You may not realize it, but our nation’s linemen impact your life on a daily basis. You may be wondering how that can be, but if you take a moment to think about your activities, you’ll soon see. Did you rely on a fully charged cell phone to wake you with its alarm this morning? Or did you use a conventional alarm clock? Both worked and woke you on time because of electricity. Did you take a hot shower? That’s also complements of electricity. Make a pot of coffee? Also available to you because of electricity. You get the point – we often take electricity for granted. We expect to flip a switch and have lights. We demand electricity 24/7 and we want it to be uninterrupted and available when we want it. Many of us never give a thought to what it takes to provide that level of service and the risks that are involved.
The nation’s 117,600 lineworkers are on call around the clock. Linemen are often first responders during storms and other catastrophic events, working to make the scene safe for other public safety officers. However, these dedicated, hard workers are often taken for granted. They work to restore power after natural disasters, maintain the lines or build new service. The lineman out in the field works with thousands of volts of electricity high atop power lines 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to keep electricity flowing and maintain the energy infrastructure.
In fact, the job of a lineman has been listed as one of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. To help keep them safe, they wear specialized protective clothing and equipment at all times when on the job. This includes special fire-resistant clothing that will self-extinguish, limiting potential injuries from burns and sparks. Two sets of gloves are worn together to protect them from electrical shock – double the gloves, double the protection. While the gear performs a critical function, it also adds additional weight and bulk, making the job more complex. Linemen carry up to 40 pounds of gear – the equivalent to a full 5-gallon water bottle!
“I’ve been here 31 years. Times have changed and our industry has changed,” said Bo Ussery, a WFEC journeyman lineworker. “We probably have some of the best safety equipment that anyone in this business has – and we need to use it.”
Linemen also need to be safety experts and remain vigilant when on the job. They take part in multiple training opportunities throughout each year to ensure their safety and the safety of others. They learn how and when to inspect their personal protective equipment and tools. And, they learn how to rescue fellow linemen from the tops of poles, often called pole top rescue. The record time for putting on gear, climbing a 40-foot-tall pole and rescuing a hurt man is 43.33 seconds. Linemen are also trained in CPR, first aid and the use of defibrillators. They are also briefed on the latest OSHA safety rules and regulations, and even traffic safety.
“I tell a lot of people that the Usserys are a utility family – my son is a crew leader at Florida Public Utilities and my grandson is an apprentice lineman at Gulf Coast Electric and I think that is probably the main reason I preach safety like I do now. I think of my grandson,” said Ussery.
Our linemen have to be knowledgeable about many subjects including the fundamentals of electricity, how it is generated and distributed, DC & AC current and circuits and trigonometry. In fact, a lot of mathematics and scientific principles are involved in a linemen’s job. They must also learn about vectors, grounding, the use of hot line tools, how to tie ropes and knots appropriately, how to repair power lines and other line equipment, how to construct power lines and the maintenance of those lines. 73127003
Linemen learn about insulators, transformer connections, underground distribution, installing line conductors, climbing techniques, safe approach distances, switching procedures, Ohm’s Law, wattage, load, power factor and much more. Our linemen are even trained in basic forestry techniques such as how to fell a tree safely.
They are also taught leadership skills and how to recognize hazards on the job. These workers around the country must learn multiple abbreviations, symbols and technical terms. They also learn how meters work, how to install them, how to detect problems and how to test them.
"These men are highly trained professionals who have to hold many certifications and undergo extensive training no matter how long they have been doing the job. Many of these guys are very unassuming individuals and their skills are seldom, if ever, on public display. However, when things are at their worst during severe weather, these individuals are at their best,” said Terry Mullen, Manager, Marketing & Communications.
Our linemen understand the need for electricity and they pride themselves on restoring it as quickly, but as safely as possible. Wouldn’t you rather it take an hour longer to restore your power outage in the safest way possible so that a lineman makes it home to his family without injury? As a member and employee of West Florida Electric, I know I would – because we are family. 95687002
“I think the biggest thing about West Florida Electric is our family – it’s the family we have amongst ourselves. We actually spend more time with each other than we do with our own family,” said Bob McDaniel, a staking engineer in the Sneads district office.
While we understand that electricity is vital in our day-to-day lives, we must never lose sight of the fact that our priority as a company is to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to our members. It is a priority that our linemen return home to their families safely. Every. Single. Day.