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You definitely do not need to graduate from college to be an offensive or defensive lineman in the National Football League, but that is not the type of lineman we speaking of here at So, what is a lineman you may be wondering?

In simple terms, linemen are the individuals you see raised up on huge truck lifts (bucket trucks) installing and maintaining the electrical power lines, telephone and telegraph lines, cable television and fiber optic lines. Sometimes called line workers or power line technicians (PLT), these workers construct and maintain the transmission and distribution networks that feed us energy.

Generally speaking, linemen work in the outdoors in some of the most inhospitable and dangerous conditions. Mother Nature’s fury is the primary cause for major repair work and our society cannot survive extended periods without power.  Therefore, you will often see power line technicians working at all hours of the day and in all different types of weather conditions so that the rest of America can go about its daily business.

Though linemen and electricians both work with electricity, the most recognizable difference between the two professions is that electricians primarily work inside and at the ground level whereas linemen work outside and above ground.

All linemen that work with voltage or electricity must use rubber gloves according to decided safety standards. (These standards are generally negotiated in union contracts between the linemen and their superiors.) Linemen must also wear special rubber insulating gear.

Any linemen dealing with voltages above those that can be handled with gloves are to work with special sticks, called hot-line tools or hot-sticks. These tools are used mostly with power lines. Sometimes, working on power lines requires using buckets made of fiberglass.

Linemen may be required to work with power lines, replace capacitor banks, distribute transformers on poles, insulators, fuses, and more. A lot of the devices that must be used are heavy and have an odd shape. Linemen must be experienced to know which tool is the best for the job.

Linemen work in a group, called a crew. This crew will include those who work on tower construction and with power lines, but it will also carry several linemen who will work off the ground. This will involve electrical circuits. Others involved in the crew are sometimes called groundsmen or grunts. They will work on on-the-ground tasks and support the linemen, but they are not considered linemen themselves. Sometimes, linemen apprentices will start as a groundsman or grunt.

Linemen should be prepared to work in many different environments. Power lines must work continuously without interruption as the consequences of being without power can have huge economic and public safety implications, never mind simple convenience. This means working through rain, snow, darkness, heat, or even, in specific cases, a hurricane. Recent superstorm Hurricane Sandy downed thousands of power lines and caused blackouts over hundreds of square miles.  Power lines remained down for weeks following the storm and wreaked terrible havoc on residents, local governments and medical facilities.

Those considering becoming a lineman need to fully understand the working conditions, long hours and dangers of working with live wires.  There is a mental and physical toughness required of these workers along with an ability to work above ground at considerable heights with unstable platforms.  Linemen must use tools and equipment that can be bulky, heavy and unwieldy for considerable periods of time and must be prepared to be called into work at any time, in any weather condition.

For more information about the linemen profession, please see the articles below:

How to Become a Lineman

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