Posts filed under: Energy

Alpine Power Plant, the largest and most efficient generator in northern Michigan including the Upper Peninsula, is now fully operational. Constructed by Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., a not-for-profit cooperative, Alpine generates enough clean, affordable and flexible power to supply 120,000 member households. Most importantly, the 410-MW power plant, located in Elmira Township, enhances the electrical reliability of northern Michigan’s entire power grid and complements renewable energy sources in the state.

Wade Trim provided site and civil design services in preparation for Alpine’s construction on a 170-acre property selected for its proximity to existing interstate natural gas pipelines and high-voltage electric transmission lines. We also provided construction phase engineering support including coordination with other design consultants, surveying, materials testing, Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control (SESC) monitoring and inspections.

Wade Trim assisted Wolverine with conditional zoning and special-use permit approvals from Elmira Township, the Elmira Township Planning Board, the Otsego County Planning Commission, and the Otsego County Board of Commissioners. Additional permits for driveways, SESC, Notice of Intent, potable water well, process water supply well and on-site septic disposal were secured from five agencies.

Approximately 65,000 cubic yards of material was moved on the site to accommodate a fairly flat, 8.5- acre pad for the equipment and plant access. Site plans included designing and permitting temporary facilities for material storage and laydown, construction trailers, and security. Stormwater management was provided through on-site infiltration basins. Many trees were preserved to minimize the impact on the surrounding area. To further improve the site, a 14-foot high berm was constructed along the northern property line to provide additional visual and audible screening.

Tax revenue from the power plant benefits Elmira Township, Gaylord Community Schools, Otsego County EMS, M-TEC Gaylord, University Center Gaylord and the Otsego County Road Commission.

Everyone on a project site wants to go home at the end of the day the same way they came. To make sure this happens, our staff and clients must be committed to safety. Wade Trim’s corporate environmental health and safety program promotes a safety culture where employees learn, teach and practice safe work behaviors in the field and the office. We also embrace and participate in our clients’ safety training programs when requested to enable their philosophies to permeate through our project team. We recently evaluated and updated our corporate safety program to enhance our safety culture and reinforce the value it delivers to our employees and clients.

Effective safety programs begin with a commitment from management that is supported by employees and clearly defined in policies and procedures. In June, Wade Trim implemented a new safety manual to better guide our actions based on our typical project roles and responsibilities. Our program also includes hazard identification and prevention tools, along with proper documentation. Future activities identified during this process to further strengthen our safety culture include having an audit performed by an external safety company and promoting our safety officer role to the corporate level to provide guidance consistently across the company.

Safety effectiveness is determined by the difference between written policies and day-to-day actions in the field. Wade Trim staff typically contribute to site safety in the role of field engineer or construction inspector. Our primary responsibility is to maintain safe procedures for our own staff. We also observe contractor behavior and have the ability to alert and discuss unsafe practices with contractors.

We have been more broadly involved with maintaining overall site safety on large projects or programs where we provided construction management services. During a recent industrial facility expansion project, our staff reported directly to a site manager whose responsibilities included site safety. Everyone involved in the project had to buy in and receive safety awareness training. Each work day began with issuing safe work permits for each contractor’s crew on the site, where a walkthrough of the area was conducted and safety hazards identified. A Personal Protective Equipment assessment was performed based on each worker’s identified tasks to verify that the appropriate equipment was issued. Coordination and communication of work plans and safe work permits included areas of influence and overlap between the multiple trades and contractors involved. A work permit was reviewed and signed off on with the foreman of each crew and reviewed again at the end of each day. The contractor noted if there was a change in condition that triggered another walkthrough.

First aid and recordable cases were tracked as required by OSHA and our corporate insurance provider. In addition, we tracked near misses, vehicle incidents, property damage and security violations. Many times, personnel directly involved in an incident shared their experience with the site team. Everyone on site was empowered to intervene when an unsafe act was observed. The site’s owner, engineer, and contractor employees were equipped with safety observation cards which could be filled out and turned into the site manager to describe an observed unsafe act and what the person did to intervene. As safety became part of each person’s daily routine, the number of incidents declined.

From owner to Wade Trim employee to contractor to public citizen, everyone involved in a project that promotes a safety culture stands to benefit. A safe job site boosts project team morale resulting in higher productivity and decreased lost time. This attracts more experienced and safer workers to a job. When a safety program is followed, OSHA requirements are met and penalties avoided. From a cost perspective, studies have shown a $6 return on every $1 invested in health and safety and indirect injury costs are 20 times more than direct costs.

Wade Trim maintains safety compliance documentation with ISNetworld to provide clients and potential clients with easy access to our performance information. Participation in this program also strengthens our environmental health and safety program through access to industry safety events, identifying opportunities to improve our program, and keeping pace with client expectations.

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A strong safety culture is designed using clear documentation, built by safe work behaviors, and sustained by management expectation.