One thing that linemen have to do that is unlike anyone else is handle high voltage in the darkness of night. Construction during daylight, most of what we do, is routine and fair to say quite safe.
Climbing and working with the elements of nasty weather challenges the best of our senses. The newer lighting systems are fantastic today and help to light up our work zone. Of course, working aloft out of a bucket and looking back into the light blinds you. Hand signals and redirecting the light take experience to set up carefully. That is a conversation must happen and should be included in the tailboard.
Many of our hard hat lights have adjustable levels of light and makes work hands free. Making repairs or terminations in the dark take some tricks of the trade. I have seen people use their hands, tools, arms, fists, and knives to measure and help them manage. Making sure wire splices have been inserted to the right depth before crimping is critical at night.
Sagging open wire secondary live, in the dark, can present a very challenging task, especially when trees are involved. It is no fun burping the wire and watching it melt down or gallop flames up and down the span towards you.
Judging limits of approach at night requires others helping to observe and talking together when moving transformers or live primary conductors. Our crews work thousands of hours in the dark and not everyone has been taught all the tricks.
Keeping the trucks clean and organized, so that everything is right where it is supposed to be when you need it, matters! Firefighters and responders design and prepare things to be ready. Our trucks are every bit as complicated, if not more. Changing trucks or crews everyday leads to messy or unprepared trucks. Quite often truck stocking and set up is given to junior crew members which is fine if they are properly trained. Nobody can complain if something is missing if those responsible didn’t know where it should be in the first place.
A good safe crew at night works hard at preparation and anticipates the adventures they are going into.
Night work is even more difficult when you add fog, snow, ice, pounding rain or hail and lightning. Of course, having additional crews out there can add to this difficulty. It requires incredible amounts of space in trucks to keep everyone warm and dry and the insulation clean and dry. Thank God, designs have improved tools, trucks, and lighting to keep us safer!
Another thing that is unique for us at night are the people and their pets, especially during outage conditions. It has been more than once while dealing with customers that their guard dogs have been ready to pounce!
At night, people are nervous. You need to be careful when approaching the house, so changing the headlamp before blinding them while talking to them is a good idea.
Watching arcing wires is like watching fireworks but as much as we enjoy a good show, we know that people can get hurt if something were to let go. One other important reminder is to maintain high visibility for people and traffic control.
Patrolling the lines by truck has been controversial for one person to do. It was not until a few years ago that more people were dispatched. That made it far safer than driving with undoing care and attention. Once again life and safety has improved.
Usually, linemen like overtime but when you're working nights for many days it upsets your body. Life balance is hard enough to manage, and many organizations struggle with this reliability versus night shifts.
Linemen will always need to respond at night so being trained, ready and supported by our brothers and sisters is the only way to stay safe.
Thank you all for your incredible service!
Bruce Masse - Trouble Technician