July 9 2021, 10:00 AM
Did you know that July 10 is National Lineworker Appreciation Day? In 2019, utilities and organizations across Canada united in celebration for the first-ever Lineworker Appreciation Day.
Lineworkers are heroes in our books. These dedicated men and women are part of communities in every corner of New Brunswick. They work hard to keep customers connected, often facing challenging conditions and safety hazards. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve continued to provide safe and reliable service for our customers.
To celebrate National Lineworker Appreciation Day, we’d like to introduce you to Tyler Messer, an apprentice lineworker in the St. Stephen area.
Tyler grew up a proud “country boy” in the village of McAdam. As a high school student, he wasn’t sure what type of career he’d like to pursue. That all changed in 2014, when post-tropical storm Arthur battered the Maritimes and caused about 150,000 customers to lose power in New Brunswick – including his community.
“I always knew that I wanted a hands-on job that allowed me to work outside,” Tyler said. “I saw lineworkers in my town cleaning up from the storm and rebuilding powerlines, I thought – wow, I would love to do that.”
Tyler’s final semester of high school included a co-op placement with NB Power at the St. Stephen District Office. He spent one day per week in the field with a crew, getting to see first-hand what the job was all about. It didn’t take long for him to decide that he wanted to be a lineworker, too.
After graduating from McAdam High School, he enrolled in the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) Powerline Technician program. This education involves both classroom and on-the-job training prior to graduation, and a phased block approach leading to a Red Seal designation.
Tyler was hired by NB Power as an apprentice in 2020, around the time the pandemic began. Once it was safe to do so, he did his orientation and started working with the St. Stephen team. For the past year, Tyler has been working alongside senior, experienced lineworkers. Throughout his education and work experience, safety has always been the main focus.
“The work itself is complex and very physical,” said Tyler. “It requires teamwork, problem-solving and thinking outside the box. But safety is by far the most important factor. Nothing matters than keeping everyone safe – our customers, co-workers and myself.”
Tyler says the variety of what the job entails makes every day an adventure. Helping with large-scale outages and storm response is especially rewarding.
“This is not a 9-5 job. You need to able to put your life on pause to help others,” he said. “Driving on back roads at 2 AM in winter conditions, looking out for moose and bears is a whole other experience. We never know what we’re going to be up against, but that’s what makes it so rewarding. The pride you feel when you get a customer’s power back on, it’s a rush!”
Tyler is currently working to obtain enough hours for his third block, which will involve more classroom training and testing, followed by his application for a Red Seal Certificate. He attributes the success of his first year at NB Power to his mentors and colleagues.
“The folks I get to work with are out of this world,” said Tyler. “They have been so welcoming and helpful and are always willing to answer my questions and coach me. They’re instilling in me the habits and values to have a long and safe career. Being such a close-knit group, they’re also very supportive beyond work matters, with advice on things like buying my first house. It’s a good feeling knowing they’ve got my back and are rooting for me to succeed.”
The kindness and appreciation customers show Tyler and his team inspire him to be the best he can be.
“I love chatting with people when we’re working around their home or business. Understanding the impact our work can have on their lives is what keeps me going. The icing on the cake is seeing my little niece jump up and down with pride to see ‘Uncle Tyler’ in the big truck,” he said. “There’s no better feeling than driving through my hometown, knowing I’m there to help my friends and neighbours.”
May 19 2021, 10:00 AM
For many New Brunswickers, the Victoria Day weekend means it’s time to enjoy the outdoors and finally tackle the long checklist of things to do around the house, yard or cottage. Whether you are just headed out to do a little work in the garden or are off to take on more ambitious outdoor projects, it’s important to keep safety top of mind. Most of us think that we know enough about electricity to stay safe. After all, we are surrounded by it and use it everyday. However, each year people are injured and millions of dollars in property damage are caused by electrical hazards that could have been avoided.
This weekend, follow the tips below to help protect you, your family and your home from harm;
Working around power lines:
Look up! Check the surrounding area to ensure that you will not accidentally come in contact with overhead power lines. Remember minimum safe distances of approach:
- Up to 750 volts - 0.9 metres (3 feet)
- 750 to 100 kilovolts - 3.6 metres (12 feet)
- 101 to 250 kv - 5.2 metres (17 feet)
- 251 to 345 kv - 6.1 metres (20 feet)
Look down! Some power lines are buried as little as one foot underground. Don't take a chance. Be sure you know where power lines are located before digging to install a fence, plant a tree or dig holes.
To ensure you have all the information you need before starting your project, call NB Power at 1 800 663-6272. We can:
- Mark underground lines
- De-energize and insulate overhead lines
- Raise overhead lines
- Provide warning signs for hazardous areas
Planning on using some tools this weekend? Make sure you do it safely.
- If you haven’t used your electric tools all winter, inspect them for damage to cords, plugs and wiring. If required, take the tool to a qualified professional for repair.
- Protect yourself from injury. Turn the electric tool off, unplug it and put it in the “lock” position when carrying or connecting attachments such as mower baskets or saw blades.
- When working outdoors, use only weather-resistant heavy gauge extension cords marked “for outdoor use.” These weather resistant cords have added safeguards designed to withstand the outdoor environment.
- Never leave electric tools unattended where children or other unqualified adults can misuse them.
NB Power always advises leaving tree trimming to the professionals, particularly when the tree and its limbs are anywhere near a power line.
But if you do plan to do some trimming, here are some safety reminders:
- Make sure your ladder or pole doesn’t come within the safe minimum distance to a power line – it doesn’t even have to touch the line, if electrical arcing occurs, you could still be in danger.
- Use fiberglass ladders outdoors; metal or wooden ladders can conduct electricity.
- Do not climb with tools in your hands and be sure to wear safety equipment at all times.
- Do not trim trees in dangerous weather conditions.
Be smart, be safe, stay out of danger!
March 29 2021, 10:00 AM
We know how difficult it can be when your power is out. That’s why we continue to look at ways to improve our processes so we can be there for our customers when they need us the most.
NB Power is responsible for making sure customers have the power they need when they need it, in good weather and bad. We take this responsibility very seriously. With more than 20,000 km of distribution lines and close to 7,000 km of transmission lines, our electricity infrastructure covers a vast expanse of terrain.
Our province and our infrastructure is increasingly subject to severe weather brought on by climate change. Hurricanes, ice storms and two of the worst floods in the past 50 years are some of the extreme weather events that New Brunswick has faced in the past decade. As storms become more intense and cause major disruptions in many parts of the province, NB Power’s storm preparedness effort, conducted in collaboration with partners, has taken on greater significance and urgency.
Every year, we collaborate with the province’s Emergency Measures Organization, the Canadian Red Cross, and other partners, to emphasize the importance of being ready for storms for New Brunswickers. This approach is considered a best practice and aligns with provincial and federal agencies who adopted the integrated emergency response model.
We also have an Emergency Response Plan in place. This plan helps to ensure consistent preparedness, response, communications, and recovery practices across our entire organization. This approach in any emergency response is effective, efficient and ensures the safety of customers, employees, contractors, and the public.
Our Emergency Planning Management team is centralized for proactive decision-making and strategic planning ahead of, and during, an event. For each event, we set up local centres in affected regions to monitor outages, realign crews and reduce restoration wait times for customers.
Vegetation management is also an essential part of reliability efforts: pruning trees, removing brush, and clearing power lines help keep them free to deliver safe, reliable electricity. In the last fiscal year, we invested $5.8 million in inspecting and clearing over 1,200 km of distribution lines. We invested a further $4.4 million inspecting over 2,300 km of transmission right of ways and subsequently treating approximately 1,400 kms of those right of ways. In addition, we invested over $62 million in our transmission rebuild program, completing several life extension and storm hardening projects.
Our annual maintenance program also helps identify and respond to issues. 20 per cent of our utility poles are inspected annually, as part of a five-year cycle. A maintenance plan is established for aging poles, and our field crews perform the work to maintain the safe operation of our electrical grid. Every spring a system review of power quality is performed to establish short and long-term goals for our power supply equipment. From the reviews, NB Power then establishes a detailed plan for the following year.
These are just some of the things we do to provide electricity safely, in good weather and bad, for all New Brunswickers.
March 22 2021, 09:15 AM
The best part of Geoff Cowan’s job is getting to spend time outside in his community.
Geoff is a Lead Meter Reader for the Moncton area. He leads a team of employees who take readings of energy consumption on meters as well as installing new meters and doing service and inspections.
The Riverview native joined the NB Power team in 2005 after completing a Bachelor of Business Administration at UNB. After marrying his college sweetheart, Geoff was excited to start a career that included lots of fresh air and opportunities to learn and grow.
Within urban centres in the province, most residential meters are read with radio frequency devices, which involves an employee traveling through neighbourhoods with a device to gather data from the street. When you get to the suburbs and more rural locations in New Brunswick, we manually read meters up close.
What might sound like a simple task can be complicated by things like locked gates, untethered dogs or construction projects that make it difficult or impossible to get to the meter.
NB Power has started taking inventory of access to residential and business meters and will be working with customers to remove barriers to easy access. This will improve safety and bill accuracy and support routine maintenance and inspections of equipment.
One of the issues Geoff and his team encounter is propane tanks too close to meters. It’s a little-known fact that national safety standards require at least 10 feet between electrical meters and fuel sources.
But Geoff says the biggest challenge for meter readers happens in our long New Brunswick winters.
“It’s not uncommon for our staff to spend hours of their day wading through deep snow to get to meters,” says Geoff. “It’s a really intense workout plus, it’s like walking around blindfolded. You can’t see the hazards lurking under the snow and ice. We have to be very careful not to get injured in the field.”
Geoff says that he always goes out of his way to thank customers who take the time to clear snow and ice to make it safer for him to get to the meter.
“It’s a small gesture that sends a big message,” said Geoff. “I find that many customers haven’t considered doing it and once they do remove the snow and see how much it can help us, they’re happy to help!”
To learn how to make sure your meter is safe and accessible, visit our Meter Safety page.
March 11 2021, 09:37 AM
Did you know that March is National Engineering Month? Throughout our province, NB Power employs more than 350 engineers. These hardworking employees work in our generating facilities and offices, on our distribution and transmission infrastructure and in the field around your communities.
From analyzing the core of a nuclear reactor to helping to develop a new transmission line, engineering at NB Power provides a diverse and exciting career path.
René Paulin is one of two Mechanical Engineers at the Belledune Generating Station, a coal plant in the northern part of the province.
After growing up in Petit-Rocher, René completed a Mechanical Engineering degree at Université de Moncton. During his studies, he worked at Belledune as a summer student and got a taste of what it’s like working in a power plant. After gaining some hands-on job experience after graduation, René accepted an engineering position at NB Power in 2008.
A key member of the operating team for the past decade, René’s days are filled with inspections, problem solving and developing recommendations for the maintenance team to keep the station operating safely and reliably.
The engineering team at Belledune also takes care of work in other locations, such as our Millbank and Ste. Rose combustion units, Nepisiguit Falls hydro station and the Eel River High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) converter station. This means their knowledge covers multiple facilities and types of generation– each presenting its own challenges.
“Each day is an adventure, and I am fortunate to be able to learn more with every job,” said René. “I really enjoy finding solutions to complex problems – that’s why I became an engineer. My role allows me to work on many different types of equipment and systems, which means lots of variety and interesting work.”
Bernard Roy, Station Manager for Belledune (and fellow engineer!), says that engineers like René have the unique opportunity to learn about different parts of the provincial power grid.
“In French, we would say staff like René are “polyvalent” – which basically means he’s well rounded, and nimble to respond to anything that comes up,” said Bernard. “Our engineers work closely with maintenance teams, work planners and management to help keep all of our assets operating safely and reliably.”
René and his wife live in Bathurst with their two sons. When he’s not working, his family spends a lot of time at local rinks for hockey, and René coaches his sons’ teams. Some of his engineering skills like troubleshooting, time management and collaboration are as handy on the ice as they are at work.
So what’s the best part about being an engineer at NB Power according to René?
“I am fortunate to work alongside some wonderful New Brunswickers,” he said. “The knowledge and talent of my co-workers is second to none. We’re all working together to make sure New Brunswick communities can count on reliable energy to power their homes and businesses.”