It should not come as a surprise, but so much of this industry is about its people. Depending upon what you do in your line of work, there are likely to be colleagues, customers, manufacturers, and, if you’re really lucky, a select group of people whom you’ve gotten to know over the years who regularly come together to serve a higher purpose for the industry — keeping all of our workers safe.
I count myself as one of the lucky ones who had a colleague suggest that I go to the IEEE PES General Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., back in 2008. There, I found a bunch of welcoming faces who started me down a path of volunteering for the good of the industry. At the time, I was in the transmission line construction and maintenance department at the local utility, so I set up an itinerary for the week, focused on overhead line safety and maintenance practices. About
halfway through the first day, I realized that almost everyone in the meeting room had a similar itinerary and almost everyone was a member of the Engineering Safety Maintenance of Overhead Lines (ESMOL) subcommittee.
If you’re unfamiliar with ESMOL, it is an IEEE Power & Energy Society Transmission & Distribution subcommittee dedicated to writing safety standards and work practice guides and papers covering a wide range of topics including, among others, live-line maintenance, worker fall protection and personal protective grounding.
I joined the ESMOL subcommittee at that meeting and became one of the regulars at their working meetings held twice a year. Early expectations were simply to walk away from these meetings with one or two new ideas for work practice and safety improvements. But there was something really special about everyone in the room freely sharing information and experiences that it quickly morphed into an opportunity to do more than just take information away from the meeting. Rather, there was an opportunity to bring the safety procedures and work practices that our crews were using into the discussion to get feedback and see how they stacked up against what others in the industry were doing.
I couldn’t help but feel grateful for this newfound network of diverse experts — engineers, line mechanics and safety professionals — all coming together with the goal of keeping our workers safe through the creation of comprehensive standards, guides and papers.
Decades earlier, ESMOL subcommittee leaders recognized that it was critical for workers to actually see the work procedures demonstrated in a controlled environment. So in the mid-1970s, they decided to start up a conference that would showcase the industry’s innovations in a way never done before. As a nod to the subcommittee, they named it the ESMO conference and organized the first one in Montreal in 1976. To date, the industry has come together at the ESMO conference a total of 13 times, most recently in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., in 2016, with American Electric Power (AEP) as the host utility partner.
I’m excited to announce that AEP is continuing its partnership with the IEEE and ESMOL to bring the industry together for the largest outdoor power-delivery event in 2019: Global ESMO 2019 — the IEEE’s 14th International Conference on T&D Construction, Operation & Live-Line Maintenance.The ESMO 2019 local organizing committee has been hard at work over the past year preparing for the June 2019 conference, contracting with local venues and lining up panel sessions and speakers on topics of interest. To ensure we’ve got everything covered, we’ve even brought exhibitors who participated in 2016 conference into the local organizing committee. The outdoor demonstration venue is already in great condition with dedicated transmission line, distribution and substation areas, and is all set to bring the action right to you. As I’ve said to several prospective attendees and exhibitors over the past few months, you are either going to be thrilled that you attended the conference or you’re going to be upset that you missed it.
Over the years, I’ve worked side by side with overhead line mechanics, arborists, supervisors, and more recently, underground line construction and maintenance crews. And not much gets me more excited than a well-planned and executed project that keeps safety at the front of everyone’s mind. We work in an industry with a fair amount of inherent risk, and the only acceptable way to go home at the end of each day is healthy and completely intact.
That end game becomes easier to attain when everyone comes together with safety as a mission. It’s what drives the ESMOL subcommittee in its efforts, it’s what drives the ESMO 2019 local organizing committee, and it’s what is front and center in my day-to-day life. The strength and resiliency of our industry will always be in its people coming together. With that, I look forward to seeing you next year in Columbus at ESMO 2019.