Q&A with Shayne Wright of POWER Engineers, Inc.

By Amy Fischbach | Dec 17, 2018

Mark your calendars for ESMO 2019 from June 24 to 27 in Columbus, Ohio. Registration is now open for the event, which is for those interested in hands-on solutions for the engineering, construction, operation and maintenance of the world’s power delivery systems. Shayne Wright, field services division manager and vice president for POWER Engineers, Inc., gives an inside look at his session, which is focused on safety/human performance improvement.

Q: Talk about your education and background.
A: I earned my bachelor’s of science degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University and my MBA from the University of Houston. I also did graduate studies in power distribution systems at the University of Colorado.

Q: How did you get interested in a career in the energy industry?
A: I grew up in the electric utility industry. My father worked for AEP-SWEPCO for 37 years and almost every meal I have ever had has been provided by the energy industry. I love making the lights come on!

Q: What are your favorite and most challenging parts of your job right now?
A: Educating people of all experience levels to work safely and effectively.

Q: What is the working title for your session?
A: The title of my session is “Safety/Human Performance Improvement.” I would like for attendees to learn and understand how safety and human performance improvement complement each other to create an even more safe and efficient work environment creating positive outcomes for employees, companies and customers.

Q: Who are the panelists, and what criteria are you using to select them?
A: One of the panelists is Dr. Jake Mazulewicz from Dr. Mazulewicz brings an industry perspective and has experienced the Human Performance Improvement (HPI) evolution for many years. He understands the importance of HPI in the electric utility industry.

Next, we have Ryan Dobbins from Safety Management Group (SMG). Dobbins understands safety’s and HPI’s complementing values and has practical front-line experience.

Also joining the panel is Barry Williams of New River Electric. Williams lives the Zero Harm Safety culture every day with his construction crews.

The panel also includes Dr. James Merlo, NERC, Vice President of Reliability Risk Management. Dr. Merlo is an expert in the operations of our nation’s electrical grid. He clearly sees the positive contributions of safety and HPI in improving our grid’s security, reliability and resiliency.

In addition, we have John Kumm, director of testing & commissioning, POWER Engineers. Kumm and his team’s work in energized stations as well as green-field substations, and he see the value of Human Performance Improvement and its ability to improve safety through pre-job planning, commissioning documentation and peer support while on the job site.

We also invited John Reynolds, AEP HPI Professional. Reynolds has excellent experience in building a culture of HPI in the utility industry.

Finally, Russ Clavette, senior project manager, POWER Engineers, has experience in helping engineers understand that safety in the field starts in the design. Clavette has experience with using human performance improvement techniques to bridge the office and the field for safe and efficient project delivery.

Q: Why is this topic important to the industry?
A: Our industry is changing, and we are doing more work with less people. Technology has been able to create efficiencies in many activities but, many activities in the field still require a human element to complete. Our people are better able to perform their task safely and efficiently when organizations embrace a culture of safety and HPI.

Q: What will be different or special about your session?
A: Our session will be special due to the diversity in the presenter’s responsibilities in power delivery. We will have presentations from executives to frontline teams and from the office to the field–all with a common message of excellence in safety performance in our industry.

Q: What goes into planning a session for ESMO?
A: When you think it, as we’re taught to do in HPI training, preparing for ESMO started years ago. I became interested in Safety and HPI to help improve the working environment for our people in the field. Through that effort, I met many great people who were very knowledgeable and were eager to help. With their help, we built training programs and proactive work processes that have helped build a culture of safety and HPI. It was big fun and very rewarding for our people, our company and our clients. We have been able to help other companies start their own HPI training programs to complement their already great safety programs.

Along the way, we have made many friends who share the same values in safety and HPI. I attended the IEEE-ESMO conference in 2016 and thought it was fantastic! I met Kris Buchholz at that conference and asked her if we could help with the next conference, and she connected us to the ESMO team. So, it took years to prepare for planning a session for ESMO, but, when it came time to actually do the planning, it was easy because we are simply sharing values we deeply believe in. With an extensive network of friends committed to the same cause, it was easy to find help.

Q: Why should people attend ESMO and your session? Who do you think would benefit?
A: I think people should attend the sessions because the subject is not only important, it’s fun to learn about. It’s brain science! The information that will be shared is thought-provoking and is something that they will be able to take home and start using immediately. I think everyone from the office to the field will find the session useful. Safety and Human Performance Improvement is for everyone.

Q: What’s the most important thing you can impart to the readers, a teaser, if you will, for what they can expect to hear during your session at ESMO?
A: I would summarize my session with this quote: “It is not possible to spend enough money fixing the wrong problem,” says Steve Eisenhart, Human Performance professional and academic. Safety and HPI tools and education enable companies to improve performance by unearthing hidden organizational, process and performance flaws. However, the greatest contribution to companies is the lasting positive impact made to a company’s culture by improving transparency, communication, accountability and trust among all employees. Along with amazing intangible results, dedicated companies will realize very tangible improvements to return on investments, while improving safety and enhancing operational and maintenance skills.