Larry Flemming is our Quality Control & Maintenance Planner at Battle River Power Coop (BRPC). Larry has been with BRPC for 13 years and was hired as a General Foreman. Before BRPC, Larry worked for 36 years in the utility industry. Larry is a highly qualified member of our team, being a Journeyman Power Lineman (1977), Journeyman Power System Electrician (1986), and most recently a Safety Codes Officer (2018). He has shared with us his experience of being a 49-year veteran in the utility field:
How has your roles with BRPC changed since you joined?
I have held several positions with BRPC. Funny enough, I never actually worked in the position I was hired for. The job description changed from hiring to start date. I managed Construction and Vegetation Control before it was split into separate departments. I initiated separating them and hiring our own people initially to do the brushing permissions and presented the case for doing some of our own work. I managed construction (at one time three, four-man crews plus contractors), which included hiring people for crews. I helped hire at least six of our current field staff. And I have also managed the inventory for BRPC.
As a Quality Control & Maintenance Planner, what are your responsibilities?
The position has changed a lot, and currently I mostly work with the pole test crews and data to recommend which poles to replace in our system.
Quality Control and Safety Codes Inspections involves checking the work done by BRPC personnel as well as contractors we have hired to ensure it meets Provincial and Battle River Standards. The Inspection reports are reviewed by Municipal Affairs. Brenda Bone, one of our Project Administrators, has been the main support in working with Municipal Affairs and the Safety Codes Council
Is the role primarily office or field based?
I would say about 50/50. It depends somewhat on the size of jobs being inspected. The larger jobs mean more field time.
What would a typical day look like?
I get to the office before 7:00am, open the shop, make coffee, and check e-mails. A normal day has me meeting with BRPC System Planning & Engineering Manager, Kevin, and Operations Manager, Curtis, to see if anything has come up that they need me to help with. After that, I plan inspections and other work to be as efficient as possible for scheduling when to visit locations.
Biggest challenges (then and now) facing a Quality Control & Maintenance Planner? We are lucky to have people, both our staff and contractors, that have a professional attitude toward the work they do. This takes a lot of the challenges out of inspections. The weather can be very detrimental and causes a lot of rescheduling of inspections.
What would make the job of a Quality Control & Maintenance Planner easier? Provincial Standards don’t always seem to keep up with reality. farm and other equipment have become larger, but our lines and pole size have not changed over the years. Some jobs may be considered up to code could still result in a hazard. Changing Regulations and Standards can be a complicated process due to all the different interests that need to be addressed.
What changes have you seen in the utility industry since you started in the industry? Safety has been a major change. Powerline Technicians used to free-climb with no harness and no belting until you reached the position you were working from. Today belting is mandatory, and technicians must be belted in with fall restriction anytime they are 10+ feet above the ground. Grounding the line was a personal decision and for today it is industry standard to ground a line. Even clothing for Powerline Technicians has changed. Now, workers need fire retardant and high visibility clothing.
Equipment has also changed throughout the utility industry. Radial arm diggers have replaced bar and spoon and the old derrick type diggers. There are bucket trucks and Powerline Technicians deal with more live line work.
Education has come a long way for Powerline Technicians. Very few Powerline Technicians had any formal training in the early 1970s; now most have gone through or are in the process of apprenticeship training programs.