Lineworker in a bucket truck

Fast Facts About Lineworkers

You probably don’t think about them until your power goes out, but electric lineworkers protect our homes and communities 24/7. Like other first responders who keep us safe, lineworkers endure all kinds of weather and challenging conditions. 

On April 18, we celebrate Lineworker Appreciation Day to honor the people who power life. Here are some quick facts about lineworkers and the work they do.

Lineworker History

Lineworkers first appeared during the 1840s rush to spread telegraph service across the U.S., stringing wires between trees and other natural objects. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize tall poles were safer and more practical.

What Electric Lineworkers Do

  • Restoring electricity after a power outage is just one of the many duties of lineworkers, who also:
  • Install and connect new power lines to homes and businesses
  • Maintain and perform upgrades to improve our electric grid
  • Diagnose and pinpoint power delivery issues
  • Plan and manage large-scale projects
  • Ensure safe work practices in often challenging conditions

Lineworkers are responsible for maintaining and upgrading the nation’s electric grid that connects more than 7,300 power plants to 145 million consumers through 60,000 miles of high-voltage lines, millions of miles of distribution lines, and more than 50 million transformers.

Geared for Safety 

Lineworkers climb with up to 40 pounds of safety gear and tools. That’s like carrying a 5-gallon water jug. Here’s what lineworkers typically wear to stay safe while working:

  • Hard hats
  • Safety glasses
  • Flame-resistant clothing
  • Arc flash protective clothes
  • Rubber gloves and sleeves
  • Climbing belts
  • Fall-protection harnesses

One Hot Stick

One essential tool for lineworkers is the hot stick, an insulated fiberglass pole used to safely move energized wires and other equipment. Hot sticks vary in size depending on the job. 

The Wild Side of Work

Squirrels and snakes are a major cause of power outages, and lineworkers encounter plenty of both while working. They’ve also been known to rescue kittens that climbed too high in a tree and curious bears on top of utility poles. When your office is the great outdoors, these encounters are part of the job. 

On-the-Job Training

Described by the U.S. Energy Department as one of the country’s highest-paid professions that doesn’t demand postsecondary education, becoming a journeyman lineworker typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent, training, and a paid apprenticeship, which typically spans four years. Apprentice lineworkers receive hands-on training and experience in the field before advancing to journeyman status. Lineworker salaries range from $40,000 to $144,000, depending on location, skill set, and experience. 

Inspiring Safety

Roughly 60,000 lineworkers hit the road annually to respond to devastating storms and the damage they leave behind. In addition to extreme weather exposure, lineworkers face a variety of dangers, including electric shock, falls from elevated work locations, and roadside traffic accidents. High injury rates among early lineworkers led to the creation of apprenticeship programs and organized labor throughout the industry.

Safety is always the No. 1 priority, which is why lineworkers continually receive training to stay mindful of safety requirements and up to date on the latest equipment and procedures.

Lineworkers power our lives. The next time you see one, remember to thank them for the essential work they do. 

For more than four decades, business writer Scott Flood has worked with electric cooperatives to build knowledge of energy-related issues among directors, staff, and members.

Co-ops Meet to Discuss Reliability

Electric co-ops play a crucial role in ensuring the lights come on every time Coloradans flip the switch. The primary responsibility is to co-op members, and your local electric co-op remains committed to providing service that is both reliable and affordable. 

The economy of the future will be heavily reliant on electricity. With data centers, manufacturing, electric vehicles, and electric heat pumps, the demand for electricity is set to rise dramatically. Colorado’s electric co-ops are planning for this surge in demand by investing in infrastructure, technologies, and power supplies that will allow them to meet members’ needs. 

Electric co-ops are at the forefront of innovation and are adapting to the unique needs of the members they serve. With initiatives such as community solar projects, energy efficiency programs, carbon capture, and advanced nuclear generation, co-ops are leading the way.

Advocating for rational policies that preserve reliability and affordability in Colorado and in Washington, D.C., is crucial. This month, electric cooperative leaders from around the United States will gather in Washington, D.C., for the annual Legislative Conference where they will discuss key issues and concerns surrounding reliability. This allows co-ops to help educate policymakers on the issues that matter most to the families and businesses electric co-ops serve.

Today’s energy decisions and policies will determine if there are enough resources to meet tomorrow’s energy needs. Colorado’s electric co-ops will continue advocating for their members to ensure a reliable supply of electricity that powers everyday life. 

Electric Co-op Leaders Gather at NRECA’s PowerXchange

Nearly 100 leaders from Colorado’s electric cooperatives attended the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association PowerXchange and TechAdvantage conference in early March in San Antonio, Texas. 

Electric cooperatives must work together to make progress and keep the lights on for members who depend on them, NRECA President Tony Anderson told attendees. “We all have different personalities in our network and even in our boardrooms, but we all work as one to make decisions that drive co-ops forward,” Anderson said. “Our co-ops are stronger together. We have to keep showing up for each other and do the hard work if we want to have a positive impact and get things done.”

The general sessions were informative and featured unique keynote speakers, including baseball legend Cal Ripkin Jr., champion poker player Liz Boeree, and Mike Walsh, founder and CEO of Tomorrow. Breakout sessions during the conference covered topics that are at the forefront of industry leaders’ minds: rural broadband deployment, reliability, and legislative affairs. 

Youth Leadership Council participant Ethan McGuinness from La Plata Electric Association also attended PowerXchange.

“It’s such an incredible experience getting to connect with different kids and professionals from all over the country and all over the world. I have met some wonderful people from Texas, Oregon, New York, and Maine,” McGuinness shared. “It’s been a great educational opportunity to learn how rural electric co-ops are powering our world.”

It was the 2023 Washington D.C. Youth Tour that inspired McGuinness to pursue a career in politics, public service, and history. “The Youth Tour trip changed my life. I now have a goal to attend Colorado State University to study political science.”