For some young people, a job that entails wearing a suit and sitting behind a desk in a private office holds no attraction. Instead, they like being physically active and doing something mentally and physically challenging. They don’t want to go to the same boring workplace and do the same thing every day. They want to be outside, doing something with their hands, getting dirty, and being productive.
If this sounds like you, consider a career as a utility line worker.
A Great Career for the Right Candidate
Let’s start with some basics. What does a line worker do? The primary mission of a line worker is to keep the power on for the millions of people who depend on electricity to keep their homes and businesses running.
On a day-to-day basis, line workers install, repair, and replace power system components and utility equipment. Most utility companies cover an extensive geographic area, and jobs can be at any of the many sites where work is needed. Different aspects of the job may require driving large commercial trucks, working in buckets, climbing poles, working in trenches, and, in some cases, even working from helicopters to work on lines in remote locations.
Every task a lineman does requires training and experience to do the job correctly and safely. Workers must learn how to use the specialized tools and equipment necessary to the trade and the correct procedures for performing a job safely and effectively.
Like many other manual labor jobs, such as carpentry, plumbing, and even piano tuning, line workers require specialized knowledge and skill that can only be learned by doing the work. Consequently, it still relies on the apprenticeship system for bringing new workers into the field. Because of this, an individual interested in becoming a lineman may have the opportunity to earn a living even before they have mastered the skills to become a full-fledged journeyman line worker.
One essential requirement for becoming a line worker is having a high school diploma or a GED. While a college degree is not required, you must possess good math skills: algebra and geometry, for starters, so that you can easily acquire some industrial math skills specific to the trade.
Line work is physically demanding, as well. You have to be fit – able to climb ladders and poles, work in uncomfortable positions for sometimes hours, and work out in the elements for long periods. The gear you wear and carry, including specialized PPE (personal protective equipment), can weigh up to 40 pounds.
Being a line worker is also one of the most dangerous occupations. Working around high voltage and high above the ground is not for the faint-hearted. Every year, roughly 2400 out of 100,000 line workers will suffer a serious non-fatal injury, often from an electric shock, a severe burn, or broken bones from falls. 42 out of 100,000 will suffer fatal injuries.
Training to Become a Line Worker
Part of the training will entail classroom work. This is because every line worker must understand how the entire power grid works so that they will understand what sorts of problems arise and how to troubleshoot and address them. They need instruction on the equipment they will be working with, the risks involved in performing their jobs, and critical safety procedures.
There are associate degree programs available for people interested in becoming line workers, and some apprenticeship programs with utility companies may include classroom instruction.
The other aspect of training will require you to go out into the field with crew members to find out what they do and assist them in their work as you learn all the skills you will need in the trade. To work through your apprenticeship program and become a journeyman line worker, you may have to log up to 7,000 hours in the field.
Line Workers Are in Demand
Depending upon how you define a line worker, there are about 115,000 line workers in the United States. The need for line workers is estimated to grow by at least 8% in 2023 alone. If there is one thing you can be sure of, line work is essentially recession-proof: utility workers are always in demand, regardless of the state of the economy, because the lights will always need to be kept on.
The salaries for line workers are respectable, with apprentices earning wages starting in the $35,000 range and experienced journeymen line workers earning north of $80,000. However, compensation can be flexible, depending upon the willingness of a line worker to do extra work when needed. Some line workers willing to travel to other parts of the country responding to events like hurricanes and storms can earn two to three times their hourly rate when responding to a disaster. But traveling can be inconvenient, the work is hard, and the jobs often demand 12 to 16 hours of work every day for several days running.
For some line workers, however, this type of work is rewarding, not just financially: this is essential work that makes a real difference in the lives of the people who suffer from these events.
We Keep Line Workers Safe
At Safeguard Equipment®, we support the line workers who keep our society functioning. Their tireless and often selfless efforts are critical to the country’s safety, well-being, and prosperity.
We design and manufacture personal voltage and current detectors (PVCDs), a critical component of PPE that alerts the wearer to the presence and location of energized lines. This capability is especially vital when lines come down due to storms, other natural disasters, or accidents. Our goal is to reduce incidents of death and injury that workers face from doing a dangerous job. Already, our products have been instrumental in saving the lives of line workers.
If you decide to go into line work, know that Safeguard is working to keep you safe.
Call Safeguard Equipment today for more information about Safeguard Equipment or a demonstration of any of our COMPASS PVCDs.