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Kansas Municipal Utilities Completes Another Successful Distribution Overhead Workshop

October 26, 2021

by APPA News
October 26, 2021

Kansas Municipal Utilities (KMU) earlier this month completed another successful Electric Distribution Overhead Workshop, which offers training sessions on overhead installation, construction, maintenance requirements and techniques and provides attendees with the opportunity to practice these job tasks in a simulated energized environment.

Brian Meek, KMU’s Director of Training and Safety, noted that the 36-acre KMU training field contains an example of almost every situation encountered in the real world.

Trainees work in crews that are assembled from multiple different utilities. “The multi-utility crew composition forces trainees to hone their communication skills and adapt to the different work practices that are performed by different municipalities,” he said. The workshop is designed to offer training for all experience levels of lineworkers, from apprentice to crew leader. The workshop is taught primarily by journey lineman from across Kansas.

This year’s workshop kicked off with a simulated mutual aid event, Meek noted. Prior to trainee arrival, the field was prepped to simulate a tornado touchdown. Poles were cut down or pushed over, crossarms were broken, lines were cut, and insulators were damaged.

When the trainees arrived, they were given a class on mutual aid response followed by a briefing of the potential damage in the field. After the briefing, the trainees formed their work crews with their instructors and had to access and repair the damage within 3 hours. This exercise also required multi-crew coordination to ensure that everyone could accomplish their tasks safely.

Throughout the workshop, apprentices in the KMU Lineworker apprenticeship program complete required program skill evaluations and participate in hurt man rescue exercises, Meek said.

Meanwhile, Meek detailed how the 2021 KMU Electric Distribution Overhead Workshop that wrapped up on October 1 was a success.

“During our workshops we ensure that safety is the top priority,” he said. “The number one success for the workshop is that no one was injured during their training,” Meek noted.

“Building on that success, a large number of apprentices were able to perform activities that they have never completed before. By completing these tasks in a real-world situation but with the absence of the electrical hazard, the trainees can make mistakes without deadly consequences.”

This practice time improves their skills to ensure the work can be completed safely when they return to their municipalities, Meek said.

“Lastly, networking is one of the most commonly overlooked benefits of the workshop. Trainees leave the facility with the contact information for other lineman in neighboring utilities. The relationships they build during the workshop spill over into their regular work lives. When they have questions or need help, they call their classmates for help. Most workshop attendees say that the networks they build during the classes provide invaluable benefits.” 

Meek noted that this year marked the 10th year for the workshop. “When the workshop began there was no training center and no poles, just an open field. As time went on and the amount of poles and simulated circuits grew, we were able to get more complex in our offerings,” he said.

“Two years ago, we modified the workshop significantly. In the first eight years, trainees would spend a set amount of time at a ‘training station’ learning one aspect. They would then rotate stations after a set amount of time. The workshop was modified to create work crews and allow the crews to work an actual job from start to finish during the week.”

This format incorporates all of the aspects that were taught in the stations, but in a more real-world and comprehensive setting, Meek noted. “Last year we added the mutual aid component discussed earlier. All of these evolutions have occurred based on the input of the trainees and the instructors. I believe this is why the workshop continues to grow. This year we had a record number of participants (59) and were at capacity for the number of instructors we had.”

The Electric Distribution Overhead Workshop takes place at KMU’s Training Center in McPherson, Kansas.

“We have a large number of training events at our facility each year,” Meek noted. “In addition to the Overhead Workshop we offer an Underground Electric Distribution Workshop, Transformer Connections Workshop, Power Plant Operator Workshop, Watt-Hour Metering School, Substation Workshop, T&D Switching Workshop, multiple Leadership Seminars, a CDL workshop, multiple Utility Locate Certification Workshops, Gas Pipeline Operator Workshop, multiple Mobile Crane Certification Workshops, and a variety of water and wastewater classes.”

In 2022, “we will be expanding our workshop offerings to include heavy equipment workshops,” he said.

In addition to the workshops, “we also host our lineworker apprenticeship training program. This program has grown to over 70 apprentices.”

Colin Hansen, who is currently Executive Director of Kansas Municipal Utilities (KMU), is the chair of the American Public Power Association’s Board of Directors.

It was recently announced that Hansen will be joining Kansas Power Pool (KPP) effective Feb. 1, 2022 as KPP’s new CEO and General Manager.