In John Floyd’s experience, complacency has been the root of more accidents. As a trainer and supervisor for PEPCO and a member of the Inter Utility Substation Training Association, Floyd tells students “Safety first” in everything they do. “Always know when you are approaching a task that will put you in the line of fire,” he said.
Floyd has been a member of the Inter Utility Substation Training Association (IUSTA) since his first meeting at Mystic, Connecticut, in 2000. He will be presenting at the next meeting on Oct. 23-25, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The purpose of IUSTA is to promote increased efficiency and effectiveness of training for substation and switching personnel through the exchange of ideas and information. The scope of activities includes safety, communications, operations, maintenance, general work practices, and policies related to training.
At the most recent IUSTA conference in Tampa, Florida, Floyd had the opportunity to present an update on a project he had been involved in. “At Pepco Holdings Inc., we have four regions: Atlantic City, New Castle, Bay Region, and Pepco. The project focuses on a combined training program for all relay departments in the regions,” Floyd said. “Some of the hurdles we have to overcome: 1 the fact that there are four different unions involved; 2 different equipment; 3 the number of employees that make up the various departments.”
The association has identified the five stages of training and what subjects are related to those stages. It uses a mix of different training, classroom, hands-on on-the-job training, with performance evaluations and written tests. “We feel this gives us the best measure of performance of our trainees,” Floyd said.
“It’s no secret that all utilities have an aging workforce. We are just starting to bring in new workers to fill the gap,” Floyd said. “In a world where you think of an electrical utility as those linemen out there putting the system back after a storm, the public fails to grasp the importance of those other operations departments and workers that are repairing the equipment and maintaining the substations.”
Floyd’s main focus in his position is training, but he still has supervisor duties that include safety audits, on-call duty, and sometimes construction projects. This allows him to see firsthand if the training he presents has an impact on the employees he trains. He has always been a relay tester and in the company. Those duties have included switching out circuits, troubleshooting those circuits, as well as testing the relays and control schemes. He is also tasked with installing and maintaining the SCADA systems.
One challenge he and his team overcame well was when the microprocessor relays were first being installed. The majority of the testing had to be done using computers, and Pepco’s workforce at the time was an aging one and computer use was new to them. “We developed test stations where employees could operate and test the relays with the computers prior to installation,” Floyd said. “In the past couple of years we have started hiring new employees. The developing and presenting of the training for this new generation of testers has been an eye-opening and enjoyable time. I delight in passing on my knowledge and experiences to these young people.”
Floyd will make training interesting by playing games and using rewards. “There are versions of games that can be made in Power Point that work great as a refresher for training the courses you are presenting,” he said. He also tells students to keep a good notebook. “In our profession, there are so many relays and control schemes out there that all relay testers must have good notes on the different situations they run into. You need to document not just the connections of the relays, but also what the purpose they are trying to achieve.”
The courses Floyd presents range from Safety Compliance, Storm Second Roles, Technical Relay Training, to Basic Skills for all new employees. At the moment, he does training for many levels, from new apprentices up to lead testers. These include mostly technical courses geared to specific relays that are a mix of Electromechanical and Microprocessor relay with the theory of their application included.
He sees training as an extraordinary opportunity because he felt that he could make a difference in the quality of the employees and the work being done. Floyd’s father was an overhead lineman, and when Floyd turned 18, he encouraged him to apply at Pepco. Floyd was interviewed for the Relay Test Department. He worked his way up through the ranks and finally became a “Test Specialist.” When a supervisor position became open, he applied and was accepted.
Floyd also takes the opportunity to spend time fishing. He lives near the Chesapeake Bay and has a 26-foot Cruiser. “There is a lot of truth to that old saying, ‘Any day on the water fishing is a great day,’” he said.