Electric power linemen and cable men are responsible for bringing electricity from the power plant to homes and businesses in the power area, creating what is known as a power grid. Cable men, on the other hand, do not necessarily work with electric power lines. Many of them work for the telecommunications industry installing telephone lines, cable television lines, and fiber optics.
This occupation first came into being in the 1840s with the invention of the telegraph. The job grew much larger with the advent of telephones and electricity in the late 19th century. As cities began to become wired from building-to-building, the lineman and cable man occupation became a requirement of an operational area. Linemen are not only needed to install new lines, but repair old, fallen, and damaged lines as well. These two jobs are usually done by specialists, with some specializing in installation and some focusing on repair.
As can be expected, electric power linemen and cable man jobs are extremely hazardous. Two of these hazards are readily apparent. Linemen and cable men most often work at heights, installing and repairing lines on poles. The second apparent hazard is working with live electricity. Telecommunications cable men don’t have to worry about this as much, although telephone lines do use electricity. However, power linemen work in life and death situations every day.
Electric Power Lineman & Cable Man and Asbestos
One of the hazards not so readily apparent that electric power linemen & cable men face is exposure to hazardous materials such as asbestos. Because asbestos was a common insulation against heat and electricity, it was used in power lines for the general protection of the public and the line. Electric power linemen were once exposed to asbestos on a daily basis because all of the lines they worked with contained the material for insulation. In fact, asbestos was so common that it must be assumed that all power lines and cables not specifically marked as being asbestos-free contain the material.
In the 1980s, laws were passed that prevented asbestos from being used in new power lines and cables, but so many lines were installed before this time that miles upon miles of asbestos lines are still up and running. Replacing and repairing these older lines continues today, continuing the risk of exposure to asbestos for all electric power linemen & cable men. In addition, asbestos is often present in the buildings to which linemen must connect the lines.