It takes a certain type of person to work on energized power lines, climb poles, and open switches on a daily basis. Linemen and women are generally tough, physically fit, and knowledgeable about the many types of conditions that can occur in their line of work.
Linemen spend most of their work days in all types of environmental conditions, including extreme heat, snow, rain, and sleet. A good lineman is thoroughly trained, highly experienced, and understands the importance of wearing personal protective equipment like rubber gloves, steel-toed boots, and hard hats while on the job because a lot can go wrong when you’re up on that pole. So, the question remains, why do linemen still get injured and even killed on the job?
We have compiled a list of five points for even the most practiced linemen to keep in mind as they move through their daily duties.
Use the Right Tools for the Job
Sometimes, linemen have to improvise on the job. As useful as this skill may seem, it can also be very dangerous. Drilling holes to frame a pole, for instance, may require a specific type of eyewear. Using the wrong eyewear or simply not using eyewear at all can cause injury to the eyes and face, or even blindness.
Forgetting to Inspect Tools or Using Broken Equipment
It’s easy to overlook small details when you’re trying to get a job done quickly. But, a quick inspection of your linemen equipment can literally save your life. For instance, checking your winch-hoist or come-a-long before each use only takes a few moments. Checking for frayed or cut web strap, ensuring that the stress link is intact, that there’s no broken teeth on the drum, that the U-pawl is hitting the main frame, or that a main pawl spring isn’t broken are all great ways to keep your hoist—and yourself—in good working condition.
Stay Focused and Be Prepared
Linemen spend a lot of time in the air. To a typical lineman, standing 15 feet above ground is a common occurrence. This can lead some workers to become complacent about their safety. In any job, we tend to go through the motions once we have carved out a routine, but in this particular line of work, you have to be focused and prepared. For instance, linemen will often climb from a ladder to the top of a transformer to break a ground lead free without using fall protection. If you’re electrocuted or even shocked at 12-15 feet and aren’t wearing fall protection, you will hit the ground. A fall from that height can cause grave injury. Being prepared with the right equipment and staying focused on the job and your personal safety can mean the difference between life and death.
Use Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment is essential for linemen, but unfortunately many go without it and experience serious injuries as a result. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not optional. For example, linemen are required to wear hard hats, safety glasses, harnesses, and low-voltage rubber gloves (or insulator/hot sticks). This may seem like the most obvious means of personal protection, but experienced linemen can also become complacent about their PPE because they’ve been doing the job for so long without incident. No matter how long you’ve been doing the job, you cannot predict when and where an incident can happen. Wearing your PPE is one of the easiest, most effective ways of keeping yourself safe on the job.
Meet with Your Team Daily
It’s not a bad idea to call your crew together each day to identify and discuss which hazards are present, what can cause serious injury or death, and how you can prevent incidents like these. Common safety practices can be—and are often—overlooked. Bringing your crew together each day before and/or after work will keep your team united and in agreement about hazardous conditions and standard safety practices.