Location: Duquesne Light’s training facility on the company’s Woods Run Campus
Featured guests: Workforce development supervisors Justin Smith and Natalie Olup, student Emily Sommer, senior line worker Mike Fiore and journey underground splicer Nehemiah (Nemo) Walker
3 things that surprised me:
1. Duquesne Light’s training facility looks like some sort of bizarro ropes course, full of every kind of utility pole and electrical equipment a line worker might encounter. Line workers spend a year learning the ropes (and wires) at the facility before they become apprentice line workers. In five years, they graduate to become a journey line worker.
2. Most often a Duquesne Light crew uses a truck to access a utility pole, but sometimes — due to trees or tricky positioning — that’s not possible. In that case, the line worker has to gear up with nearly 30 pounds of equipment, including thick leather belts and straps, heavy industrial boots, and an L-shaped metal hook under each boot. Those brace-like devices have something resembling a miniature axe on the bottom that allows the line worker to “stab” the pole and climb it.
3. Anyone can try out to join Duquesne Light’s electrical distribution technology program (EDT). After submitting an application and passing a test, applicants are invited to a three-day wood pole tryout, in which they’re given some basic training and their climbing skills are evaluated.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: It took nearly 15 minutes to strap and buckle all the safety equipment for my short climb up the pole. Walking around with the boots and metal leg braces was incredibly cumbersome — they felt like ski boots but five times heavier.
Additional info: You can learn more about Duquesne Light’s EDT program on the website.