COVID-19 presents specific challenges to utilities that, as essential services, are mandated to provide critical needs and keep workers safe while doing so. This is a challenge that Newfoundland Power not only overcame but used as a catalyst for innovation.
Newfoundland Power has been delivering safe, reliable electricity to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for 135 years. The Company operates an integrated electricity, transmission and distribution system throughout the island region of the province. Newfoundland Power’s employees are among the best in the industry and are strategically located across a vast service territory to ensure they can respond as quickly as possible to customer needs.
- Delivers service to more than 269,000 customers (over 87% of customers in the province)
- Operates 12,500 km of transmission and distribution lines on the island
- Operates a $1.2 billion electricity system, including
- 130 substations
- 23 hydro plants
- 6 backup generators
Newfoundland Power’s Human Resources department identified the need to collect the health status of employees so that their Occupational Health Nurse (OHN) could complete risk assessments and monitor employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. This information had to be collected securely and rapidly delivered in the proper format to the appropriate parties: aggregate, anonymous data for management and supervisors; and employee-specific, confidential information to the OHN and only the OHN. Making the situation more complicated was the requirement that all this be done in a way that did not conflict with—or ideally, facilitated—social distancing and allow the organization to quickly adapt as the situation developed. With over 600 employees, including many in remote areas, this was a challenge that demanded an innovative solution.
Identifying innovative solutions was another aim of the Company. Newfoundland Power recognized that crises demand rapid and effective adaptation. While deeply unfortunate, a crisis often translates into a catalyst for growth, simply out of necessity. The Company understood they could realize new efficiencies and capabilities as they developed an effective response to the challenges of COVID-19.
One option initially available to Newfoundland Power for employee health check-ins were paper forms. These do allow an organization to collect information and do so in a secure way. However, paper forms may require person to person contact, which conflicts with the need to social distance. Paper forms also involve significant time delays as paper copies are difficult to update quickly and must be delivered to and from employees, including those in remote areas far from the office.
With the requirements defined, Newfoundland Power’s Operations Support department went to work determining the optimal solution. They identified Esri’s Survey123 for ArcGIS as the right solution given that this application:
- Is easily accessible to all employees via a mobile device
- Reduces the need for person to person contact
- Integrates smoothly with other ArcGIS products, including ArcGIS Online
- Can be used to power highly configurable, near real- time dashboards tailored for different groups, namely management and the OHN
- Provides features to ensure employee privacy and data security
- Can be quickly developed, deployed and updated
With the solution identified, it was now up to Operations Support to implement it. Given the circumstance, they did not have the luxury of time. The situation demanded a rapid response, which is exactly what the group delivered. Within four days, they completed all the development, testing and training documents in addition to running a pilot with a small group of employees. Over the second week, they expanded the pilot to a larger subset of employees. By the third week, it was live throughout the entire Company.
Survey123 has enabled Newfoundland Power to fulfill its objective of rapidly yet securely collecting and monitoring employee health statuses in a manner that facilities social distancing. The organization can collect health check-in survey responses from all employees via mobile devices, including those in remote areas. Moreover, supervisors can approve such surveys nearly instantaneously. The forms can be quickly updated should provincial guidelines change, for example. Contrast this to paper forms that would require the issuance of hundreds of new copies if even a single field had to be changed. Further, because the transmission of information is electronic, there is no need for person to person contact, thus satisfying social distancing requirements.
Password protected form
Health check-in example questions
Integrated with ArcGIS Online, Survey123 powers dashboards for both the OHN as well as supervisors and management. This is important as different groups have different needs and privileges. For health purposes, the OHN needs to be able to access employee-specific information. However, to respect employees’ privacy, no other group or party should be privy to this information. OHN specific dashboards meet this obligation. In contrast, management and supervisors can quickly and easily visualize aggregated, anonymized metrics to discern trends and help make decisions. With a plethora of filters available such as date and region, these ArcGIS dashboards are highly configurable and can be easily adapted to the needs at hand. Again, contrast this to wrangling information out of a paper-based process, and it’s clear how dashboards streamline data accessibility and even decision-making.
At a broader level, the exercise of implementing Survey123 to enable health check-ins has served as proving ground for other applications within the Company. Digital forms have unlocked that next step of efficiency and productivity. Further out, Newfoundland Power anticipates that enabling additional functionality, such as pairing forms with geolocation, will allow the organization to more easily perform spatial analysis and make more informed, higher resolution decisions.
“There are many other potential business drivers for the functionality that Survey123 provides,” says Mike Murphy, Operations Support Manager at Newfoundland Power, “We look forward to seeing where the future possibilities take us.”