Tdworld 889 Rafferty

Patrick Rafferty: Changing our Way of Thinking

June 3, 2010
Patrick Rafferty started his career in utilities by shoveling fly ash and coal.

Patrick Rafferty started his career in utilities by shoveling fly ash and coal. A power plant had an incident and needed laborers to help clean up the spill. So Rafferty jumped right in, and from there he worked his way through the microwave crew, line crew and substation crew. Then he joined the operations department and finally moved into the engineering department. He has worked for several utilities, including Arizona Electric Power Coop, Colorado Public Service Co., Arizona Public Service Co., Texas Municipal Power Agency, and Trinity Valley Electric Coop.

Rafferty, now an instructor at the AVO Training Institute, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, said his varied experience helps in presenting his courses. He has worked for utilities both on the transmission and generation side, “with some distribution thrown in for good measure.” He has also worked in wind energy, performing switching operations from distribution to extra-high voltage.

“I have seen the industry go through its growing pains from the way we did things back then--until now, both in the field and in the regulatory realm,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty’s experience extends to the consultant side of the business, as well. He has designed substations in the United States and Canada and for various types of energy, from nuclear to wind. During the design process, he has performed arc flash studies, ground grid studies and rigid bus design.

“I have learned that our industry is a constantly changing and improving,” Rafferty said. “We need to stay current. Not only in our use of technology but in the way we think and act.”

At AVO, Rafferty teaches Protective Device Coordination, Short Circuit Analysis, Electrical Safety for Industrial Facilities, Electrical Safety for Utilities, NFPA 70E, and High Voltage Electrical Safety. Coming up on June 28 is Electrical Safety for Utilities in Dallas. The four-day course covers:

  • Electrical hazards and safety procedures for working on/around transmission, generation and distribution facility power systems
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) types and maintenance
  • Energized and de-energized work procedures
  • Temporary and permanent grounding systems and specific equipment hazards
  • Electrical safe work program elements
  • Overview of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.331-335, .269, .303-.308, .137, and .147, Industry Consensus Standard and National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) requirements for permanent system grounding

Rafferty’s goal in each course is to give students the tools necessary to perform their work safely so they can return to their family without injury. “We now have much better understanding of the hazards involved in our industry,” he said. He tells students to open their minds to new ways of thinking as the industry changes.

He has taught a variety of people and can bring all of that experience to each new class. “We serve many clients and the people I have taught represent vastly different businesses. These range from those that design, build and install motorized window shades to high-voltage utility crews and even FAA workers,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty found that he was mechanically inclined as a child as he grew up around radio equipment and antenna towers: His father was an amateur radio operation and a safety engineer with the Army. Rafferty has rebuilt engines of cars, trucks and motorcycles, then handling the body work and repainting.

“Engineering seemed like a logical choice for me,” he said. “I worked my way through college by going to school part-time while working, so it took a little longer than most, but by the grace of God, I finally graduated.”

Now Rafferty shares the grace and love of God with those around him as an ordained minister. He and his wife performed community outreach and disaster relief work during Katrina when they lived in Louisiana.

He also enjoys motorcycles. “I love to ride, which provides a complete escape from the workplace,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a full tank of gas to clear your head.”

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