Have you ever seen a crew of your electric cooperative’s linemen working high on a pole or in a bucket truck and wished you could ask them questions about their work? Not many people hold this complicated and dangerous job, so not many know the ins and outs of it. Co-ops are proud of their lineworkers and want members to understand exactly why. To help explain, here are a few questions that are frequently asked of linemen:
Q: It looks like a tough and scary job. What is the hardest part of being a lineworker?
A: There are lots of challenging aspects to working on electric lines, and every lineman is sure to have a different answer. Some say it was difficult initially to acquire the vast amount of knowledge it took to complete the training. Others acknowledge that it’s hard to leave their homes and families to work outside in rough weather—especially if the call comes on a weekend or holiday, as often seems to happen. The sometimes grueling hours and strenuous conditions are another difficulty of the job, as is the pressure of working around high-voltage lines.
Q: How do line personnel work on energized lines and avoid being injured?
A: Lineworkers receive years of extensive training before they can work on live lines. They are highly qualified to perform intricate tasks under high pressure—often at heights of 40 feet or more—that are typically required for line work. They also receive regular training throughout their careers to keep them mindful of safety requirements and apprised of updates in equipment and procedures.
Linemen also use personal protective equipment that shields them from the high voltage of electric lines. This includes insulated rubber gloves, sleeves and boots, as well as specially designed tools and insulated vehicles. Each piece of equipment is inspected regularly to ensure that it’s intact and able to protect the lineworker from harm.
Q: Aren’t power lines along the road insulated?
A: Many people think that overhead power lines along roadways have insulation material around them like the electric cords they see on appliances in their homes. Not exactly. Some low-voltage power lines are insulated; however, high-voltage distribution and transmission lines are not insulated. That’s part of the reason they are suspended so high in the air—and it’s the reason broken lines are so dangerous when they’re down on the ground. All power lines can be deadly and should be treated with caution.
Q: Why do linemen choose such a hazardous line of work?
A: Lineworkers understand that their career choice might seem strange to other people, especially when they’re outside working on lines in freezing conditions or driving rain. The reasons vary from one lineman to the next, but many say they enjoy the mastery of a complicated skill and the satisfaction of being challenged daily by work that is never repetitive. Some appreciate being part of a hardworking brotherhood. Others love the excitement and fulfillment of being called on to come through in an emergency. Nearly all linemen agree that the best aspect of their work is the opportunity to help their neighbors when things look darkest.
Every member of cooperatives in Texas benefits from the courage and dedication of lineworkers. Please honor these “high-wire heroes” April 10 by celebrating National Lineman Appreciation Day.