Safety training saves lives

Climbing Poles

Capital Electric Cooperative Lineman Cory Bruner performs a pole-top rescue. Watching from the ground are, from left: Lineman Lance Diebold, NDAREC Safety Instructor Steve Homes and Lead Lineman John Frey. In the bucket, Lineman Steve Kuball rehangs the 200-pound mannequin after it’s been lowered to the ground.

In June 2008, the Stabroek News in Guyana reported an electric lineman became stranded on a pole when the support he was standing on gave way and wires began sparking. His thighs and lower right leg were burnt, and he was rendered unconscious. He hung limply in his safety belt, until one of his co-workers performed a pole-top rescue and lowered him to the ground.

The injured lineman was wearing the necessary personal protective gear, and thankfully he survived.

Accidents like this are not common, but they do happen. Linemen can also be stranded on a pole if they experience heat stroke, a heart attack or other condition that disables them and prevents them from climbing down. That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires linemen to receive pole-top safety training on an annual basis.

The 13 linemen who work for Capital Electric Cooperative receive this refresher course from safety instructors with the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC). During this year’s training, held May 4 at Capital Electric headquarters in Bismarck, each lineman had to climb a pole, secure a rope around the waist of a 200-pound mannequin and lower the “body” to the ground. NDAREC Safety Instructor Steve Homes discussed different techniques on how to secure the rope. I areas where Capital Electric has a three-phase distribution system, a lineman could use the pole’s cross arm to secure his rope. In other areas that have a single-phase line without a cross-arm on the pole, a lineman could use a screwdriver to secure the rope after the tool has been pounded into the pole.

Staying on top of safety and regularly reviewing what they already know can make the difference between life and death in a critical situation for linemen who sometimes work long hours in extreme weather conditions to restore electric service following an outage.

Thanks to regular safety training sessions including pole-top rescue, Capital Electric’s linemen are better equipped to react quickly and efficiently, and hopefully bring their co-worker and friend home safely to his family, should an accident ever occur.

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