Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards. FR Clothing, Gloves, Head Protection, Eyewear and Protective Footwear are all PPE.  The  articles listed below discuss their proper use and maintenance. Attend iP Safety Conference & Expo to learn more about the latest PPE products.

FREE Subscription to iP Magazine. We'll send you 6 issues a year at no charge!

Tuesday, 01 August 2006 18:14

When is a Lineman a Lineman?

Written by 
This feature's title is not a rhetorical question. There really should be an answer-a definitive, widely accepted answer we could all give quickly and consistently. There isn't and we can't, though we try with great confidence. When one of us comes up with something that sounds pretty good, another one of us disagrees.
The lack of standards in our industry about who a lineman is and what he does plagues us in hiring, training, work assignments, and especially when we try to manage contract workers or other utility personnel who have been borrowed to help restore power after a storm. It is singularly odd in our industry that such an important title could be so ambiguous.
The U.S. Department of Labor, in its May 2005 Occupational Employment Statistics, said there were 131,640 "Electrical Powerline Installers and Repairers" (SOC Code 499051) employed by utilities and contractors in the nation at that time. How many linemen? They don't know either. Same problem we have. What is a lineman? Of course, Uncle Sam successfully de-genderized its occupational classifications anyway, so the title of "Lineman" went the way of "Postman" some time ago.
That's okay, I guess. I'll settle for line mechanic, if you will. There goes the clarity, though. Who wants to call themselves "Line Mechanic" and confuse everyone, when they could just say "Lineman" and leave a clear picture of what they do?
The reason we don't have a clear picture is because we know too much. We each have biased expectations on what a lineman should know and be able to do.
As Director of Training for a large powerline contractor for ten years, I was constantly faced with the problem of worker classification. We hired more than 600 lineworkers a year, and I'll be darned if they didn't all come in claiming to be journeyman linemen, expecting top pay. They weren't.
Our foremen told me they could tell within an hour, on-the-job, whether the new hire was a journeyman lineman or not. "How?" I would ask. "Easy," they would reply. "Just watch how they _____." You fill in the blank, because it was always different. "But," I would rebut, "what if they are poor at _____, but good at _____. Wouldn't that still qualify them as a lineman?" "No way," they would say, "you hafta _____, to be a lineman." Two foremen would stand right there contradicting each other on the 'hafta _____." It was kind of like arguing night and day. I think they just liked to argue.
I wish now I had made a list of all those blanks filled in, because maybe if you add all of them up, you have your definition of a journey-level line mechanic (or whatever).
Then, you have the whole issue of lineman apprentices. Still confusing? Possibly less so, because the U. S. Department of Labor has some guidelines for us on "apprenticeable occupations" (see Table 1). The DOL also goes on to recommend guideline standards for registered apprenticeship programs (see Table 2).
Okay. Good. But then our eyes naturally stop on "a schedule of work processes in which the apprentice is to receive training and experience on the job." I searched the DOL web site in vain trying to find "a schedule of work processes" for electrical powerline installers and repairers. It's not there.
I've been in the industry long enough to see that we do have a generally accepted standard of four years, or 8,000 hours, as a typical period to apprentice as a lineman. I do, however, know some very well respected electric utilities that differ with the four year assumption: one says three years is plenty; another says seven years is a minimum. Who is right?
It's difficult to say, isn't it? We haven't even agreed on what they are supposed to do in their apprenticeship. We're back to that "schedule of work processes" again. Fundamentally, in my role as Director of Training for 2,000 lineworkers, that was the starting point for me as well.
Now, as Executive Director of the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction (ISPC), I am on a mission: I want to know when a lineman is a lineman. And specifically I'm talking about a powerline worker at a journeyman level. Build it a piece at a time, if you want: Apprentice Level I, II, III, IV, but help me get to that definition of a lineman practicing his or her trade at a journey worker level. Also, throw in there how long it should take to become a lineman.
I'm gathering evidence for our panel discussion at the Incident Prevention Hands-on-Safety Conference in California this October. Sign in at www.ispconline.com and put in your two cents worth. Also, let's vote on a name. I've used several throughout this article. What should linemen be called in the 21st Century?  ip

Ronald J. Schenk has served as ISPC Executive Director since 2004. From 1994-2004 he was the Director of Training for Red Simpson, Inc., a top five powerline contractor. From 1990-1994, Schenk served as Director of Training at Universal Electric Construction and from 1984-1990 was a Senior Consultant and Trainer, FMI Management Consultants. Schenk holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and is a Certified Occupational Safety Specialist (COSS).

Read 18461 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 November 2010 18:18
Ronald J. Schenk, CUSP

Our mission is to advocate for safety and health in the powerline construction and maintenance industry by:

  • Researching and developing, safety, training and health standards
  • Educating, training and assessing skills
  • Defining best practices Auditing programs and advising management
  • Advising regulatory agencies

Website: ispconline.com/

Subscribe-now-lg

FREE Subscription to iP Magazine.

We'll send you 6 issues a year at no charge!

Safety Management

Utility safety management is no easy job. Managing personnel, staying current on leg/reg issues, understanding record keeping processes and policy enforcement are only a few of the areas Incident Prevention provides in-depth coverage.

Read Safety Management articles

Personal Protective Equipment

OSHA requires the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards. FR Clothing, Gloves, Head Protection, Eyewear and Protective Footwear are all PPE.  The  articles listed below discuss their proper use and maintenance. Attend iP Safety Conference & Expo to learn more about the latest PPE products.

Read Personal Protective articles

Tailgate Safety Topics

Tailgate meetings are a critical communication component of any strong utility safety program. Incident Prevention supplies the utility industry with topics for these important meetings. Each article can be printed out for use in the field or emailed to your crews.

Tailgate Safety Topic articles

Worksite Safety

Daily hazards face utility and contractor work crews. Understanding the risks involved, knowing the proper procedures, building a strong culture of open communication and constant awareness will prevent incidents. Our articles on aerial work, underground construction, grounding techniques, high-voltage risks provide utility workers a better understanding of the task at hand.  iP Safety Conferences are another great resource for understanding hazards.

Read Worksite Safety articles

Reader Profiles

Building an effective safety culture requires strong safety leadership.  The iP reader profiles features utility industry safety managers who know what it takes to overcome obstacles that brings their workers home each and every day.

Reader Profile articles

Leadership Development

As our current utility workforce retires, new utility safety leaders are coming onboard all of the time.  Incident Prevention is here to assist in the development of their leadership skills.  Managing people, understanding generational differences, building strong communications skills, establishing accountability are just a few of the subject areas covered in the magazine and at iP Safety Conferences.

Leadership Development articles

 

Equipment Operations

Safe equipment operations is required on every jobsite.  Utility work requires the use of cranes, derricks, buckets, trenchers, dozers and more.  Learn about the hazards associated with equipment operations in the articles featured below.

 Equipment Operations articles

Grounding

Grounding systems are designed so they provide the necessary safety functions. Understanding different grounding methods is critical for utility workers.  Incident Preventions relies upon industry experts to author these much needed articles.  For better insight on grounding methods used in the field you may want to attend iP Safety Conference and hear their in-depth presentations.

Read Grounding articles