Mechanical engineers and maintenance technicians at Spirax Sarco in Cheltenham are benefiting from on-site tailored, hands-on electrical safety training courses provided by Technical Training Solutions.

“The feedback from our managers and engineers who attended the electrical safety training courses provided by Technical Training Solutions [TTS] has been very positive indeed,” states Andrew Marshall, Projects Manager at Spirax Sarco Ltd based in Cheltenham.

“The courses, which have been a mix of one-week and half-day training, are very hands-on, which the attendees enjoy. The course instructor from TTS was also fun, very personable and was genuinely enthusiastic about helping us to raise greater awareness of electrical safety within the business,” adds Marshall.

As a leading provider of steam and thermal energy system solutions, Spirax Sarco is often the name that springs to mind when engineers around the world think about ‘steam’. With more than 100 years’ experience, Spirax Sarco is a global business with more than 1,300 dedicated industry engineers in over 40 different countries.

Spirax Sarco designs, installs and commissions new steam facilities, as well as optimising and upgrading existing steam systems, while advising on system design and maintenance. Customers are from a diverse range of sectors including food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, hospitals & health, oil & gas, pulp & paper, energy & power generation, water and sewerage.

A shift in skills requirements

At its UK headquarters in Cheltenham, Spirax Sarco employs more than 1,000 people. The 3,000 square metre site includes a Steam Technology Centre, where dedicated steam and thermal energy R&D takes place, as well as The Energy Centre, which includes a fully operational CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plant.

As Andrew Marshall states: “The steam and thermal energy industry has changed quite dramatically over the last decade and so our employees have had to adapt too. Traditionally, a Spirax Sarco project engineer or maintenance technician had a strong mechanical bias, as most of our products were mechanical in nature. However, there’s been a shift in requirements in the world of steam and thermal energy. New projects require steam solutions that integrate with a plant’s energy management system. A variety of measurement and monitoring systems therefore need to be built into our own steam systems, such as sensors, PLCs and other instrumentation devices. This means our maintenance teams and project engineers need a mix of mechanical and electrical engineering skills. As part of this, we wanted to ensure that our employees who deal with electrical equipment have an awareness of electrical safety and who could also act as go-to experts for others.”

Increasing awareness of electrical safety

In 2016, Marshall began to search for a suitable UK-based training provider to help increase awareness of electrical safety at Cheltenham. He says he wanted to reinforce the electrical safety training for some engineers, whilst introducing it as a new topic to others. After searching online, Marshall contacted TTS.

“I didn’t want a training course that was too theoretical, but something that was more hands-on, practical and relevant to our engineers. TTS seemed genuinely enthusiastic when I spoke to them and they have a good track record and impressive client base. TTS visited us shortly after that to discuss our training requirements in detail. They then went away and devised a specific five-day course for us that precisely matched our needs,” explains Marshall.

The real challenge for TTS, says Marshall, was devising a course that catered for those who had absolutely no electrical knowledge or skills, with those who had some electrical experience.

The course itself, which was hosted by TTS instructor, Gary Vine, featured a number of electrical topics, including the basic electrical principles, series and parallel circuits, electrical devices such as switches, solenoids, relays and contactors, transformers, electronic soft starters, inverters and electric motors. Other topics included fault finding (overload, short circuit, Earth faults, etc.), IP ratings, voltage testers, cable colour codes, factory distribution systems, circuit diagrams, Electricity at Work regulations, and a guide to electrical isolation and the dangers of electricity.

The first training course was provided on-site at Cheltenham for eight employees who were a mix of maintenance engineers, managers, project engineers and graduate trainees. A half-day cut-down version of the course was also provided to 12 other Spirax Sarco staff. TTS provided all of the on-site training equipment and materials required for these courses.

Gary Vine, Instructor at TTS commented: “Our approach at TTS is always to teach course attendees to ‘learn by doing’. At Spirax Sarco, the course we devised started with the basics of electricity before progressing to the different types of electrical equipment and the relevant safety legislation. We included lots of practical exercises and fault-finding techniques. For me as an instructor, I get a real buzz from seeing light bulbs go on in people’s eyes when they learn something new or fully understand a new topic.”

“The course was designed specifically for us, which is really important because it means that our engineers could relate all of the course content to their day jobs. Much of the course content involved hands-on exercises such as the building of electrical circuits, testing of circuits, problem-solving and the dangers of electricity,” explains Andrew Marshall.

“The key benefit of the TTS training is that our managers and engineers can now apply the most up to date safety legislation and best practice when working with electrical equipment, both here at Cheltenham and on-site at the customer. The course has been an excellent method of raising awareness of electrical safety. Those who’ve attended the courses now have the knowledge and skills to do things the right way or to ask the right question if they don’t have the know-how. The courses act as an effective bridge between vocational studies and practical knowledge. We look forward to working closely with TTS on future training initiatives at Cheltenham,” concludes Andrew Marshall.