Testing, commissioning, and connecting wires

Date: 
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keeping up with technological advances is a big part of Chase Kubossek’s work as a member of Electrical Workers Local 213. “I enjoy what I do,” he said, while testing and commissioning a massive seven-section high voltage switchgear. “But I still have to connect wires.” 

Electrical power will come in at 15 kV and the transformer will step it down to 6.6 kV, the 30-year-old electrician explained. A dual cable feeds the system. Some of the components came from the U.S., but the units and wiring cells were assembled in Richmond, and the components were tested in Surrey. Testing has to meet the standards of the North American National Electrical Testing Association.

Modular switchgear like this is highly adaptable. It has numerous commercial, industrial, and marine applications. Switchgear is designed to interrupt short-circuit and overload fault currents while maintaining service to unaffected circuits as well as isolate circuits from power supplies.

Safety is the big concern. “It’s manufactured for 25 kV but we test for 42 kV,” Kubossek said. 

Since the introduction of electricity generation, apprentices have been taught “the non-dominant hand rule,” said Mandeep Saggu, the dispatcher for Local 213. To avoid having technicians standing in harm’s way right in the front of the panel, they’re taught to make adjustments with their less dominant hand and make sure they’re off to the side so they can move to safety as quickly as possible. 

But that rule wouldn’t provide any protection for electricians working on such high voltage equipment as this switchgear. 

The industry is always evolving. Saggu said that up until the 1970s, controls were pneumatic, using hoses and air. But over time, the industry switched to electric. Now, with the advent of Wifi and Bluetooth technology, the industry is turning to remote operating systems. Technicians are able to work at a distance, even offsite and from their cars using apps on their smart phones. 

“You can see the draw on all the gear,” Kubossek said, “and make sure the power is at the right range.” Technicians looking after various sections are able to talk to each other over the network from different cities and countries. “We can open and close breakers if we see a problem.” 

Kubossek works on new systems and retrofits and does preventative maintenance on older electrical distribution equipment to ensure operation within the 30-year life expectancy. 

He joined Local 213 right out of high school. Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School in Surrey offered introductions to a number of trades and he tried a couple before deciding to get his firstyear apprenticeship as an electrician. 

“I’m a very technical person,” he said. “I like building things. I’m hands on.”

Saggu said, “Chase is an example of what the IBEW sees as a successful member. He’s instilling the reputation of the IBEW.”

Kubossek said the deciding factor for joining the union was all the support that was promised and delivered to apprentices. Not only was the cost of training greatly subsidized by a bursary, but “the union schedules your schooling and looks after work placement,” he said. “Only the union looks after your work experience.” Students fill out surveys every six months that show the experience they have had and where the gaps are. “If you don’t have a union, you have to bug the contractor to get credit for your hours. IBEW has a whole team looking out for you.

There is a drawback to the work Kubbossek does. Much of it is done in the evenings and on weekends. “We have to shut all the power down and businesses don’t like to do that” during business hours, he said. 

But he’s motivated by all the possibilities for personal growth and opportunity. “Our industry is very, very vast. One person can’t know it all.”

By Leslie Dyson 

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