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International in western Norway

Statnett is making good progress with the construction of the new 420 kV power line between Ørskog and Sogndal, which will ensure a reliable supply of electricity to central Norway. The construction is an international enterprise involving pylon installers from near and afar.

Peter Almeida smiles, but seems uncertain. The HSE manager wonders if itis a trick question.

- What we foreigners think of Statnett? Isn’t it obvious? At least in my career, I’ve never come across a company that’s so concerned with employee health and safety. Here, we never work on pylons if the weather is too bad or we lack equipment, or if the rules and regulations are not complied with down to every little detail, Almeida says. Together with his colleagues, Almeida has been working on the project in Norway since 2011, and he says he is still impressed by Statnett’s HSE regulations.

- We have workers from all over the world, and work on many international assignments. So I know what I’m talking about when I say that Statnett’s HSE focus is unique. Of course any future employers will be measured against the standard we experience here in Norway, Almeida says.

Statnett inspector Jørn Svingeset (left) and HSE manager Peter Almeida of Consorzio Italia 2000 make sure that all work is performed in accordance with the HSE rules.

Their own chef

There is an old saying that says: “If you want happy and productive workers, give them good food”. This is as true in Italy as it is in Norway. Consequently,Consorzio has brought their own chef with them, Roberto Giulietti. In his site cabin kitchen, he prepares Italian pasta and other dishes every day for his colleagues. Garlic is sizzling in the pan, and the chef has an animated body language and a warm look in his eyes, as you might expect from an Italian cook. Giulietti speaks English fairly well, but words fail him when he is asked to comment on Norwegian pasta. Instead he shrugs, points to his own dishes,suggesting we talk about real Italian food instead.

- Good food is obviously very important to them. I can understand that. When you work here for several weeks on end, being well looked after becomes extra important, Svingeset says.

Play video

The Sogndal project is special in many ways. This was demonstrated during construction of the power line, which required one of the biggest blasts in Norwegian history. Watch the blast here!

Major challenges

The Ørskog-Sogndal project comprises two parts. Almeida is one of about 150 employees in Consorzio Italia 2000. The Italian company has been awarded the power line contract for the section from Ørskog in Sunnmøre County to Ålfoten in Sogn og Fjordane County. Almost as many employees are working for the Croatian company Dalekovod, contracted for the Ålfoten-Sogndal section.

Construction Manager Asbjørn Tenfjord in Statnett is responsible for the construction of the power line between Ørskog and Ålfoten. He says the purpose of the new 420 kW power line is to secure a reliable supply of electricity to the Trøndelag region and Møre og Romsdal, and to reinforce the grid to facilitate development of renewable energy.

- Central Norway has an energy deficit of approximately seven TWh (terawatthours) in a normal year. Seven TWh correspond to the annual consumption of 400 000 houses. A shortfall of this magnitude puts the existing grid under a lot of strain, which increases the risk of grid failures, Tenfjord says.

Moreover, the Sogn og Fjordane and Sunnmøre grids do not have capacity for new power production. This means that small-scale power plants with their new, renewable energy production only can be realised when the new transmission line between Ørskog and Sogndal is ready. There are many challenges relating to the project. One is its size. For Statnett, it is one of the biggest projects of its kind. In addition, the terrain is very challenging, involving five fjordcrossings just on the Ørskog-Ålfoten section.

- It’s best to do the work in summer, but then there’s a problem with cruise ships in the fjords. This makes it challenging in terms of detailed planning and execution. We are not quite there yet, but we are on schedule so far. We are very grateful to the Consorzio team for that, Tenfjord says.

High up, but not high above. The pylon installers from the Italian company Consorzio keep a constant safety focus when moving high above the ground.

International team

The Italian company employs people from all over the world including Italy, Portugal, Spain, Mexico and Brazil. Many of them work in Sykkylven.

Jørn Svingeset is one of a handful of Statnett inspectors who meet the pylon installers every day. He checks that they follow the rules and regulations, and that the quality of the completed work is up to standard.

In the beautiful, but rugged and almost impassable landscape of western Norway, one pylon after the other is going up, thus ensuring a secure and reliable supply of electricity to the region. According to Svingeset, the pylon installers have made significant technical progress.

- They all attended several courses before they were allowed to work for Statnett. At first, we made sure to correct any major and minor non-conformities. Fortunately, they learnt very quickly from the feedback. Now I hardly ever have to point out non-conformities, Svingeset says.

The Consorzio managers speak English fairly well, but not many of the pylon installers are familiar with the language. The rule is therefore that at least one member of the work team must speak English.

- There have been no misunderstandings relating to specific work tasks, but we have had some episodes when we’ve tried to engage in small talk. But that doesn’t matter, we have a good laugh about it, Svingeset smiles, adding that the foreign workers deserve praise for being so open and warm-hearted.

- They are easy to get on with, work hard and have a very positive attitude,” he says.

Three workers at the construction site

What do you think about Norway and Statnett?

Nello Magnomi, head of division, Italy

To me Norwegians seem very kind and warm-hearted, also when a large group of us non-Norwegians come together. They are also very law-abiding. I’ve been working in the industry since 1978, and I’ve never had to adhere to stricter regulations than the ones in Statnett. It took some time getting used to all the rules and regulations, but, of course, it’s to everyone’s benefit.

Thierry Rodrigues-Lisboa, pylon installer, Brazil

It’s very cold here, even though I hear Norwegian people say it’s a mild spring. We are used to quite windy conditions at the top of the pylons, but in Sykkylven it’s windy almost all the time, and the wind is very cold. According to the people I’ve met in Statnett, it seems like there is little distinction between bosses and employees. They sit at the same lunch table and talk to each other in a very informal way.

Salvatore Scivoli, warehouse employee, Italy

I have just arrived back in Norway, after having been to see my family in Sicily for ten days, so today I’m just missing my family. But it helps that it is so beautiful here. Look at this! It’s like a nature show on TV. Norwegians are very strict and accurate. Everything is very professional here, and that’s good. I’m sure that such a strict framework strengthens people’s work morale.

Text: Cato Gjertsen Photo: Marius Beck Dahle

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