Lineworker Appreciation Day focuses on training and safety - Carolina Country

Working Safely for a Brighter Future

Training prepares co-op line technicians to maintain safe, reliable service

By Farris Leonard

Farris Leonard

Farris Leonard

This month we take extra time to celebrate electric cooperative line technicians on Lineworker Appreciation Day.

Their job is among the top 10 most dangerous in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but through a dedication to safety and training, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are cultivating a highly trained workforce, capable of safely and thoughtfully responding to growth, system maintenance needs, and service interruptions.

It is critical that any response is done so with a high level of safety. Over the past decade, we have focused the function of safety on being proactive, and electric co-ops have made proactive risk management a part of their core values.

The first element of risk management is identifying our industry’s inherent risk and not “accepting” these known risks as just part of doing business. Yes, line work is traditionally dangerous work, but it doesn’t have to be. In the past, safety was solely based on meeting compliance — the minimum — and taking reactionary measures. Fast forward to today. We have adjusted our processes to include measurable goals, implementing action plans for continuous improvement. Part of managing anything is taking a deeper dive into understanding the influences, data comparison and, most of all, actual field application. By studying these areas and asking the hard questions, only then can organizations change and make real impacts on safety.

Through a dedication to safety and training, we are cultivating a highly trained workforce.

With this understanding, we can then focus on the bullseye of safety and not just hope to hit the target. Through a better understanding of risks comes a better focus on training, reliability and the continuity of service. For years, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have worked with community colleges across the state on line technician training programs and other workforce development initiatives — without these investments in training, a proactive approach to safety wouldn’t be possible.

Through safety training, electric co-ops have implemented processes and expectations that allow time to evaluate for hazards, and discuss mitigation and job process flow. Employees understand they have a shared responsibility not only on the jobsite, but in sharing and shaping their organizations’ safety culture, organizational goals and our future.

Another component of risk management we often don’t recognize is system reliability. New technology is creating a smarter grid, allowing for quicker responses and decreased outage times. System maintenance and upgrades have also positively impacted reliability, resulting in lower outage occurrences and outage duration, but the most significant impact has been increased safety for our line technicians — system reliability and decreased outage times directly decreases our line technicians’ exposure to risk.

Electric cooperatives have a big responsibility to our communities and the members we serve. Safety and training support this responsibility by preparing line technicians to respond safely in maintaining reliable service. It assures a brighter future for electric co-ops and their members, as well as a brighter future for our line technicians and their families.

Watch lineman gear develop throughout the years

About the Author

Farris Leonard is director of Job Training & Safety Field Services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

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