We came across this stunning video of a utility line worker being lifted by a helicopter onto live electricity wires to perform a choreographed maintenance performance while a million volts course around his body. There are several more videos, with commentary here here and here. It’s quite an exhilarating video if you have not seen this kind of work in action before.

While watching, it’s easy to get carried away by the adrenalin that courses through your own body when you see these dangerous feats. But when the videos end and you’re delivered back to desk behind your computer, you should be reminded that these folks couldn’t do what they do without health, safety and environment professionals back at the shop. It’s a serious business as to how these two types of workers must connect on reliable technology platforms. medgate

Imagine the helicopter pilots who are bringing the line workers to their “workplace” a hundred feet above the ground. What aviation guidelines do they need to comply with, approaching the lines and hovering at altitude to safely deliver their colleague? What safety gear is necessary for the line workers? What routine maintenance is needed for their wire suits and what records are necessary? Are they recorded? Utility companies have large field workforces so managing and enhancing their productivity in view of concerns for occupational health and safety issues has become an increasingly important factor. Think of Chinese utilities where the workforce is more than 1 million people. The questions to managers are immense with these sorts of scale: How do I manage lost time in the workplace? Can I identify workforce productivity trends and costs? How can I comply with government regulations? You can understand why Safety is priority #1 for all Utilities.

In that vein we’d like to call out a partner we have not mentioned in these blogs – Medgate, an occupational health and safety solution provider that helps companies improve their working environments. We don’t know that Medgate gets involved with helicopter flight safety, but the example of the high-flying line worker provides some detail to the mind-boggling health and safety concerns of management at utilities. For every worker who does their job around electricity, in the wide range of terrains and geographic locations they operate, requires unique sets of concerns. These aren’t simple “git ’er done” assignments. Their sophistication, planning, recording and compliance with regulations go far beyond simple email discussions. You can see why safety is the number one priority at all Utilities and the workers deserve the support of well-honed, fine-tuned solution management systems. 

As example, we previously talked about how Microsoft Kinect works for Siemens PLC to choreograph timed maneuvers in radiated environments. Nothing is left to chance, and the software enabling those maintenance missions must be solid, reliable and well-integrated. The same is true for occupational health and safety (OHS) software. Medgate solutions can run in the cloud (Azure) or on-premise and Medgate counts Ontario Power Generation, DTE Energy, Xcel Energy, Washington Gas, and Duke Energy among its clients. With safety being the number one priority you can see why these companies have chosen to make the investment with Medgate to help protect their workers. – Jon C. Arnold