It’s easy to take everyday conveniences for granted: Our toasters toast. Our lights shine brightly. Our coffeemakers brew life-giving, soul-affirming coffee. And that’s about all there is to it. Well, not quite. While nothing puts things into perspective faster than a power outage (canned beans for dinner, anyone?), outside linemen see the world in a different light.
After all, without outside linemen (or any electrical contractor, for that matter) we’d spend our days huddled together playing Monopoly by candlelight. Putting multiple hotels on boardwalk for a brutal, take-no-prisoners victory? Well, that doesn’t exactly bring a family together.
No, you don’t punch holes in conduit, and you’re not immersed in the world of lighting for residential and commercial gigs. You’re the folks that move power from overhead distribution and transmission lines to businesses, homes, and factories. And you brave blistering wind, snow, and rain to get the job done.
We’re singing your praises, outside linemen. Here’s why:
1. You Have Historical Roots
The outside lineman trade has a long and storied history. Back in the day, the 1840s to be exact, telegraphs became a widespread means of communication. (I guess carrier pigeons had become passé at that point.) In fact, the first electrical linemen were tasked with stringing telegraph lines over trees. For obvious reasons, wooden poles soon became the preferred method.
Fast-forward to the 1940s and 1950s, when more and more households were becoming “electrified.” Along with the proliferation of electricity came a surge (pun intended) in the number of outside linemen tasked with maintaining circuit and power distribution, and providing emergency repairs when needed. The rest is history.
2. You Brave The Storm
Since most electrical line work is performed in the Great Outdoors, linemen often face harsh, extreme weather conditions. Come rain, snow, or shine, someone needs to keep those power lines running. Work conditions can be particularly harsh during windstorms and blizzards, which often down power lines. Guess whose job it is to fix that? (To stay dry, warm, and safe on the job, give this post a gander.)
3. You’ve Got Strength & Smarts
Most office jobs in America come with few physical risks. (Besides Carpal Tunnel and the occasional paper cut.) But the job of an electrical lineman isn’t for the faint of heart: it requires strength and stamina. Linemen are tasked with mountaineering up and down metal towers, poles, and other structures. Along the way, handling heavy equipment and materials is all in a day’s work.
Luckily, electrical contractors are smart cookies. Electrical linemen aren’t all muscle either: they’ve got brains too. With tasks like supervising journey-level workers and apprentices, and installing and maintaining transformers and other equipment, this job requires a certain level of skill and savvy. (Check out the Electrical Training Alliance for a breakdown of the job duties of an electrical lineman.)
4. You’re Safety Obsessed
Pure physical strength? Well, that’ll only get you so far in this field. Electrical linemen must be brawny and brainy to get the job done safely and effectively. The work of an outside lineman is risky business.
Most work is performed at pretty precipitous heights—anywhere from 40 to 100 feet off the ground. (Beef up on fall protection here.) Working on energized equipment and lines adds an additional element of risk. Also, it’s not uncommon for outside linemen to work in confined spaces, especially in underground installations. (Check out my previous post to stay safe when working in confined spaces.)
To stay safe on the job and current on industry standards, good training from the Electrical Training Alliance or “ETA” (previously known as NJATC) is crucial. With apprenticeship programs available, and a range of books, online resources and other learning tools, ETA is the only curriculum endorsed by IBEW and NECA, the industry’s largest labor organizations.
Over To You
Are you a seasoned outside lineman or a newbie? What appeals to you the most about this trade? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or connecting with us on Twitter @GraybarESP or on Facebook.
As National Market Manager at Graybar, Todd’s goal is to find the best products and solutions to help contractors work more efficiently, stay safe on the job, and win more productive and profitable business.