Understanding the dangers of being a lineworker

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - April 18 was National Linemen Appreciation Day, a day to celebrate all the work they do in our community.

Dan O'Grady is one of them. He's worked as a communications lineman with Windstream for about two years, but has been with the company for more than 30 years.

"The dangerous part of our job is the climbing. The falls are the main hazard; climbing on a pole either with steps or with gaffs, or falls from ladders," O'Grady said.

There's a lot of prep work he has to do before he begins to climb the pole.

He puts in foot holds at the bottom, which they take out once they're done so no one else climbs up. O'Grady hammers the bottom of the pole to check for rot, then uses a device to check for any stray voltage from power lines.

He then straps on his boots and puts his helmet on for protection.

"You don't have to climb up, or you shouldn't climb up, if there's imminent danger of lightning. Ice on a pole is also very dangerous. The steps can be very slippery. Even reaching around to grab the pole can be very slippery," O'Grady said.

He climbs up the 20-foot pole to to connect fiber wires from the pole to people's homes.

O'Grady said it's just something he enjoys doing.

"I appreciate their appreciation for us. I'm grateful for that, and to have the opportunity to serve our customers to maintain our facilities and to provide that level of service," O'Grady said.

A communications lineman is different from a power lineman, who works with the electrical lines at the top of the poles. They're the ones who make sure you have electricity, and work in all kinds of severe weather conditions. One of the biggest concerns for them is getting shocked or electrocuted by the power lines.

Nebraska Public Power District spokesperson Mark Becker told Local4 that linemen who work on electric utility poles and steel structures undergo extensive safety training.

Southern Power spokesperson Todd Wilson also said that linemen who work with high-voltage electricity have to wear personal protective equipment and use bucket or lift trucks which are specially rated to work around power lines.