I learned about the opportunities in the utility industry from a friend who worked as a lineman for a local contractor. I followed in his footsteps and became an apprentice in 1991. After completing my four-year apprenticeship, I became a journeyman lineman. I have climbed for more than 20 years, worked numerous storms and enjoyed it most of the time.
After serving five years as a lead lineman, I moved over to the technical training department as a lead trainer, and now serve as a supervisor of construction and maintenance. It was a natural progression for me to go from a lineman to a supervisor, and that decision has turned out really well. I still get to be with the crews daily and stay up to date with all of the new changes in our line of work.
Day in the Life
In the morning, we post a roster with daily crew makeup and assignments, then we start with safety meeting and a stretching session. We then discuss details of the job with our lead personnel, managers and design technicians. Meanwhile, the journeymen and apprentices inspect their vehicles and load up any necessary materials for their work out in the field.
We then perform field safety audits of our crews, visit customers, and attend meetings and training sessions on various topics. When the crews return back to the service center in the evening, we discuss any areas of concern associated with each job and prepare for the next day.
I have been fortunate not to have any accidents during my career as a lineman, but, unfortunately, we lost a good friend and coworker in January 2002. He was performing routine maintenance one evening and apparently had a flash. He lasted only two weeks after his accident. He told everyone how he would always show up after the primary fault, never seeing one for himself. The night he passed away happened to be one of KCP&L’s worst ice storms on record. I was working on top of a hill when I received the call from a coworker that Rod had lost his fight. All I could see were primary faults everywhere, a night I’ll never forget.
When you lose a coworker in a situation such as this, it really puts things into perspective. While linemen all have their differences, everyone knows the risks involved. There are still several posters around KCP&L made in Rod’s honor reminding everyone to “Never Forget.” Of course, we will not forget what happened to our friends and coworkers who lost their lives in the line of duty. You can’t become complacent in this line of work because things are always changing. No matter how good you are or how long you have done the work, the risk is always there. Every job can be done safely, and it’s imperative that no shortcuts are taken.
My most memorable storm was Hurricane Katrina. It was not only the devastation that took place, but simply the sheer number of people affected.
Life as a Lineman
Linemen are a very proud group. I would compare it to the relationship firefighters have with each other. An old lineman once told me that line work is “day-to-day boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.” You can expect to be working when the weather is at its worst and in hot or cold temperatures. Whatever makes people go indoors, brings lineman outdoors. You get a great feeling of pride knowing that you are helping people live their lives a little easier doing a job that most would not.