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Secrets Of The Trade: Becoming a Lineman

by Byrne Anderson
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There’s an undeniable appeal to the idea of becoming one of the electrical linemen. For most people this begins with simply noticing that there are people living their lives closer to the clouds than most ever reach. People talk of the appeal held by open skies and clean air. But it holds little to compare to the experience of quite literally climbing over all the day to day issues most people have. But the fascination tends to grow as one looks even more into the industry.

The history of linemen dates back long enough that there’s a wealth of information out there for anyone interested. Most people are shocked to find that it dates back to the 1840s. The rise of the telegraph was also the rise of the lineman. The rise of electricity would also increase the overall penetration of the lineman into society. In those early days linemen would actually wander from town to town to perform their services before circling back home. The fact that an electrical and communication network existed back then is in large part due to their hard work and sense of duty. It was a job full of danger. But also full of reward.

One of the secrets of the modern lineman is that it’s considerably safer these days. The IBEW, NECA and OSHA are all tasked with elements of on the job safety for a lineman. However, these are only a piece of the puzzle. A larger reason why things have become safer can be found in the tools of the trade.

For example, consider the extra utility provided by lineman battery powered cutting tools. There was a time when something akin to the lineman battery powered cutting tools            would have been bulky to the point of causing additional risk to linemen. But today’s battery powered system means that it’s as portable as one’s own body. And that body is itself benefitting from various tools.

Probably the most notable is flame resistant and arc flash protective clothing. But easy availability of rubber gloves and sleeves has also made a huge impact to overall safety. Not to mention even something as seemingly simple as high quality, easily managed, bucket liners. But as far as clothing is concerned it’s probably the moisture wicking garments that deserve the highest place of honor. The flame and arc flash resistant, or FR, material has protected countless linemen from danger.

And all of this comes together to highlight one of the most important points for anyone who wants to become a lineman. There are some prerequisites involved. One should have a high school diploma for example. And any further accreditation or degrees will be helpful. But it’s direct hands on experience as an apprentice which really paves the path to becoming a lineman. And it’s the process of becoming familiar with the equipment that makes that path viable.

Obviously, there’s quite a few skills involved. The direct electrical work and the math involved in the profession are easily noted points. Likewise one will need to work on becoming comfortable with heights. And even certification with heavy machinery will probably come up at some point. And these do involve skill, experience and dedication. But more than anything else it involves learning a justified confidence. One needs to become confident in using the tools of the trade.

People should also become confident in trusting their safety to their coworkers. And finally, it’s important to learn the limits of both oneself and the hardware. If one can keep all of that in mind then it’s quite possibly the safest and most rewarding time to set off on a career among the linemen.

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