POWER PLAY: Linemen put it all on the line to keep customers powered up - The Daily Reporter - Greenfield Indiana

2022-04-21 13:49:50 By : Ms. Angela Zhang

GREENFIELD  —  Cody  Richey  pressed  a  lever  to  ease  the  bucket  he  was  standing  in  closer  to  the  power  line  —  with  7,200  volts  of  electricity  coursing  through  it  —  and  prepared  to  get  to  work.

He  and  three  other  linemen  from  Greenfield  Power  &  Light  spent  Friday  morning  replacing  a  35-foot-tall  wooden  utility  pole  on  the  far  east  end  of  Osage  Street.

Dancing  with  danger  is  all  in  a  day’s  work  for  guys  like  them,  who  make  a  living  often  perched  40  or  50  feet  in  the  air,  making  sure  electricity  is  constantly  flowing  throughout  the  community  they  serve.

April  18  is  National  Lineman  Appreciation  Day,  which  Congress  designated  the  year  after  after  Hurricane  Sandy  ravaged  the  East  Coast  and  beyond  in  2012,  from  Canada  to  the  Caribbean.

Electrical  linemen  are  considered  to  be  among  the  most  important  storm  recovery  workers  because  other  recovery  operations  require  electricity  to  work  at  full  capacity.

Working  with  thousands  of  volts  of  electricity  while  dangling  from  a  bucket  or  utility  pole  is  among  the  riskiest  jobs  out  there.

“Not  everybody  can  do  this  job.  It  takes  a  rare  breed,”  said  Scott  Yost,  who  oversees  the  11-man  crew  of  linemen  at  Greenfield  Power  &  Light.

“Day  to  day,  those  guys  are  messing  with  some  serious  voltage.  You  don’t  get  a  second  chance.  You  need  to  be  very  careful  and  safe  about  what  you  do,”  he  said.

Greenfield  Power  &  Light  is  among  the  three  electric  utilities  servicing  Hancock  County,  along  with  Duke  Energy  and  NineStar  Connect.

While  they  may  work  for  different  companies,  Yost  said  all  linemen  share  a  sense  of  camaraderie  and  a  mutual  respect  for  the  job.

“It’s  a  brotherhood,”  said  Yost,  46,  who  joined  Greenfield  Power  &  Light  in  1996,  the  year  after  he  graduated  from  high  school.

He  quickly  came  to  think  of  his  coworkers  as  family.

“Oftentimes  we’re  together  more  than  we  are  with  our  own  families,  between  regular  work  weeks  and  call-outs  if  we  have  storms,”  said  Yost,  who  exudes  pride  in  the  staff  he  oversees.

“I  have  the  utmost  respect  for  these  guys.  I’m  proud  of  them.  They’re  always  willing,  able  and  available,”  he  said.  “I  know  I  can  rely  on  them,  and  so  does  the  community.  We  get  graded  every  year  through  the  American  Public  Power  Association,  and  our  reliability  is  outstanding.”

Jordan  Osswald,  who  joined  Greenfield  Power  &  Light  as  an  apprentice  in  2018,  said  it’s  a  great  feeling  to  show  up  just  after  a  storm  and  restore  power  to  people  who  rely  on  it.

“If  someone  is  on  oxygen,  their  life  could  depend  on  how  quickly  you  can  get  the  job  done.  Stuff  like  that  really  makes  you  feel  good  about  what  you  do,”  said  Osswald,  29,

No  matter  the  job,  Yost  said  safety  is  always  the  top  priority,  which  includes  looking  out  for  one  another  when  working  the  line.

“The  guys  are  great  about  watching  each  other’s  backs  because  of  all  the  reaching  and  moving  around,  everybody  has  to  go  watch  what’s  going  on.  The  guys  on  the  ground  are  always  looking  up  to  see  if  they  can  see  something  the  guys  up  top  can’t  see.  You’ve  got  to  look  out  for  each  other,”  he  said.

Statistically,  Richey  said  the  biggest  dangers  for  linemen  are  electrical  contact,  followed  by  falling,  heavy  equipment  and  cave-ins  when  doing  underground  work.

The  weather  can  also  be  brutal,  he  said.

His  most  challenging  night  was  three  or  four  winters  ago,  when  he  was  called  out  to  repair  a  line  when  the  wind  chill  was  between  20  and  30  degrees  below  zero.

“I  had  to  go  out  in  the  bucket  (truck)  wearing  rubber  safety  gloves,  which  aren’t  insulated,  and  my  hands  couldn’t  take  it  for  very  long.  Thankfully  the  job  didn’t  take  very  long,”  said  Richey.

“I  like  the  fact  I  get  to  work  outside,  but  the  inclement  weather  can  be  terrible.  But  it’s  always  fulfilling  work  after  the  job  is  done.”

Osswald  finds  the  same  satisfaction  in  being  a  lineman,  which  he  said  is  a  perfect  job  for  him.

“I’m  a  hands-on  type  of  guy,  and  this  is  definitely  hands-on,  and  every  job  is  different.  You  don’t  know  what  you’re  going  to  be  doing  day  by  day,”  he  said.

Dangerous  conditions  are  just  part  of  the  job,  but  extensive  training  assures  that  linemen  are  well  prepared  to  handle  the  high-voltage  electricity  coursing  through  the  lines.

“When  I  went  to  line  school,  the  first  thing  they  told  us  is  respect  it,  don’t  be  scared  of  it.  If  you  respect  it,  it  takes  the  fear  out  of  it,”  said  Osswald.  “Situations  like  car  wrecks  where  you’re  dealing  with  downed  power  lines  can  be  pretty  scary,  but  if  you  take  your  time  and  think  things  through,  it  all  goes  pretty  well.”

Osswald  said  working  as  a  lineman  is  statistically  more  dangerous  than  working  as  a  firefighter  or  police  officer,  a  fact  he  and  his  fellow  linemen  jokingly  share  with  their  friends  on  the  city’s  police  and  fire  departments.  But,  he  said,  they  all  work  together  to  serve  the  community.

Richey  said  it’s  rewarding  to  have  business  or  homeowners  come  outside  to  thank  him  for  restoring  their  power.

“It’s  especially  important  to  people  who  are  working  from  home,”  he  said.

“That’s  been  a  big  change,  having  so  many  more  people  work  at  home  over  the  past  couple  of  years,  so  it’s  important  to  keep  their  power  on,”  said  Richey,  32,  who  first  joined  the  local  utility  as  a  summer  helper  in  college.

To  not  inconvenience  power  customers,  Richey  said  lineman  are  taught  to  work  on  active  lines  without  shutting  down  power  to  the  home.  “We  call  it  ‘working  it  hot,’  which  is  done  so  people  can  have  their  power  on  while  we’re  doing  a  job.  It  can  be  dangerous,  so  we  have  to  be  highly  aware  and  alert  at  all  times,”  he  said.

Once  or  twice  a  year,  the  local  linemen  get  to  have  a  little  fun  as  they  compete  with  their  peers  at  various  Lineman  Rodeos,  family-friendly  events  at  which  they  test  out  their  skills  in  a  competitive  format.

Linemen  take  turns  racing  to  the  top  of  poles  and  doing  procedures,  for  which  they’re  scored  on  speed  and  safety.  While  the  winners  get  bragging  rights,  Yost  said  all  the  competitors  go  home  with  a  renewed  energy  and  enhanced  skills.

“You  climb  up  and  down  that  pole  so  many  times  in  training  and  in  competition,  and  you’re  definitely  going  to  improve  your  skills,”  he  said.

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