Lineman rodeos and company events where linemen compete in pole-climbing events such as the hurtman rescue keep linemen sharp on their skills and give them an opportunity to show their best. I will never forget a real hurtman event in which my fellow lineman and friend got tangled up in a 7.2-kV delta line.
I had been working the ground on a two-man crew changing out older poles when I heard the other lineman holler for help. After being jolted with electricity, he collapsed into the bucket. The bucket truck was a single-man unit, pretty much the standard at that time 12 years ago. Fortunately, the bucket was the style that would go to the ground and could be tipped over, allowing me to pull him out.
At that time, we did not have the rescue kit that we now carry underneath the bucket step on our larger two-man bucket trucks. But I was able to use the training I had received to help the lineman to the ground and out of the bucket. I then used our company's procedure for calling in emergencies. It was an experience I will never forget.
Needless to say, as a foreman at Rocky Mountain Power (RMP), I strongly believe in rescue training with just as much, if not more, emphasis on bucket rescue as pole top. This is not out of laziness, but because the majority of the time our work can be completed much faster and sometimes more safely using bucket trucks.
Both pole and bucket rescue are equally important, but in the last 10 years, we are spending more time in aerial-lift devices than on the pole. Being an aging workforce, using the aerial-lift equipment also can add years to our linemen's careers. So we practice bucket rescue every time we train.
RMP's pole-top training is done on an annual basis, with an occasional midyear practice. In practice, we use our dummy, “Rugged Ron,” which weighs 180 lb. Training is usually done under the guidance and watchful eye of our operations manager, Randy Smith, as well as Northern Wyoming Safety Director Brad McMillan.
In our pole-top rescue training, we try to simulate conditions that are as real life as possible. We practice using the rescue kit, which is simply a double block and sling with two meat hooks on each end of the blocks and a dummy. Rugged Ron gets quite a workout. Each journeyman takes turns at performing both pole-top and bucket rescue. At our location, we have a four-man crew as well as three servicemen, so training takes a full day.
Each year our company also holds a statewide competition for our linemen. As part of the contest, much like a rodeo hurtman event, the linemen are presented with a situation involving an injured lineman on a pole. To compete in the statewide contest and to have a chance to win, linemen must call dispatch, climb the 40-ft pole, lower the injured lineman to the ground, climb back down, take off their climbing gear and give CPR — all in under 3 minutes.
I see pole-top rescue training much like that of medic first aid and CPR: You want to learn and be comfortable enough to perform it under high stress, but it is training you hope you never have to use.
Practicing safety is an important priority at Rocky Mountain Power. Luckily the lineman injured that day 12 years ago was not seriously hurt and only spent the night in the local hospital with minor burns to one hand and his hip. I can still remember the fear I felt that day and how grateful I was for the training I had received that prepared me for the rescue.
Randy Allen is line foreman for Rocky Mountain Power, the Wyoming/Utah/Idaho operating company of PacifiCorp headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Based in Worland, Wyoming, Allen has been with PacifiCorp for almost 17 years and has 24 years total in the trade. Randy.Allen@PacifiCorp.com