Linemen run the risk of electric shock, injury or even death if equipment is not properly grounded. Furthermore, if the linemen are working with properly maintained grounds, they can be more productive and more comfortable doing their jobs.

Intren Corp. (Union, Illinois), formerly Trench-It, equips each of its line trucks with grounds. By continually testing and maintaining the equipment, the company is able to protect its linemen in the field. The following are five of the company's work practices governing grounds.

  1. Consider outsourcing your assembly, testing and maintenance

    Intren used to do all of its own testing in-house. When linemen needed a custom ground, they would visit the maintenance shop to get one.

    To reduce costs, limit liability and mitigate risks, the company opted to outsource its assembly and testing to Hi-Line Utility Supply (Elgin, Illinois) two years ago. Now the company sends its grounds to the company once a year to ensure that they are still in good working condition. Through outsourcing, Intren saved money by no longer having to carry components and tools in its maintenance shop. The company also doesn't have to train its technicians to get the job done correctly.

  2. Implement a tool tracking system

    Also through Hi-Line, Intren adheres a bar code to each of its grounding tools and tracks the tools electronically. Any lineman can check out a tool at any time. When they borrow a tool, the bar code is associated with their name as well as the date of use.

    In addition to being assigned a number, each ground features a label with the test and retest dates on them. That way, linemen know the expiration date of their ground. This information is also tracked in the Tool Watch system, and reminders often pop up a month ahead of time to let the linemen know when to turn in their tool for testing.

  3. Perform a visual inspection

    While outsourcing the testing helped to ensure that the grounds are safe and well maintained, the linemen must also still check the grounds on a daily basis. Oftentimes, a ground may feel intact, but at closer inspection, it needs to be replaced.

    To make it easier for linemen to discover problems, four years ago the company invested in grounds featuring a clear coating. That way, it is easy for the linemen to detect whether or not the wire inside the coating is frayed or corroded.

  4. Store them properly

    The clear coating (rather than solid color coating) helps linemen identify major problems. To prevent the deterioration from happening in the first place, the linemen store the grounds in extra storage boxes that have been placed on all of the company's trucks. By storing them inside containers rather than outside on a hook on the back of their trucks, they're able to cut down on the amount of wear and tear.

  5. Use the right ground for the right application

    Some linemen may try to take a shortcut by grabbing the nearest ground to get the job done. If they go this route, however, they can compromise their safety and well being. If they use an oversized ground, it won't provide any protection.

For that reason, Intren makes sure that all the linemen have a variety of grounds at their fingertips. If a lineman needs a ground, the company will invest in one to make sure that the job gets done right. Otherwise, the company doesn't see the point in doing the job.

By following these safe work practices, Intren is helping its linemen to maintain and use grounds with less aggravation while increasing productivity. They can pick up a ground that is clear coated, do a quick visual inspection, and if it is in proper working order, they can go to work.


John Perez (jperez@intren.com) is a general foreman who has been with Intren in Union, Illinois. He has worked in the field for 17 years.

Dustin Hogan (dhogan@intren.com) is a warehouse supervisor/purchasing agent for Intren and has been with the company for nine years.