North Fork of the Blackfoot River

The Power Behind Your Power

Posted: April 1, 2023
Mark Hayden, GM

You’ve likely noticed MEC’s line crews and tree trimming crews working on power lines and clearing right of ways in and around our community. It’s no secret that their jobs are tough mentally and physically. However, their jobs are essential to keeping the lights on and must be done, rain or shine. So this month, as we celebrate Lineworker Appreciation Day on April 11, I wanted to share some interesting facts about electric lineworkers.

Their work can be heavy in more ways than one. For example, did you know that the equipment and tools a lineworker carries can weigh up to 50 pounds? To put it into perspective, that’s the same as carrying six gallons of water while working at extreme heights and in severe weather conditions. In addition, lineworkers are required to climb poles or work inside a bucket stationed up to 60 feet in the air.

Lineworkers must be committed to their career, because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. The long hours and ever-present danger can take a toll. In fact, being a lineworker is listed in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the United States. Lineworkers often work non-traditional hours and incur stressful situations, inclement weather conditions, and rugged terrain. While the job doesn’t require a college degree, it does require technical skills, years of training, and hands-on learning. Did you know that becoming a journeyman lineworker can take more than 7,000 hours of training? That’s because working with high-voltage equipment requires specialized skills, experience, and an ongoing mental toughness. Shortcuts are not an option, and this line of work has no room for error.

MEC’s lineworkers are committed to powering our local community. During severe weather events that bring major power outages, lineworkers are among the first ones called. They must be ready to leave the comfort of their homes and families unexpectedly, and they return when the job is done, often days later. That’s why a lineworker’s family is also dedicated to service. They understand the importance of a lineworker’s role in the community.

Nationwide, there are approximately 120,000 electric lineworkers. Here at MEC, we have 17 Lineworkers and five Tree Trimmers responsible for keeping the lights on 24/7, 365 days a year. To do this, they maintain over 2,000 miles of power lines across seven districts in Western Montana and Idaho. In addition to the obvious tasks lineworkers perform, their job goes far beyond climbing utility poles. Today’s lineworkers are information experts who use tablets, drones, and other technologies to map outages, survey damage, and troubleshoot problems.

Line work is absolutely essential to powering our community. Without their hard work and exceptional dedication and commitment, we would not have the reliable electricity that we need for everyday life.

The next time you see a crew member, please thank them for their work to keep power flowing to your homes, businesses and ranches. This dedicated bunch is the power behind your power.