A Safe Bet: Oklahoma Electrical Supply Updates Mercy Hospital

Oklahoma City’s Mercy Hospital is bustling. One of the state’s largest hospitals, it’s the leading provider of treatment for cancer, strokes, imaging and research, robotic surgery, and operation of a Level III neonatal intensive care unit. When Oklahoma Electrical Supply Co. Inc. (OESCO) signed on to replace and upgrade the existing electrical service at the hospital’s central utility plant, it needed to complete the job with as little disruption to patients and healthcare providers as possible.

The utility plant upgrade was needed to provide better reliability, flexibility and power capability for a new cancer center facility to be built adjacent to the existing hospital. It also needed to supply adequate power for future needs and growth.

“The plant project consisted of new, medium-voltage, main-tie-main service equipment; new normal and emergency substations; replacement of generators, paralleling gear, automatic transfer switches; and power and controls to new chillers and cooling tower, all completed without interruption of hospital functions,” said Tim Sardis, OESCO manager of construction.

OESCO also upgraded or replaced the existing hospital service equipment, installed a new generator and paralleling gear and removed old generators.

To provide power to the new chillers, crews removed the main bus tie on the existing automatic top-off system that was originally installed when the hospital was built in the mid-1970s.

“We installed a new pad-mount main-tie-main configuration gear downstream at the utility pole location, taking over the two sets of 15-kilovolt [kV] feeder conductors that belonged to the utility,” Sardis said. “We installed two new—one on each utility leg—pad-mount switches, so eventually the customer could open both feeders and thus run the entire facility off the emergency generators.”

The plan is to add one more generator, so the entire facility can operate off generator power, including the normal branch.

“Because Oklahoma has frequent storms, the facility at times makes the decision to remove themselves from utility power until the storm passes,” he said. “These switches also provide the capability of expanding the existing 15-kV service to a 15-kV loop campus feed, thus isolating the entire campus from other utility loads.”

In retrospect, Sardis said the biggest challenge was completing the project with minimal disruption to hospital staff, patients and the general public.

“Project Superintendent David Pezdirc did an outstanding job of gaining the customer’s and engineer’s trust,” Sardis said. “He communicated effectively with all concerned parties and made certain that everyone associated with the project knew exactly what was going to occur. He established real timelines for cutovers and other processes that, if not planned properly, would cause significant problems.”

With this focus on communication and coordination, OESCO replaced the main service at one of Oklahoma’s largest healthcare facilities without any significant disruptions. The Mercy project was completed in 20 months without accidents or injuries.

“No patients were inconvenienced, and the staff was fully aware of what we were doing and when,” Sardis said. “Our commitment when we started this project was that the public will only know we were there if we make a mistake. We took a zero-tolerance approach regarding injuries, outages and inconvenience to the customer, and we all committed to it, from OESCO’s upper management, to site management, down to the apprentices on the project.”

Detailed method of procedure forms—an OESCO internal requirement as well as a requirement of the engineer of record—were completed for all potentially hazardous activities. The forms stated the work activities to be performed, any potential hazards, personnel involved, references (such as applicable drawings), pre-implementation work activities and step-by-step work procedures (including specific lockout and tagout procedures if applicable). After the project was completed, a follow-up recap listed lessons learned and was signed by the applicable entities.

For OESCO, safety is of the utmost importance. The company has a tradition of working smart and working safe. Two full-time safety professionals constantly inspect, oversee, evaluate and improve employees’ safety performances. They also work with an outside safety consultant for quarterly reviews of company procedures and work sites and provide extensive in-house training seminars to help establish and sustain a culture of safety.

OESCO was established in Oklahoma City in 1909 as a storefront business providing electrical supplies. It quickly entered the electrical contracting business; it possesses the Oklahoma license No. 1. After more than a century and three generations of family ownership, OESCO is one of Oklahoma’s largest electrical contracting firms.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Griffin, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at up-front@cox.net.

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