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Spotlight on the Line Trade: Barret Frith of Manitoba Hydro

March 5, 2021
Barret Frith enjoys working as a lineman for Manitoba Hydro and hopes to one day lead a crew.
  • Born in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and has a twin brother and an older sister.
  • Married with a five-year-old son, Maverick, and a two-year-old daughter, Mila.
    • Enjoys playing baseball, fishing and spending time at the lake. 
      • Currently working on a system upgrade in Winnipeg, replacing old poles and reconductoring. 
        • Can’t live without his goat wrench. His crew has also recently switched over to the Milwaukee M18 Fuel series of tools, which he considers a game-changer. 

          Early Years
          I saw an ad in the paper, and I thought it looked interesting. My neighbor worked for the utility, so I went over and talked to him about it. He showed me how to climb and some of the other things a lineman does on a daily basis. 

          My first job working for Manitoba Hydro was building a new subdivision in a town in rural Manitoba. We strung in the primary and secondary wire and hung transformers. 

          Day in the Life
          As a bid journeyman on an overhead distribution construction crew, my main duties are to perform line work on all types of energized lines, 25 kV and below, as well as de-energized lines, up to and including 500 kV. I also provide on-the-job direct supervision to junior staff and provide them with guidance and training as required.

          Challenges and Rewards
          In Manitoba, our biggest challenge is usually the weather, which can be quite harsh. In the winter, it often plunges to -35 deg C. The biggest reward is being able to restore power to people after a storm.

          Safety Lesson
          They do a great job here of emphasizing the importance of safety right from the moment you are hired. Before we start a task, one person will do a written job plan and then go over it with the rest of the crew. This helps us identify any hazards and makes sure we all know what’s going on. 

          Memorable Storm
          In 2019, we had a winter storm come through and destroy more than 100 transmission towers and 4,000 wooden utility poles. it also took down almost 1000 km of power line leaving 266,000 customers without power. We worked on the restoration for a month. We worked long days, and we were staying in camps, but it was also really rewarding.

          Another memory that sticks out in my mind was flying to Toronto, Canada, to help with an ice storm. We left on Christmas Eve and retuned home on New Year’s Eve. It was great to see the way they operated there, and I got to meet a lot of good people.

          Life as a Lineman
          I think it’s the best job in the world. It’s a rewarding career that isn’t for everyone, but I love it, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

          Plans for the Future
          I just plan on continuing to build more power line. I am really enjoying where I am at right now, but I hope to move up into a leadhand role and eventually become a foreman and run my own crew. 

          Editor’s Note: T&D World is excited to partner with Milwaukee Tool on a new sponsorship for the linemen profiled in our Lifeline department. To thank the linemen for their dedication to the line trade, Milwaukee will send a tool package to each lineman profiled. 

          If you are interested in being profiled in our monthly Lifeline department or know of a journeyman lineman who would be a good candidate, email T&D World Field Editor Amy Fischbach at [email protected].

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