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What Does an Electrical Lineman Do?

By Kirsten C. Tynan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An electrician who works outdoors installing and maintaining equipment and facilities for electrical power transmission and distribution is known as an electrical lineman. The electrical power lineman’s tasks may include installation and repair of overhead or underground power lines as well as installation, maintenance, and repair of other electrical subsystems and components. Advanced linemen may also be involved in the design and layout of electrical systems. Other electricians, such as those who work on indoor electrical systems or on low voltage equipment for communications systems, are not considered electrical linemen.

Career progression for an electrical lineman typically spans several years of work accompanied by continuing education and sometimes professional testing. Before any work is performed, a candidate will typically spend several weeks in pre-apprenticeship training. Upon successful completion of such training, the candidate becomes an apprentice working for several years under the supervision of a more advanced lineman. Once the apprentice phase has been completed, the electrical lineman becomes a journeyman who may supervise apprentices and may perform most electrical tasks unsupervised, with the exception of design of electrical systems. A journeyman may advance to the master phase where he or she may perform all electrical tasks unsupervised including design and layout of electrical systems. The master lineman also supervises both journeymen and apprentices.

Training as an electrical lineman is extensive and ongoing but begins in lineman school. Pre-apprenticeship electrical lineman training includes classroom work such as mathematics for electrical calculations, electrical principles and circuit analysis, operation of power systems components, and more. Simulated and on-the-job training includes climbing power poles, using the lineman’s tools, reading voltages, troubleshooting, installing and repairing power lines and other hardware, and bucket truck operations needed for overhead work. Due to the hazardous nature of the lineman’s work, extensive training in fire and electrical safety are typically provided as well as fall protection training for safe work on overhead power lines.

Safety is a significant concern for the lineman who typically works on high voltage electrical systems often high above the ground. Fall protection for those working overhead on poles or steel structures may include harnesses and belts that catch the climber in the event of a fall and lift buckets to elevate the lineman in order to avoid climbing risks. Protective equipment for high voltage electric work may include such things as insulated gloves and glove liners as well as rubber safety blankets for additional insulation. Other personal protective equipment such as hard hats, steel-toed boots, and eye protection are also commonly used.

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Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On Feb 18, 2014

An electrical lineman is your best friend when your power goes out. Those cats often have to work odd hours and in horrible weather conditions dealing with power outages and it's kind of like Christmas morning when you see them in your neighborhood after you've been without power for a day or two.

Want to know how good your power company is? See how many electrical linemen they have on call to deal with emergencies -- the crummy companies will take forever to fix problems because they've cut that part of their budgets.

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