The life of a line specialist
NOTE: This is the article mentioned on the back page of the April issue of EnergyLines.
This article originally published in the November 2010 issue of EnergyLines.
Sometimes it’s dusty. Sometimes it’s muddy. It might be so hot your shirt is soaked with sweat in just minutes. It could be so cold you can’t feel your hands – and your hands are your tools. You might get a call in the dead of night to head out to fix an outage in a blizzard.
It’s crucial, it’s critical, and it’s the job of a line specialist.
“Line specialists are the lifeblood of what we do,” says Power Delivery Coordinator Alan Woodford. “They’re the frontlines in the battle for reliability. It’s the line crews who get the lights back on.”
Line specialists wake up early, never knowing if they’ll have to stay late. They pack their lunches and carry plenty of water. They trek across rough terrain, and they go wherever the job demands.
There’s sunscreen and bug spray for the summer; tall boots with liners for the winter. There’s the daily talk about cars and boats, hunting and fishing, spouses and friends. There are long stretches of silence. There are grunts and hand signals that carry whole sentences of meaning.
There is a constant commitment to quality and safety.
Dave Helton is a second-generation lineman with 20 years of experience, 17 of them at Hoosier Energy. He says the job is tough but satisfying.
“You’re dealing with the elements, you’re out in it,” he said. “It’s extreme heat, extreme cold, lightning, rain, snow.”
But, he says, it is also rewarding. “At the end of the day you look up and see the work you’ve done and know it will be there for years to come.”
And then there are the people you work with. “Line work is team work,” he added. “It’s about communication and focus.”
Focus is mandatory. Line work is inherently dangerous, and a momentary lapse of attention can be deadly.
“There are serious hazards in this work, and it’s not just the electricity,” says Woodford. “There are falling trees and icy poles. These guys have to be constantly on guard, and they have to know what they’re doing.”