As the operator of the transmission grid, Swissgrid has to ensure the resilience of this critical infrastructure. Employees are a key factor in determining Swissgrid’s success in this area. Grid operation, replacement and maintenance require a large number of experts from a wide range of fields. This gives rise to two key problem areas: on the one hand, the operational capability of employees must be ensured; on the other, they can make mistakes.
The third part of the blog series on the topic of resilience in the transmission grid looks at the human factor. We explain how Swissgrid defines processes to minimise the risk of errors by every single employee and describe how we mitigate the effects of errors.
Entrenching a safety culture
The topic of «safety and security» occupies a prominent position in the corporate strategy and is also one of Swissgrid’s corporate objectives. This creates a strong safety culture that is constantly updated by Swissgrid. The aim is to continuously improve overall safety in the company and to increase reliability when performing core tasks. Safety is considered a fundamental part of the business and takes priority in all actions and decisions. Swissgrid actively promotes an error and corporate culture that enables employees to report risks and incidents without fear of reprisals. Safety-related incidents and findings are reported and subsequently analysed by the relevant department. The lessons learned are integrated into the ongoing training and development of employees. This means that employees receive constant training and information to ensure that safety standards are consistently implemented.
The aim is to continuously improve the overall safety in the company and the reliability when performing the core tasks.
Resilience factor: operational security
In operational security, Swissgrid’s goal is to ensure that the transmission grid is available in every system state. The focus is on the reliable and error-tolerant execution of work. This requires appropriate processes or instructions in complex grid and system operation. Operational performance is therefore constantly monitored by an independent body. This allows instructions that are susceptible to errors, that are unsuitable or that deviate from instructions to be recognised and subsequently improved. Swissgrid always takes account of the human factor when creating an error-tolerant and robust work environment. In addition, an internal skills management system consistently ensures and documents employees’ basic training, retention of knowledge and skills, further training (especially in the operation of systems and installations), and accumulation of experience.
The focus here is on the reliable and error-tolerant execution of work. This requires corresponding processes or instructions in complex grid and system operation.
Safety and health protection for employees
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that employees and their families had to be protected to maintain secure and stable grid operations. Widespread infection had to be prevented, especially amongst the operators in the grid control rooms. These experts are specifically trained for their role, have extensive experience and cannot be replaced at short notice.
Swissgrid was therefore quick to introduce measures to minimise the risk of infection in the workplace. And, even in the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, Swissgrid continues to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and may relax or tighten protective measures at any time. In doing so, Swissgrid follows the directives and recommendations of the authorities. However, Swissgrid reserves the right to take more stringent measures due to its special need for protection.