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Howell-Oregon Co-op is serious about safety

Friday, August 24, 2012

Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative is very serious about electrical safety. The co-op hosted a live electric line safety demonstration on Thursday, Aug. 9, in which Pike Energy Solutions used 7,200 volts of electricity to show the dangers electric lines pose to many who work around them.

Pike used different objects, such as stuffed animals, safety gloves, and ladders, to show how electricity can travel through them and harm an individual.

Howell-Oregon personnel, area law enforcement, firefighters, highway workers, forestry professionals, and media representatives were invited to attend the demonstration. Its focus was to demonstrate the severity of injuries electrical contact can cause and, more importantly, what workers must do to avoid injury while being near high voltage.

After the demonstration, Howell-Oregon Electric CEO and General Manager, Dan Singletary, discussed projects that HOEC has in place to educate its members on safety awareness, and what HOEC does to maintain reliability for its members.

"We have a lot of things here at the cooperative that are important to us, and safety and reliability are two important areas. Safety of our personnel and members are important to us, which is why we have the safety demonstrations like we just watched," said Singletary.

All HOEC personnel are trained for every step of their job. They face book work, tests, on the job training, and additional training they must attend. HOEC has at least 12 safety meetings a year, six of those are for specific tasks. "The technology is advancing and our lineman need to be trained on how electricity is changing. We have guys here that know the parts inside and out," said Singletary.

To ensure that jobs are done efficiently and accurately and for linemen safety, tailgate meetings are a must. Every time a crew goes out, whether they go out to build a line to a new house or are turning the power back on in the middle of the night, they meet at the tailgate.

They talk about the job, what has to be done and what each lineman is going to do. The guys sign off on a piece of paper so they know what is going on.

"Safety and efficiency are very important in this line of work. I enjoy going out and watching my crews. They look like working ants because they are all doing something different and it all goes together," said Singletary.

Another safety precaution is making sure proper protective equipment (PPE) is provided for the linemen, and that they know how to use it. "The state association sends a truck down to test PPE for our workers, and they are even trained to test some of the pieces themselves," Singletary said.

"The members, our fire departments, first responders, contractors, they all need to have a general knowledge of our system. That is one reason why we hold safety meetings like we did today," said Singletary. He also stated, "We go to fire department meetings and discuss safety issues. Working together makes everything safe and efficient. We go to our area schools every year to do demonstrations to teach the hazards of electricity and safety precautions. Safety, safety, and safety."

Reliability is another area HOEC has worked hard over the years to improve for its members. Singletary said, "We have a huge dependency on electricity. We do everything possible to make outages not happen, but they will happen. Another important issue is voltage. It is important to make sure our members have the quality of service that they deserve," noting, in Missouri, cooperatives own their own power plants. "We do not have to rely on any other utility in any other state to get power to our members. We need to make sure that we have and maintain an adequate supply of power for our members. We never want to be called an 'importer of power', that is just not a good situation," said Singletary.

According to Singletary, the goal of cooperatives is to provide the lowest cost electricity they can to their members. The cooperatives of Missouri are trying our best to control the cost while protecting the environment. Over a billion dollars is spent on the environmental equipment for power plants. "Missouri has one of the lower costs of electrical rates, and then cooperatives are average to below average in Missouri, which shows that we are trying," said Singletary.

"Something new is that we now have contracts with wind farmers, that cooperative members benefit from. When the wind is blowing, we can supply over 60,000 homes with wind power. We do invest in the renewable energy on top the coal based energy, which we must have. It is reliability and quality of service is why we've got all this."

Singletary said, "We are responsible for our members. I'm proud of what I do. I've been working for Howell-Oregon Electric Co-op for 27 years and it's a great honor to be working for the members of this co-op."

A new dispatching system that HOEC has installed has improved its operations. With the new system, a dispatcher is notified if a breaker opens in a substation. The dispatcher can call a crew, who will find the problem and fix it, allowing a dispatcher to close the breaker. Dispatchers can also check voltage with the system. Another tool of the new dispatching system is a GPS tracking system in all of the cooperative's trucks, to improve efficiency and safety.

Singletary is especially proud of clearing of the right away and the engineering studies done out of the HOEC West Plains office. "Our engineer studies every one of our electric lines, looks at the loading of them and determines when a line is close to reaching its capacity," said Singletary. According to Singletary, the system has done really well with this summer's high heat conditions. Peak alerts are taken very seriously, and levels of electricity use are watched closely to determine peak alerts. Singletary said, "This summer we have not reached what our peak was last year, so we haven't had to call a peak alert."

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