Four Decades on the Job
After working 39 years in the same industry, most of us would be ready to happily settle into retirement. Not Maintenance Electrician Ed Chaplin! For him, the work just gets more and more interesting and he has no plans to leave Yukon Energy any time soon.
Ed, who is Yukon Energy’s longest serving employee, started work with our predecessor the Northern Canada Power Commission in May 1971. He began his career in Yellowknife as an Apprentice Electrician and System/Plant Operator, moving to Whitehorse in 1975 just as he was finishing up his training.
He chuckles as he recalls those early days at the Whitehorse plant. “There were two caterpillar engines in the electricians’ bay of the diesel plant. The big garage door was open and I remember in the winter, everyone wanted to park their vehicles near those engines. That’s because the heat they gave off kept people’s cars warm.”
In fact he says some staff parked their vehicles right inside the hydro plant, something that would never be allowed today for safety reasons.
“It’s definitely a far safer place to work now,” Ed says. “A lot more thought goes into what we do and why we do it, so that’s greatly improved.”
Another huge change is the move to automation. Yukon Energy’s system has advanced to the point where staff can control the Corporation’s entire Yukon-wide system using computers. “As an electrician starting out, I never used computers for anything. Today computers are an essential part of your tool kit. If you don’t have access to a computer it’s like having a hand removed!”
In the early days when Ed needed to do testing on a hydro unit, the work required the use of four huge instruments that weighed about 50 pounds each. They had to be crated up in weatherproof boxes, driven to the worksite, and linked together. The job would require a half a day for set up, two days for testing, and another half a day for disassembly. Today that same task requires one piece of computerized equipment and the work can easily be done in a day.
The advances in technology are one of the things that keep Ed interested in his work. That, and the fact that Yukon Energy has so much challenging work on the horizon. “There’s the linking of the two transmission grids, the building of more sub-stations, there’s Aishihik 3 and Mayo B. I’m interested in being a part of it all,” Ed says. “One thing is for sure: I don’t think the job will ever be boring!”
The photo seen above was taken of Ed several years ago. Nowadays, the rules regarding personal protection equipment (PPE) are more strict. All Yukon Energy staff are required to wear appropriate PPE, which depending on the employee’s location (in the field, in a generation plant, etc.) could include high visible vests, hard hats, steel toed boots and eye and hearing protection.