SRP lab tests safety equipment using 40,000 volts of electricity
As rubber gloves are dipped into a tank filled with more than 200 gallons of water, SRP employee Bruce Redford flips a switch and 40,000 volts of electricity surge through the water.
Tendrils of white lightning surround the gloves and light up the tank, as Redford looks on from a safe distance and nods his head, pleased with the results.
Each month, Redford and Jim Latas take in dozens of rubber gloves and blankets used by SRP workers in the field and test them to make sure they are safe to be worn.
The first batch of 12 gloves Redford tested showed no signs of distress or tiny holes that would allow electricity to pass and endanger the lives of SRP workers who wear them in the field every day.
Redford tests more than 3,500 pairs of gloves annually at his lab. His job is to ensure the integrity of the equipment worn by SRP’s qualified electrical journeymen such as lineman, electricians and relay technicians. The equipment is also used by the troubleshooting, groundwater, cable replacement and metering departments.
In addition to gloves, Redford also tests more than 1,500 blankets, which are rubber mats that are used to insulate small work areas. SRP has had a glove testing lab since 1975 in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency that oversees regulation on worker safety, and uses two large pieces of machinery to test the equipment.
After he exposes them to electricity, Redford also fills the gloves with air to detect any holes.
“We take this job very seriously. I have in my hands the lives of about 2,200 people,” Redford said.
Bret Marchese, who manages lineman crews, said the testing is crucial – for safety and their state of mind.
“The electrical testing of our rubber goods is critical to our overall safety and everyday work practices of our employees,” said Bret Marchese, manager of SRP Distribution Field Maintenance. “It also makes our lineman, and electrical journeyman in all trades, feel safe and confident in the usage of their rubber protective equipment.”
Marchese’s crews regularly perform work in and around energized and exposed lines and equipment. His crews also maintain the overhead and underground distribution for SRP.
Each glove and blanket that is tested is tracked with bar codes that record the date of the last test, and when it was first placed into the system.
Electrical work continues to be one of the top 10 most hazardous jobs, so it’s imperative SRP provides employees the proper personnel protective equipment, rubber goods, and safe work procedures to mitigate hazards each and every day.
Photos: Michael McNamara