By G.H. Scott
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News 5.29.22
If you had to create a list of the dangerous jobs, you would probably start with police officer or firefighter, while many jobs have their share of risks, the daily demands of utility workers are near the top of the list.
At any given moment, a Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) natural gas worker could be seconds away from injuries – even death – if they don’t follow safety procedures. LCU goes to great measures to ensure that natural gas crews are properly trained and certified before going into the field, “they need to demonstrate that they understand all the dangers in the field and working around gas,” said LCU Gas Services Training and Safety Coordinator Jeff Griffith.
Griffith, says the training typically takes between three to six months before a new employee is ready to go out into the field on his/her own, “it all depends on the individual, they have to take written tests and score 100 percent on each one,” added Griffith.
Some positions in the LCU Natural Gas and Energy line of business require more qualifications than others, and all job candidates must go through the LCU training center. Once they pass the written test then they will move on to hands-on training where they will go out into the field and demonstrate their knowledge and skills. They have to pass both evaluation processes prior to receiving their operator qualification for a task. Some of the positions will require five or six qualifications to do their job, where other workers will have upwards of 25 qualifications to perform their job function.
LCU Gas Services Inspection Supervisor Ramiro Pereyra, states, “It’s all about safety, we want to make sure by the time you do the hands-on, not only do you have knowledge of the task and associated danger, but you also know how to physically complete it correctly.”
The biggest danger is having a fire or explosion, and static electricity is the main concern for ignition events when working on the natural gas system, “it’s an everyday occurrence with these guys, they are always working around live gas, anytime, every day,” said Pereyra.
Cell phones create the static charge, when there is gas present, the crew is not allowed to have a cell phone or any electronic device in any enclosed space, “that’s why they carry radios, the radios are intrinsically safe because they are rated to not create a spark,” said Griffith.
To add to the safety, all LCU natural gas crew workers use personal protective equipment (PPE), flame resistant clothing, and have daily 10- to 15-minute tailgate sessions for all field workers and quarterly meetings that review training in fire extinguishers, excavations, respiratory, traffic control, and pipeline purging.
“Making sure our employees have safe workplace conditions, is our top priority,” said LCU Utilities Deputy Director Natural Gas and Energy, Lucio Garcia. Last year, LCU was recognized by the American Public Gas Association (APGA) and presented the prestigious System Operational Achievement Recognition (SOAR) Silver award mostly due to LCU’s employee safety practices.
When it comes to safety – LCU does not cut corners!
LCU – Your Utility Connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: LCU staff participating in a training class-Courtesy LCU