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Alberta’s utilities workers go to great lengths—and heights—to keep the lights on throughout our province.

While they are working hard to ensure that power continues to flow, field crews are making sure it’s done in the safest possible way. Part of doing the job safely means using the proper safety equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Safety is everything in this industry.

Your basic PPE consists of certified safety footwear, high-visibility clothing, and safety gloves, along with a hard hat and safety glasses.

Scott Thon Safety selfie

Take a look at AltaLink CEO Scott Thon geared up in his safety selfie, celebrating one million hours safely worked without a lost-time incident.

As the jobs get more complex and dangerous, the equipment required to work safely changes. For utilities that perform live line barehand work on transmission lines—while electricity is flowing—extra protection and training are required.

To complete this live line work on transmission lines, linemen wear specialized suits made with steel fibre. The suit bonds to the line and the electric charge flows around the outside of the suit, but not through the lineman’s body

Live line work, while dangerous, is a safe and effective work method when all of the specialized training, safety policies, work procedures, proper tools, and equipment are used.

Aside from the gear, every piece of equipment has a key role to play in keeping workers safe. Non-conductive live line ropes and other resources are tested to ensure that there’s been no contamination and they won’t conduct electricity.

Field crews on the Western Alberta Trasmission Line

Trucks, which use non-conductive fibreglass arms and buckets, are put through what is called a soak test. The truck makes contact with the line and for three minutes the current travelling to the truck is measured. The current is so minor that it is measured in micro-amps.

The acceptable amount of current through the equipment on a 500-kilovolt (500,000 volts) transmission line is 289 micro-amps—which is imperceptible.

Prior to utilizing barehand work, the only way to do maintenance work on the transmission system was to schedule an outage.

Working while the lines are operational allows utilities to provide more reliable power to customers who depend on uninterrupted service in Alberta.

Remember: Utility linemen are trained to work in close proximity to power lines. If you are working around power lines, stay 7 meters safe at all times. If you planning work that requires you to be within 7 meters of a power line, please contact your local electrical utility.

Barehand safety equipment

A 12-day barehand course with 120 hours of classroom and hands-on training prepares linemen for the work. Classroom learning of theory, general rules, equipment, tools, and conductor calculations finish with a final exam. In the field, the linemen get to turn theory into practice and are evaluated based on performance and competency.