April is Line Worker Appreciation Month
March 28, 2022
Each April, utilities across the nation celebrate Line Worker Appreciation Month. It’s a time to reflect on the hard work and sacrifices made by those on the front lines of our industry. It’s the time we set aside to say “thanks” to those who work 24/7, 365, to keep the lights on.
February served as a reminder
Even though we normally recognize our line workers for their service and sacrifice in April, for many South Central Power Company members, Line Worker Appreciation came early this year. In February, our line workers faced their most serious challenge in years from Mother Nature as a devastating ice storm crippled the region, taking down countless trees, dozens of poles, spans of wire, and more.
Safety is key
South Central Power line workers come from a variety of backgrounds and places, but they share a common bond through the brotherhood of line work and a commitment to safety above everything else. Line workers participate in a national program called Commitment to Zero Contacts, which reinforces line worker safety by reminding employees to think about safety for three main reasons: safety for yourself, safety for your coworkers, and safety for your family and loved ones.
Our line workers are based from Hillsboro to Barnesville and many communities in between. Journeyman Line Worker Fred Barnett of the Hillsboro area reflects on what Commitment to Zero Contacts means to him in his life and career, recalling, “I remember when 9/11 happened, and I was up on a pole. Someone came out and was telling us what was happening. Like everyone, I was stunned to hear the news, and it became a distraction.” Barnett says he continued working, and thankfully, a ground worker he barely knew asked a question that has stayed with him ever since. “Just before I started working again, he pointed out I wasn’t wearing the same safety gear I had been before,” Barnett says. “He saved my life.”
Barnett says the experience changed him and serves as a daily reminder to not let anything distract him from working safely. “I’ve had to go to the hospital and speak to someone’s little girl after an accident, and I don’t ever want to have to do it again,” he says. “We look out for each other as a brotherhood, we work safe for ourselves even when no one else is watching, and we work safe so we can go home to our families each and every night.”
Journeyman Line Worker John Dudzik works in the Barnesville area and recently transferred to a new position working on a substation crew. He knows the importance of safety on the job and doing things the right way, each and every day. “You have to work as a team, particularly during storm situations,” Dudzik says, recalling the long days and nights of power restoration following February’s ice storm. “Every person in our shop brings something different to the crew, and we rely on good communication and watching each other’s backs to make sure we follow all our safety rules and procedures.”
Like Barnett, Dudzik says he works safely not only for himself and his co-workers, but also for his family. “My wife Danelle, daughter Payton, and son Gunner — they are the reason I do what I do,” he says. “I know that if something happens to me because I wasn’t working safely, it will have a big impact on their lives as well. I work safe for them, and one day, I hope to be able to enjoy retirement with my family.”
Dudzik says working safely doesn’t end when he clocks out for the day, either. “I take safety home with me and use the things I learn at work and apply them to how I work and do chores around the farm,” he says. “Safety isn’t just part of your day — it’s at the top of the list.”
Todd Kirk, a journeyman line worker in Lancaster, notes that training and culture are important parts of being safe on the job and are at the core of what it means to be a line worker.
“Safety is the most important thing in our work, so getting the best training is key,” Kirk says. “It takes over four years of school and on-the-job training to become a journeyman line worker. As you progress through the training, you develop the lifelong practices to keep your coworkers, the public, and yourself safe.”
Kirk says the training also helps to foster a culture of safety that carries through work and into home life for all employees. “Safety isn’t something we just talk about, it’s a culture. Day in and day out, our safety department is always taking necessary steps to continue to build the best safety culture possible.”
Tony Fowler, an apprentice line worker in Lancaster, says that training is the key. “The more we are trained and strive to follow the safe work procedures obtained in our training, the safer we work. South Central Power provides us with the necessary equipment, tools and resources to complete our daily tasks safely and sufficiently.
Fowler says he works safely for his family of his wife, his four daughters and another child on the way. “I work safe to not only come to work to be able to provide, but to come home to them to tell stories about what I did today, to let the girls see daddy’s work truck, to see their faces as they listen in awe and see the continuing pride I have in being a line worker. To hear them say “I want to be a lineman too daddy.”
Thank you, line workers!
“Our line workers are always ready and willing to go out and restore power regardless of the weather, regardless of the time of day, to get our communities back up and running again, after a storm, a car accident, or anything else that comes their way,” says Chris Hall, senior director of safety and labor relations. “We thank them in April, and every day, for what they are willing to do, and their commitment to doing it safely.”
From the April 2022 issue of Ohio Cooperative Living.