Electric Lineman Put Their Safety On The Line

They were everywhere, just two weeks ago, trying to get the power back on for thousands of East Texans, but electric linemen are on the job everyday. They leave the station every morning at 7 A.M. and head out to do a job that is third on the nation's most dangerous job's list.

"They're high voltage...fourteen-thousand four-hundred volts," Cherokee County Crew Foreman, Kenny Geisleman said of the wires they work with, "It'll burn off your arm, your leg. One wrong slip you could kill yourself."

The only thing standing between linemen and high voltage wires is their protective gloves, which are no more than half an inch thick-making safety their number one priority.

"We use rubber gloves, sleeves, hard hats and our trucks are insulated. Safety's always on your mind, cause if you go out there and get hurt or killed, you don't go home that night," says Geisleman.

Texas Electric Co-Op says, combined, the seventy-four Electric Co-Ops in Texas worked eleven million hours last year alone. In that time there were one-hundred-ten minor and severe injuries and one fatality.

Linemen say their most dangerous work is done in severe weather -- doubling their risk of death or injury. Something Co-Op Manager, James Lloyd says, most people don't think about when their lights go out. Not only are they working against the elements, but sometimes angry customers as well.

"When it storming, lightning, heavy rain, snow ice, our guys are out they're working. While everybody else is sitting inside, with or without the lights, our guys are out there working," says Lloyd.

And for linemen who put their hands on live high voltage wires daily, there's a lot more than electricity riding on these lines.

"The main thing these guys want is to come home at night to their families. Safety is very, very important and we want them to come home to their families at night as well."

The job has gotten a lot safer. In the 1930's one out of every two linemen died on duty. Cherokee County Electric Co-Op says in addition to daily safety checks, they have monthly meetings to discuss safety issues and ways to prevent injuries.

Reporting: Braid Sharp bsharp@kltv.com