United Illuminating Co.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut.
Married for 20 years to his wife, Annette, and has two children, William and Jasmine.
Enjoys spending time with his family and playing baseball.
Can't live without his rubber gloves, hot sticks and bucket truck.
Spends time helping out with the line schools and training the future generation of linemen.
William Coleman, a 24-year veteran of United Illuminating Co., is a proud lineman who recognizes the importance of knowing your limitations, working safely and respecting electricity.
I grew up in the inner city, and after taking on a few different jobs, I knew I wanted a better life. I looked at several different professions for the fire and police departments. I also had heard that the utility industry had good jobs, so at 19 years old, I began reading meters for United Illuminating Co.
However, because I had a construction worker mentality, reading meters just wasn't rewarding enough work for me. One day, as I was reading the meters, I saw a lineman in a bucket truck working up on a pole. I stopped what I was doing and said, “This is what I want to do.” I immediately asked my supervisor how I could become a lineman, and he told me that they offer line school once a year.
Our company runs a four-week boot camp for climbing poles, and after finishing it, I went to line school and graduated. I loved the work right off the bat. And I still love it. You either love this type of work or it's not for you, and it's definitely not for everyone.
Day in the Life
I am a line group leader, and I've been with the company for 24 years. I start my day by reviewing my work orders, finding out who is on my crew and securing any materials necessary for the job. I also make sure that I have any safety-related items like signs or cones to set up the parameters within our work zone. Next, I lead a tailboard meeting to make sure that everyone is on the same page so the work can go as safely as possible.
Recently, we've been doing a lot of reconductoring work. We take down old conductors and put up heavier ones in our territory.
In the span of my career so far, the project I would consider my favorite was a road-widening job in North Haven, Connecticut. I had just topped out as a journeyman lineman, and I had a really good working leader. I learned a lot on that job. It involved a little bit of everything, from pole shifts to reconductoring to transformer banks. I also learned about disconnects, air-break switches and high-voltage cable.
On the East Coast, we have had many severe storms, but I'll never forget Tropical Storm Irene, which caused significant damage in our area. Our company was able to get our customers' power back on in a short period of time because we were working 16- to 18-hour days for a week straight. We then went on to assist another company away from home for about nine days. We received an award from the Edison Institute on our ability to restore power in a timely fashion.
Unfortunately, every year there are near-misses. You can be as careful as possible and follow procedures, but there is always that little bit of unknown when you go on the pole. You don't know what happened the night before, such as if there was lightning damage to the wire.
I haven't had a near-miss in 20 years, but I remember as an apprentice two phases that got crossed. In the process of removing the bare wire from the pole, I made contact with the energized phase, and it cross-phased. There were no injuries, but it caused structural damage, which required about an hour to fix.
I was one of the fortunate ones, and from that experience, I learned that you need to know your limitations and have a proper respect for electricity. You can't be afraid of the work, but you need to follow your company's safety procedures and do what the company requires as far as using a cover-up, which can make an unsafe job much safer.
Plans for the Future
I have had the opportunity to move into other areas, but I've never wanted to do anything else. I would like to continue my assistance with Local 471 and contribute to the success of my company through training and wherever else I can bring value.