Essential Energy’s field crew take a leading role driving innovation, efficiency, and safety outcomes within the business. Recently, two new initiatives have been delivered that are paying dividends for employees right across the organisation.

Digitising safety assessments

Safety is Essential Energy’s number one priority. As the business has evolved over the years and decades, so have its safety procedures.

Recently, the business implemented an electronic on-site Hazard Identification Risk Assessment Control (HIRAC). Until recently, completing the HIRAC – a key requirement for Essential Energy’s teams and an integral component of its corporate safety system – meant filling out one of twelve paper forms, depending on the task at hand, and involved field crews having to address up to 200 tick boxes on any given form.

HIRACs were completed in large books that were carried around in work vehicles and stored in dozens of filing cabinets across depots.

Initiative Lead, Matt Lassau, said, “As part of the company-wide transformation program, leaders and end-users identified that redesigning the HIRAC presented an opportunity to improve processes and safety engagement.

“From the outset, we understood that as important an enabler technology is, without addressing human behaviours and mindset, we would not achieve greater safety maturity.”

The reimagined HIRAC is an interactive, engaging, and paperless tool that supports field teams to hold more collaborative team conversations and complete better quality onsite safety risk assessments on every worksite.

Fully developed in-house, the user-centric design maximises the benefits of mobile technology and allows Essential Energy’s field crews to drag-and-drop identified risks, interact with asset maps, markup images, and use talk-to-text functionality.

Moving to the new digital HIRAC is driving improvements across Essential Energy’s business in a variety of ways including:

• Making safety data available in real-time to build shared understandings and support improved safety outcomes

• Shifting from being a compliance-based activity (‘tick and flick’) to one that enables individuals and teams to focus on what matters

• Supporting individuals to stop,  think, assess, and re-assess rather than being constrained by a prescriptive and rigid document

Thought Leadership, information sharing, and two-way feedback loops offered by the digital HIRAC, will undoubtedly have a positive impact on Essential Energy’s goal of keeping their people and customers safe.

Simulating switching in a safe place

Working in a high-risk environment, Essential Energy’s employees are continually updating their hands-on learning and professional development.

One of its in-house training leaders was inspired to initiate a program to construct a switching simulator. The pilot was so successful that a further two simulators are planned or under construction in southern and western NSW, to enable all of Essential Energy’s crew to access this training.

Static and mobile network or switching simulators provide a safe, reliable and realistic learning environment which replicates the network configurations.

It allows crews to link directly to system operations through Power On Mobile (POM), leveraging off digital technology utilised in the field. This first simulator was commissioned at Rocks Ferry, NSW and is delivering a high standard of training outcomes for crews on the Mid-North Coast.

The simulator delivers a realistic user experience while allowing crews to train in a safe and controlled environment. Essential Energy has a strong focus on improving reliability for customers while keeping downward pressure on network charges.

A screenshot showing the first step of Essential Energy’s innovative new digital HIRAC.

The construction and implementation of a simulated network supports that focus by enabling risks to the network and the risk of disruption to customers to be minimised, while at the same time providing crews with realistic training in switching and communications procedures.

Essential Energy has plans to launch two additional simulators across the network in addition to the first at Rocks Ferry – one at Parkes, and one at Wagga Wagga, to bring this training opportunity to all crew across its footprint. The simulator at Parkes is nearing completion.

Andrew Hinchcliffe, Technical Training Manager, said, “We have over 1,100 authorised operators switching our overhead, underground and Zone substation devices.

“Switching is a high-risk task and the network simulator projects reflect the investment in the ongoing competence of our staff. They are amazing training facilities which provide all-weather access and exposure to all three network scenarios, helping our operators build and maintain the high levels of expertise required to keep the lights on for our customers.”

Static simulators are already paying dividends for Essential Energy’s crew, and have the potential to be utilised further by the business.

The business’ training team is currently investigating the feasibility of including the simulators in apprentice training programs.

“Advances to our award-winning apprenticeship program are another dividend from this great initiative, which was initiated by our field staff,” Mr Hinchcliffe said.

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