Three Questions for
Ben Cameron on PSPS

October 23, 2020

Last year the Lab was faced with several Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) which provided unique challenges to a large scientific community such as the Lab.

Ben Cameron is a high-voltage electrician in Facilities. He is one of the few employees at the Lab in this pivotal role. Normally he uses his skills to support repairs, planned maintenance power shutdowns and other high voltage activity for the Lab, but last year during the PSPS he was one of the team members that had to de-energize and energize the Lab’s buildings.

High-voltage electrician doesn’t sound like an occupation that many go into. How did you get interested in the field, and what type of training do you need to do this job?

It was a natural transition for me as I have been working around electricity my entire career. To be a high-voltage electrician you need a formal apprenticeship program in industrial electrical maintenance or equivalent accredited military experience, along with specific coursework and performance training; and a minimum of four years journey-level industrial maintenance experience, including maintenance, testing, troubleshooting and repair of high- and medium-voltage switchgear and protective devices.

In the pictures we see you always looked very suited up. How does the suit protect you, and what other process steps do you need to follow?

That’s an arc flash suit, which is rated to protect the wearer from electrical arcs. I also wear specially rated gloves and electrical hazard rated boots. I also use remote switches and live line tools, which are at least 50 feet from a breaker, to keep myself safe. The Lab electricians receive a lot of support from EHS, the engineering team, and our supervisors and leads. I never feel that I am in harm’s way.

What key learning are you carrying over from last year into planning for this year?

This year we have more options. We brought in two 2-megawatt generators to feed power to an electrical substation (SW-A6) that supplies power to one-third of the Lab buildings. Those generators can help maintain the buildings in safe and stable mode during a PSPS. We also have three new portable generators in addition to the ones the Lab already had.