technical tour, panel discussions and open forums. Unlike other events, the conference is not sponsored by vendors, and as such, actual line professionals provide testimony without a paid membership.
The conversations also extend beyond the conference rooms. For example, those industry professionals who attend the transmission open forum share their email addresses with one another. TDMMA then creates a list-serve, which allows the members to email each other with questions about challenges they are facing in the field. Within a few days, they receive many unfiltered responses from their sisters and brothers in the trade across North America.
Educating Industry Professionals
For 2017, AltaLink and ENMAX are serving as the hosts for the event from August 27-31 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. As in past years, the conference will kick off with a technical tour of local utility facilities. For 2017, attendees will have the opportunity to tour AltaLink’s high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) converter station and attend the field operations equipment show. In addition, they will be able to tour ENMAX’s Shepherd generating station.
Following the technical tour, attendees can listen to presentations from field managers, engineers and supervisors from electric utilities throughout North America. Every year, speakers share stories about near-misses and fatalities to help share information that could help save a life at another utility. For 2017, the speakers will focus on an induction fatality, electrical contacts, equipotential zones and a 230-kV stick flashover.
Registrants will have the opportunity to sign up for a one-day registration for $350, or for $995, they can attend the full conference, technical tour and closing banquet. By attending the full event, industry professionals can earn up to 18 professional development hours.
As part of the annual tradition, TDMMA highlights major storms. The speakers then give an overview of the damage caused by the severe weather as well as best practices for power restoration. They often include a photo slideshow or video to give the attendees a sense of the conditions faced by the line crews. For 2017, the speakers will focus on two major events: Hurricane Matthew and the Fort McMurray fire.
In addition to learning about storms, the TDMMA conference attendees will also listen to presentations about major challenges. In the utility industry, the field workforce often confronts obstacles in the field. This year, the association will feature sessions on the Western Alberta transmission line build, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s 34.5-kV switch replacements and 230-kV bushing hazards.
To help the attendees to improve the productivity of their field workforce, the conference also highlights new technology in the field. For example, speakers will cover three key topics: hot rope, 69-kV automated switching and battery storage.
The conference also includes a session in which industry experts can share their stories about successes and failures. The speakers will talk about the PCB oil removal program, a 100% fall safe program and condition-based maintenance.
By bringing industry professionals together once a year, TDMMA provides an avenue for information exchange, therefore allowing companies to share best practices and overcome obstacles in the field — improving productivity and safety throughout the North American utility industry. ♦
Floyd Hardin is the executive director of the Transmission Distribution Maintenance Management Association and a construction consultant, transmission lines, for Salt River Project.
Robbie McIntosh is the manager of transmission lines - north, for AltaLink. He is also the co-host of the 2017 TDMMA conference along with Kevin Woodcock, manager of overhead, field services, ENMAX Power Corp.