Electrical Safety, Systems and Service

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-By Robert Hoshowsky

Formed in Adelaide in 1996, Robin Johnson Engineering has grown into one of Australia’s preeminent engineering, design, project management and construction companies, with a focus on High Voltage (HV), Medium Voltage (MV) and Low Voltage (LV) electrical, instrumentation and control works. Specialising in design and construction projects, Robin Johnson Engineering – better known to clients as RJE – is active in a number of sectors and provides tailored services and products to the mining, resources, power generation and distribution, and heavy industrial sectors.

“Mining companies would be about 60 per cent of our work, and 40 per cent is power generation, general heavy industrial works, and government rail systems and other projects,” says Robin Johnson, founder and Director of RJE. In addition to offering customised plant design and construction services, RJE also provides equipment to assist analysing power systems, testing and commissioning, and high voltage electrical works, and regularly takes on process plants, drive systems, mine ventilation systems, power lines, heavy infrastructure, substations, automation services, and more. With projects ranging in value from $10,000 all the way up to $10 million, RJE has the skills, technology, and equipment necessary to handle all jobs, from underground electrical systems to process plants valued at millions of dollars and massive windfarms spanning thousands of hectares.

“Quite often, we will come into the process early, and help our clients scope their jobs out,” says Mr Johnson. “We work with them to generate budgets and come up with cost-effective and Occupational Health and Safety-friendly designs.”

With a staff of 180, the team at RJE includes highly-trained project managers, senior electrical engineers, electrical and instrumentation supervising technicians, electricians, and administration staff. The company takes pride in its team, and only uses subcontractors for specialty work such as steel fabrication and painting. Since many large jobs require digging trenches and tunnels, the company maintains a fleet of 80 excavators and other large pieces of equipment. At the Adelaide office in Morphettville, RJE has the sophisticated software, tools and training necessary to design jobs, including the latest EDSA network modelling software and other modelling packages for almost all facets of the E, I and C industry, and its team includes experienced system integrators for a number of industry standard SCADA and PLC packages.

Safety First

At Robin Johnson Engineering, all tasks must follow a strict set of safety ethics to protect not only employees but clients, co-workers, and the public. In addition to developing a robust set of Safety Management Plans for site works, the company has come up with Ten Critical Safety Rules, which address high-risk safety exposure areas for its employees. “These safety rules were devised through a lot of consultation with our staff, clients, supervisors, project managers, trades, and onsite workers,” comments Mr Johnson. “We looked at what the most important things for us were.”

Through safety considerations may vary slightly from project to project, all employees are aware of the RJE Critical Safety Rules. “Safety is a huge thing in the market right now, and it is probably your Number One focus – if you don’t get the safety right, no one really cares if you get the job done right.” Along with employees being fit for work, they must follow other safety procedures, such as using the appropriate fall protection or prevention measures when working from heights; never working under or in close proximity to unsupported ground; never misusing or tampering with a safety device, and so forth. As company employees frequently work in remote and challenging environments, adherence to the Critical Safety Rules is mandatory.

Quality from Start to Finish

With a staff of designers and fully qualified electrical engineers knowledgeable in supply authority standards, mining standards, and specific Australian legislative requirements, the company is able to work with clients throughout all construction phases, from initial design to completion. RJE’s engineering and design services include power system modelling (utilising EDSA software), power system and substation design, electrical and instrumentation process plant design, motor control centre (MCC), SCADA and PLC design (including process function descriptions), among others.

With combined decades of experience, the electrical construction team at RJE – along with skilled supervisors and construction managers – ensures all standards and client site requirements are met. Dealing with all clients in a professional manner, the company is able to provide customers with underground electrical construction, HV terminations (up to 33kV), HV outdoor substation construction, transformer installation and termination, instrumentation installation, underground cable installation (major trenching works), and more. The company’s purpose built facility enables RJE to design HV protection panels in-house, and allows for construction, testing, and commission of the panels. Since on-site testing is often challenging and costly, being able to test products in-house saves clients time, money, and unnecessary problems.

Along with being able to offer the finest industry power system modelling, RJE has its own power monitoring equipment to collect live data and assist with modelling and site power usage analysis.

In-House Capability

One of the many unique advantages of Robin Johnson Engineering is its manufacturing capabilities. With the ability to manufacture quality substations, the company uses a uniquely formulated glass-reinforced cement in the production process that makes the structures cyclone and marine-rated. “These structures will protect all the electrical equipment and gear inside these rooms, which is sometimes valued at over $10 million,” says Mr Johnson. Built to last, all substations are outfitted with light and power, control panels, MCC’s, UPS units, and more. At present, the company is working on a coal terminal, which will see three buildings out at sea.

For RJE, owning its own plant and equipment affords the company a significant advantage over the competition on most electrical projects. Clients have the added advantage of being informed of the steps involved in project construction beforehand, including site requirements, earthworks, the need for specialised equipment, and more. Two independent trenching crews – along with back hoes, graders, trucks and other heavy machinery, mean the company is much more aware of timeframes than competitors who need to hire subcontractors to carry out earthworks. This has benefitted both RJE and clients countless times over, particularly while working on wind farms.

“We’ve done a lot of work in the wind industry, and from an electrical perspective, we would have done more than any other company in Australia,” comments Mr Johnson. “Up until last year, we were responsible for the delivery of 70 to 80 per cent of the electrical structure for wind projects in Australia.” Over the years, RJE has worked on projects including the Hallet Wind Farm in SA, the Emu Downs Wind Farm in WA, the Alinta Wind Farm (also in WA), the Lake Bonney Wind Farm in SA, and others. The projects frequently involve a great deal of complicated design work, and the crews often find themselves on massive sites of anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 hectares.

Many Areas of Expertise

With fundamental skill sets in many key areas – including HV/MV power transmission and distribution, renewable energy power generation, power system design and modelling, SCADA system design programming and commissioning, PLC system design programming and commissioning, outdoor switchyard design and construction (up to 275kV), specialised applications for variable speed drives (1.5kW to 1750kW) and more – the company maintains its commitment to professionalism, safety, and the environment.

Realising that the nature of its work sometimes impacts on others, the company is using social media – such as Facebook and Twitter – to keep community members informed on the progress of one of their latest projects, the $11 million Orange North to Huntley Road Transmission Powerline in Cadia, New South Wales. The large-scale project involves the underground installation of a cable, and a trench approximately 1200mm wide and up to 3000mm deep, with the goal of covering 20 to 30 metres of trenching every day. Inevitably, many front lawns need to be dug up to accommodate the cable, and many trees removed (which will be replaced with mature replacement trees). To keep the community informed, the company created a Facebook page “RJE (Works for the Orange North to Huntley Road Powerline, Orange NSW).” The page, which serves to update members of the community about construction, road closures and other relevant information, has drawn praise from residents.

“We’ve had great compliments from the local council over the efficiency and community engagement,” says Mr Johnson of the project, which is about 50 per cent completed, and will likely be finished ahead of schedule. “It is quite a difficult, complex job. The challenges there include getting the community engaged. By utilising social media, we are able to keep in contact with about 80 per cent of the people who are going to be affected by the project, with the rest receiving letter drops.” The underground installation, which spans five kilometres, will see a 160MW, 132 KV line increase the capacity of the feeder to the Cadia Mine, which produces gold and copper.

“We look at how we can get better all the time,” says Mr Johnson. “We are constantly buying and inventing new equipment to make our job easier and better serve the needs of our clients.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

June 14, 2021, 11:43 AM AEST