I hired into the Lansing Board of Water and Light as a laborer. Four years later, I applied for the lineman apprenticeship because the pay looked amazing to me. I was athletic, not scared of heights and didn’t know I should be scared of electricity. I started my apprenticeship in 1990, so I’ve been doing this for 23 years. For the last six years, I’ve worked as a trouble person at my company.
Day in the Life
I work as a first responder for customer calls that include power-outs, wire down, car/pole accidents or limbs on wires. If I can’t fix it, I have a crew called in. There are two of us in this position in our company, so we cover calls 24/7 between our 8-hour shifts. I get a lot of overtime being on call, but I love it.
At my job, every day is different. It’s a lot of problem solving and challenging. It keeps me in shape physically and mentally. It’s rewarding to respond to a customer outage call and within minutes, fix a few connections and restore power for someone expecting a more frustrating or expensive solution.
Sometimes a lineman’s life depends on thinking quickly or reacting instinctively. One afternoon, responding to a flickering lights call, I was up in my 42-ft bucket truck checking connections at the pole. I had squeezed the bucket between the secondary and phone lines to reach the customer’s connections. Because of a poor design on the bucket, the control levers extended a couple inches above the rim of the bucket. I had to duck down in the bucket with my hand on the controls swinging me back out of the lines. As I stood up and released the lever, the bucket continued to swing. I realized the bottom leg of the secondary was caught on the lever, keeping it activated.
As the bucket was swinging, I was quickly becoming an arrow in a giant bow. I had seconds to decide what to do before I was either decapitated or became a human slingshot. I crouched down in the bucket, braced myself with everything I had and prayed. The wire let go, and I felt the bucket launch. By the grace of God, I wasn’t thrown out, and the truck didn’t tip over. I ended up with a bruised and sore elbow, but alive.
Every lineman has stories that emphasize that you always have to be ready to react and stay level-headed. After that incident, the controls on that truck were changed immediately.
Storms offer an invaluable learning experience. You can learn more in one good storm than a couple of years in disciplined training. For example, one day, a wind brought about 12 spans of transmission line and poles right down in the middle of a highway during the 5 p.m. rush hour. I was on the first crew called in and saw how the equipment, tools, supplies and manpower were rushed in to start the restoration. It’s exhilarating to be part of setting the new poles, bolting on those huge insulators, coordinating the cranes to lift the wires back up into position and turning chaos back to order.
Life as a Line Worker
When you work as a lineman, you face shoulder, elbow, knee and wrist injuries, challenging weather conditions and lack of sleep from long days and nights. While this job isn’t for everyone, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I look forward to work every day, and my coworkers are part of my family. There is a camaraderie that doesn’t exist in many professions.
Male or female, if you like to push your limits and see what you’re truly capable of mentally and physically, the personal rewards are endless. You never stop learning about the job and about yourself. I am grateful to have had the chance to work as a line worker and for the company that provided me with that opportunity.