The speed of change is increasing. In more than 45 years as a lineman, I have seen things go from manual to automatic to wireless. Being a lineman requires physical and analytical skills, but now more technologies need to be mastered.
The fundamental lineman skills are still based on transformation, rigging and limits of approach. However, increased mechanical knowledge of bucket and lifting technologies along with improved equipment requires advanced experience to operate safely. The lineman or woman of today, if they have moved around at all, will find huge learning curves to adapt to work practices that vary from area to area. Challenging old ideas and work methods is difficult. When in Rome do as the Romans do — until they believe you are a Roman with a good idea — which can take a long time.
Change can be painfully slow.
This is where there is an opportunity for more experienced linemen to open the doors for sharing new ideas. There was a time when line crews did too much without help, like traffic control, tree crews or environmental cleanup and reporting crews. It is time to adjust our thinking and share the planning and resources differently. Be open to getting more equipment or assistance. Install more cover up or isolate for more spacing.
The days of grunting a few phrases in a tailboard session, expecting people to know what their duties would be, are long gone. The higher the risk in the job the more documentation required. Not long away will be recording pre-job or tailboard or electronic planning diagrams. Confined space procedures and inspections will require space age equipment to record and monitor or identify hazardous environments.
Working with old and new equipment and design of materials in the outdoor environment requires experience and operating knowledge. Linemen are very resourceful people that make sure the job gets done, but is it being done the best way?
Utilities have always tried to save money on materials and maintenance. Tree trimming and operational budgets are under pressure to risk spending monies versus failure or outage costs. The linemen and women are under higher levels of risk due to old equipment or ridiculous locations or designs. Backyard access for overhead distribution lines takes up huge resources to repair in storms.
Linemen need to address these issues and demand increases in manpower or crews to meet the increasing needs. Other changes that are needed include giving Lineman first responder status to assist with the realities of the job. Drone usage for patrolling and inspection should be implemented where useful. More line fault indicators and supervisory reclosing with real time switching technologies in the mobile field is needed.
If you want to pretend doing things the “old way” is always the best way, please stay where you are and work alone. At least until the buyout.
The only change that I will never agree with is that linemen or women getting hurt is acceptable, and/or they knew things were risky coming in. Push back and change the level of risk we accept by poor management or engineering designs that do not make sense. Improve your communications skills, teamwork, and feedback openly. Embrace the challenge of change and be a leader. If you do not have enough experience, then reach out to those who are beside you.
Bruce Masse – Trouble Technician