By Steve Sheffield
You’ve likely noticed Clarke-Washington EMC’s crews out and about, working on power lines and other electrical equipment in our community. It’s no secret that a lineworker’s job is tough––but it’s a job that’s essential and must be done, often in challenging conditions. This month, as we celebrate Lineworker Appreciation Day on April 11, I thought I’d share some interesting facts about Clarke-Washington EMC’s employees with you.
The work can be heavy, in more ways than one. Did you know the equipment and tools that a lineworker carries while climbing a utility pole can weigh up to 50 pounds? That’s the same as carrying six gallons of water. Speaking of utility poles, lineworkers are required to climb poles ranging anywhere from 30 to 120 feet tall. Needless to say, if you have a fear of heights, this likely isn’t the career path for you.
Lineworkers must be committed to their career––because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. The long hours and ever-present danger can truly take a toll. In fact, being a lineworker is listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S.
Lineworkers often work non-traditional hours, outdoors in difficult conditions. While the job does not require a college degree, it does require technical skills, lots of training and hands-on learning. Lineworkers often attend specialized schools that prepare them for the task. We’ve been fortunate over the past few years to hire several new employees that attended a lineman training program before coming to work for us. Regardless, we still provide additional training both on the job and through additional classroom and construction labs. That’s because working with high-voltage equipment requires specialized skills, experience and an ongoing mental toughness. Shortcuts are not an option, and there is no room for error in this line of work.
Despite the many challenges, Clarke-Washington’s lineworkers are committed to powering our local community. During severe weather events that bring major power outages, lineworkers are among the first ones called. They must be ready to leave the comfort of their home and families unexpectedly, and they don’t return until the job is done, often days later. That’s why the lineworker’s family is also dedicated to service. They understand the importance of the job to the community.
Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 electric lineworkers. Here in our four-county service area, Clarke-Washington EMC has approximately 30 lineworkers that are responsible for keeping power flowing 24/7, 365 days a year. To do this, they maintain more than 4,100 miles of power lines across Clarke, Washington, Wilcox and Monroe counties. In addition to the highly visible tasks lineworkers perform, their job today goes far beyond climbing utility poles to repair a wire. Today’s lineworkers are information experts who GPS meter locations, maintain AMI systems and use specialized equipment to troubleshoot problems.
Being a lineworker may not seem like a glamorous job, but it is absolutely essential to the life of our community. Without the exceptional dedication and commitment of these hardworking men and women, we simply would not have the reliable electricity that we need for everyday life.
And, it’s not just lineworkers that keep your power flowing. We have approximately 15 other employees that play critical roles as well. They do everything from monitoring our AMI system for outages and dispatching crews to answering phone calls for billing information. And, many important functions behind the scenes from safety, engineering, purchasing, communications and financial functions. It takes a team of dedicated individuals working together to make it all happen and I’m really proud of our team at Clarke-Washington EMC.
So, the next time you see a lineworker or other Clarke-Washington EMC employee, please thank them for the work they do to keep power flowing, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions. Afterall, our employees are the power behind your power. Please join us as we recognize them on April 11.