In 2020, Americans became all too familiar with the term “essential worker,” in reference to jobs that could not be put on hold as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world.
However, there are some lines of work that have never been anything but essential. Among them are the lineworkers who keep electricity flowing to our community’s homes, businesses, hospitals, churches, schools, traffic lights, nursing homes and much more.
The work can be heavy, in more ways than one. The equipment and tools that linemen carry just to complete their dayto- day work can weigh up to 50 pounds. That’s the same as carrying six gallons of water.
Speaking of utility poles, lineworkers are required to work at heights ranging anywhere from 30 to 120 feet tall. Sometimes, this work can be done from the bucket of their trucks. There are other times, however, when a pole is in a location that’s inaccessible for a utility truck. In those cases, linemen have to climb to the top of the pole to work on lines, transformers and other pole mounted equipment.
Baldwin EMC’s linemen go through six to seven years. or close to 10,000 hours of training to become a full-fledged journeyman lineworker, able to work on energized lines and go on calls after hours. Much of that training revolves around learning how to carry out their work safely. Linework is consistently listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the country, due to their work with high-voltage electricity at hazardous heights, in all kinds of challenging weather conditions. Baldwin EMC’s linemen spend an average of more than 200 hours in safety training each year.
Because outages and other emergency situations don’t just occur during normal business hours, linemen rotate being on after hours standby, ready to be dispatched to restore power at night, over the weekends and during holidays. Baldwin EMC’s linemen spend, on average, more than 800 hours each year on call outside of their normal work shifts.
Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 electric lineworkers. Here at Baldwin EMC, 62 linemen are responsible for maintaining more than 4,000 miles of power lines across the co-op’s expansive and diverse distribution system, which includes thousands of acres of dense timberland, numerous watersheds and marshy areas, and 32 miles of coastline.
In addition to the highly visible tasks linemen perform, their job today goes far beyond climbing utility poles to repair a wire. Today’s linemen are information experts who can pinpoint power outages from miles away. Line crews now use not just manpower, but advanced technologies to map outages, survey damage and troubleshoot problems.
In 2014 the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA) worked with state legislators to pass a formal resolution creating Alabama’s official Lineman Appreciation Day. Rep. April Weaver of Alabaster, the granddaughter of a lineman, sponsored the legislation.
The resolution that established Alabama Lineman Appreciation Day justifies the special acknowledgment by pointing out that “these brave men and women are essential to the protection of our communities and our nation” and “linemen put their lives on the line every day, with little recognition from the community regarding the danger and difficulty of their work.”
Baldwin EMC was among many cooperatives to recognize Linemen Appreciation Day in April, with a special breakfast in their honor, along with recognition from management and across the co-op’s social media platforms.