MONACA, Pa., July 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), today opened a modern, centralized training facility for employees who operate and maintain its natural gas distribution system.
The $10 million, 22,000 square foot facility is the first of four leading-edge training centers that NiSource companies will build and operate in its service territory by 2018. Other facilities are planned in Ohio, Massachusetts and Virginia.
"A well-equipped and highly trained workforce helps reduce risk and keep our customers and communities safe, and ultimately provides a better customer experience," said NiSource President and CEO Joseph Hamrock. "The center's focus is on developing the next generation utility worker with the skills necessary to further enhance safety, system reliability and customer service."
The new center features modern, innovative teaching environments designed to train new employees, employees transitioning into higher-skilled positions and for current employees enhancing their skills. In addition to serving company employees, the center will be used for coordinated training with local emergency responders on responding to natural gas emergencies.
Hands on, Controlled Environments
One of the main features of the center is the outdoor "Emergency Response Safety Town" – a mock neighborhood of mini-homes and businesses complete with underground utilities and meters – where instructors can create and control various emergency training scenarios, including a natural gas leak simulation. Instructors will also use this area to teach other critical skills like line locating and marking; leak detection and corrosion monitoring; and re-establishing gas service.
For more information regarding the training center, the talented people leading the company's training and how the center benefits employees and the communities the company serves, visit http://www.columbiagaspa.com/training.
Other features include:
- Simulator Area. Training simulators will be used as a way for employees to experience various work activities in a controlled and safe environment. For example, a slip, trip -and-fall simulator will teach employees how to avoid falls, which are the leading cause of lost-time injuries at NiSource and most utilities. It also includes an excavator simulator and health and safety simulators.
- Hands-on Labs. Areas designated for hands-on instruction and practice. The "service" lab contains a variety of gas appliances, allowing employees to learn how to safely relight equipment and to identify improper operation. The "street crew" lab allows employees to practice laying new distribution pipelines, operating valves, and responding to emergency situations. The "measurement and regulation" lab allows employees to practice maintaining system meters and regulators using compressed air.
- Demonstration Areas: Trainers will gather equipment and material from across the company to use in demonstrations. This will include understanding the operation of older equipment still in service and the new equipment used to replace it. Due to the age of our distribution system, over time materials and installation practices have changed. Through the demonstration area, employees will learn how to recognize and replace obsolete equipment.
- Excavator School. A designated outdoor space where excavator operators can practice maneuvering the heavy equipment in a safe, controlled environment, and a complement to the classroom simulator.
- Fire Safety Training Area. A controlled outdoor area to practice fighting natural gas fires in monitored exercises. Trainers are able to start and stop the controlled fires with specially designed valves while other instructors stand alongside students as they extinguish the fire.
In designing the new training centers, NiSource incorporated best practices for employee training from utilities, companies in other industries, trade schools, labor unions and law enforcement.
"With a changing workforce and changing technology, training the utility worker of today is much different than training was just a few years ago," said Mark Chepke, NiSource vice president of training. "Building these new centers is one way we're being responsive and evolving our training. Our single-best asset is our workforce and this is an investment in their future."
NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) is one of the largest fully-regulated utility companies in the United States, serving approximately 3.5 million natural gas customers and 500,000 electric customers across seven states through its local Columbia Gas and NIPSCO brands. Based in Merrillville, Indiana, NiSource's more than 7,500 employees are focused on safely delivering reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities we serve. NiSource has been designated a World's Most Ethical Company by the Ethisphere Institute since 2012 and is a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability – North America Index. Additional information about NiSource, its investments in modern infrastructure and systems, its commitments and its local brands can be found at www.nisource.com. Follow us at www.facebook.com/nisource, www.linkedin.com/company/nisource or www.twitter.com/nisourceinc. NI-F
SOURCE NiSource Inc.