Several months ago, I started a series titled “Things We Take For Granted” This is part 2 of the series. You can find Things We Take For Granted Part 1 here.
Do you ever stop to think about how electric lines get built or how electricity gets to our homes? Most of us don’t really think about electricity because it’s something that’s always just there.
Electrical workers choose a career path that is seldom recognized for the impact they have on our daily lives or for the stress and danger they face on the job.
You are probably thinking to yourself. Thanks, electrical workers; but really what’s the big deal. After, all it is your job.
The Big Deal
The big deal is that we all take electricity for granted. We use it on a daily — actually a second by second basis – without ever giving it a thought. We don’t think about how the electricity gets to us UNTIL – The electricity goes out. Then we’re calling our local electric company and complaining big time about the inconvenience of not having it.
The big deal is that these men and women (yes there are women lineman) work in all sorts of harsh and stressful situations. When your electricity goes out during that big hail and rainstorm; they are the ones that work all night to get the electricity back on as quickly as possible. Linemen work in blizzards, frigid temperatures, high winds, rainstorms, 100 degree plus temperatures and any other weather condition you can think up. Linemen work long, long hours in these situations –sometimes they work 16 or more hours at one time. Then, they go home to sleep for a few hours knowing they have to be back to work within 8 hours.
The big deal is that when linemen are working to restore your electricity their families are home dealing with the extreme weather conditions on their own.
The big deal is that these extreme weather conditions are dangerous before you add in the electrical component. The news will announce that roads are impassable and everyone should stay home. Look out your window and one of the few vehicles you’ll see out and about is the electric company trucks.
The big deal is that electricity is always, always dangerous and these men work with it on a daily basis.
You might be asking just how do I know all of this? My husband retired last year after 38 years of working for our local electric company as a lineman and then a line foreman. As a Journeyman Lineman and foreman, he spent all of those 38 years working outside in all types of weather making sure that everyone had the electricity they needed. As a foreman, he was responsible for teaching his crews to be efficient and safe. Of course, safety is a big issue when you work with electricity. Through the years, we have known many men who have been seriously hurt through a careless mistake or a fluke electrical occurrence. My hubby was often called a “hard a__” because he was so strict about safety. However, he never had a crew member burned or electrocuted on his watch because of his focus on safety.
A person doesn’t become an electric lineman the day he decides that’s what he wants to do. This career path requires years of training and dedication to learning. In my husband’s situation, he trained for 4 years to become a Journeyman Lineman. This requires training, apprentice classes and a yearly test for each of the 4 years. At the end of the 4 years, there’s a major test — the Journeyman Lineman test. I’ve seen questions from this test. It’s not for the weak hearted. It requires knowledge of how electricity works, currents, math, electrical tools, and safety. Later, my husband also attended additional company sponsored classes one night a week for four more years. In addition, my husband earned a certificate in business from our community college. Most electric companies have similar type programs or they will only hire you after you have received your training. Community colleges and some universities are now offering programs for Journeyman Lineman training.
Of course, the training doesn’t stop once a lineman passes the Journeyman test. There are required workshops and training seminars. My husband also taught apprentice classes for many years. Most Journeymen are mentored by the more experienced Linemen. Working with an experienced lineman is where the men learn how to work safely and efficiently. My husband’s mentor taught him well and my husband passed this knowledge on to many others. Even though he’s retired now; he is still known as the guy you wanted to work with to learn the job.
Being an Journeyman Lineman is recognized within the electric industry as job that requires a great amount of skill. In fact, there are international competitions where linemen from all over the world compete to demonstrate their skills. My husband competed in many of these competitions placing 1st in local and regional competitions. His teams also competed at the international level 16 times (International Lineman’s Rodeo). I tell you this not to brag (even though I am proud of him); but to emphasize that working with electricity requires great skill.
Since his retirement my husband has worked as an inspector for an engineering firm. He is overseeing the safety and accuracy of transmission electric lines that are being built throughout Texas. His hours are long and the crews work in all sorts of conditions. Things We Take For Granted Part 1 is about those crews and the job they do.
This post is not intended to take away anything from those who work in other jobs that are considered dangerous. I have great respect and admiration for those men and women in the military, working in law enforcement or working as fire fighters. This post is a gentle reminder that sometimes we overlook others who have dangerous careers because they work in the background. There are many others that deserve recognition and our appreciation. What professions and careers do you think I should add to my series “Things We Take For Granted”?
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