Safety and its impact on Sustainability
22 January 2021
The Energy Safety Festival will take place on 28 January. This is the first time that it will be a digital edition. Another first: this is also the first time that Strukton Systems will be a partner in the festival. Ronnie Borckink, Manager at Strukton Systems, tells us all about it.
It goes without saying that safety is at the top of the agenda and work lists for everyone in the energy sector. Coming into contact with high voltage is immediately fatal. Under certain weather conditions, high voltage can be extremely dangerous even at three metres’ distance. It is for good reason that all kinds of companies in the sector come together during the Energy Safety Festival to discuss safety together and to exchange experiences. After all, we can all learn from each other and about how to do things better and more safely. This is the first year that we are joining the Festival. We may very well look like the odd man out, but that’s not the case at all. First, our railway work involves high voltage work on overhead lines. Furthermore, aside from railway work, we are doing increasingly more work under contract to customers in the energy sector.
Working safely is ingrained into our DNA. Of course, when we do work on the overhead lines, the power supply is disconnected. But the danger of collision also is a real risk in our work. There are good reasons why you are only allowed to work on the tracks and to walk on and adjacent to the tracks when all of your papers are in order and you have all of the required accreditations. Aside from this, there’s the occupational health and safety: the right personal protective equipment and approved tools.
The renovation of the high voltage substations is not progressing fast enough. We have suitable and trained staff in employ who can help
Plenty of Work
Strukton Systems is part of Strukton Rail and we do work for ProRail as well as for energy-related organisations. For example, under contract to the Transmission System Operator TenneT we are working on the Dutch high voltage grid: we are going to renovate the 110-150kV high voltage substations. These substations have become obsolete and are no longer able to accommodate the increasing demand for electricity from electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines and homes moving away from gas. So there is plenty to do! Working for TenneT requires an entirely different approach from that used for ProRail. In the latter instance, the track section on which we are working temporarily ‘belongs to us’. ProRail transfers it to us, as it were, and we make all the necessary arrangements ourselves, including safety. Once we are finished, we hand the railway line back over to ProRail. At TenneT things are different. Here we work under their strict supervision. TenneT persons responsible for the installations (PRIs) are always present when we do our work. They ensure that we do the work properly and safely.
This means that for every job we do for TenneT, a PRI needs to free up time in his/her agenda. The consequences should be clear: renovating 140 high voltage stations puts tremendous pressure on the PRIs. This is because there are not all that many PRIs, which in turn results in having so much to do in so little time. The result? The renovation of the high voltage substations is not progressing fast enough. Ultimately, this may mean that we won’t be able to switch over from grey to green power fast enough. And at the very bottom line this means that we may not be able to comply with the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement on schedule. So, as you can see, safety can affect sustainability.
Shoulders to the wheel
Although all this may sound very dramatic, I also believe that there is a solution. There are other ways in which we can expand the workforce: for example through contractors such as Strukton. We have suitable and trained staff in employ who can help. Here I would like to avoid any misunderstanding from the very beginning: we are not going to comprise on safety. This means we will have to formulate effective agreements in this area. However, we have a safety head-start in at least one area: when the PRI is one of your own colleagues, the lines are shorter. This makes things safer, because we thoroughly know each other.
I think it is a good idea to make a start on this during the Energy Safety Festival and to exchange thoughts together about this new approach or a variant thereof. I am looking forward to meeting my new ‘colleagues’.