The job of electricity linemen is essential: they have to make sure the electricity turns on and stays on, even in the worst of conditions. And while the job is important, it’s also dangerous. Voltage, weather, height – the job takes a mental and physical fortitude not everyone could handle.
The obvious hazard to linemen is the electricity itself. Workers have specialized skills to handle electric lines that may carry up to thousands of volts. Strict safety measures such as protective clothing help, and at times the power is shut down on the line but this does not eliminate all risk.
The weather adds complications. When the power goes out generally some condition has caused this to happen. That may be wind, rain, snow and ice. And that weather isn’t always through at the time the linemen have to get out to start making repairs. Workers pulled long shifts for days last winter during the Midwestern ice storm: not only did the ice storms drag down the power lines themselves, but damaged and knocked down trees as well to lay on the lines. The damage was widespread, conditions were cold and slick, and eventually the power returned.
Height is also a danger to workers since so many lines can be 2-3 stories above the ground, and the workers must often carry heavy equipment, or work in awkward and uncomfortable positions – kneeling or crouching, sometimes in cramped spaces.
Finally, automobiles pose a hazard to workers and this is why it is essential for drivers to heed traffic controls in work zones, keeping watchful for signs, cones, and barrels set to protect workers. Drivers must be extra careful of road conditions: rain or snow and ice make it easy to lose control, and many work zone fatalities occur annually. The June 22, 2012 death of Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 105’s journeyman line worker Jeff Creel is a reminder of these dangers when he was killed by a vehicle while working.
Despite the difficulties and hazards, linemen work hard to keep the lights on. Though it may go unnoticed when everything is smoothly, when the wind and the ice hits and the power goes out however temporarily, we can appreciate the work they do to get things up and running again.
UWUA Local 105 of Michigan has vowed to continue to educate and protect their members and other employees by raising awareness and implementing procedures for working in potentially unsafe conditions. As winter approaches the hazards of snow and ice must be planned for and workers must be aware of the conditions. Slip and fall accidents on customer properties are being studied and best practices are being shared among the membership to make sure all workers are working in the safest conditions possible given the harsh winter conditions of Michigan.