Electric co-op lineworkers show off safety skills at annual rodeo
One lineworker carefully climbs a 40-foot pole to safely “rescue” a life-sized mannequin — playing the part of an incapacitated coworker — dangling from the top of the pole. A few hundred feet away, another lineworker uses a steady hand to maneuver a bucket around a digger derrick obstacle course. Close by, other lineworkers show off their skills climbing the poles to do their jobs. Down the hill journeyman lineworkers try to handle a tennis ball with an excavator to showcase their precision. It’s not all fun and games however. This rodeo has one specific purpose in mind: safety.
Lineworkers from Missouri’s electric cooperatives gathered to compete in a safety-focused event and raise money for the Missouri International Program, which electrifies remote villages around the globe for the first time. The Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) hosted its 6th Annual Lineman’s Rodeo at its training facility in Jefferson City on Sept. 20-21. The rodeo gave the lineworkers an opportunity to practice their safety skills and knowledge in a fun and competitive environment.
“The most important thing we do day in and day out is help train Missouri’s linemen to work safely so they can go home to their families every single night,” says AMEC’s Director of Field Training Services Craig Moeller, who administers both the rodeo and the international program. “The Lineman’s Rodeo helps these guys master the safety procedures. That is so important whether they’re working on their system at home, electrifying a village in Guatemala or working a hurricane or ice storm.”
The rodeo consists of events meant to replicate what they might see in the field. The linemen competed in events such as the Hurt-Man Rescue — where they rescued the mannequin — and transformer arrester change-out. There is also a 100-question written test for apprentices. The three rodeo divisions include: journeyman, apprentice and team. There were a total of 59 lineworkers from 13 cooperatives competing in the rodeo.
Cuivre River Electric Cooperative President/CEO Doug Tracy says he has opened the event to other employees as well the past two years, holding a drawing for four office employees to attend and watch.
“The lineworkers are usually working when it’s dark and rainy, so most of our staff don’t get to see what they do in the field,” Doug says. “It’s one thing for one of our customer service representatives to know a blown fuse caused an outage, but now they come here and actually see the process they go through.”
The Troy-based electric cooperative sent 10 lineworkers and took home first place in the team division as well as a clean sweep of the apprentice division. “This is an opportunity to not only get our guys together to work as a team, but they also get to meet and talk with lineworkers from other co-ops,” Doug says. “These are the guys they might go work a hurricane with down the road. It’s a brotherhood for them.”
Corie Hancock has been a lineworker for Boone Electric Cooperative in Columbia for more than five years and agrees that the camaraderie adds to the rodeo. “Watching some of these other guys do the events and learning from them on what they’re doing helps us — and then trying to beat them,” he says with a smile.
The rodeo raised more than $30,000 for the Missouri International Program. Missouri has sent lineworkers on five missions to Bolivia and Guatemala. The program was stalled during COVID-19, last completing a project in a remote Guatemalan village in early 2020. Crews from Missouri will return to Guatemala in 2024.
Doug says that between raising money for the program, boosting employee morale and, most importantly, instilling a strong safety culture the event is successful for all those who participate.
“This is the kind of stuff they have to train on anyway,” he says. “Especially for our younger guys — the apprentices — it’s a great opportunity to get training on this equipment and that transfers over to their job as they start advancing from apprentice to journeyman.”
RALL EVENT WINNERS
Apprentice Division 1st Andrew Hecky, Cuivre River Electric
Apprentice Division 2nd Alex Lisovsky, Cuivre River Electric
Apprentice Division 3rd Colin Moxley, Cuivre River Electric
Journeyman Division 1st Kaleb Gaskell, Central Missouri Electric
Journeyman Division 2nd Mike Hartley, Cuivre River Electric
Journeyman Division 3rd Clint Deatherage, Ozark Electric
Team Division 1st Jon Pauk, Jacob Tiefenthaler, Mike Hartley, Cuivre River Electric
Team Division 2nd Cory Kleffner, Alex Buschjost, Ryan Deekan, Three Rivers Electric
Team Division 3rd Alan McNabb, Tim Thompson, Cam McCurdy, Barry Electric
INDIVIDUAL CATEGORY WINNERS
Knowledge Test Andrew Hecky, Cuivre River Electric
Hurt‐Man Rescue Andrew Hecky, Cuivre River Electric
Modified Pole Climb Hayden Rozell, White River Valley Electric
2‐Part Extendo Stick Cam McCurdy, Barry Electric
Armor Rod & Pre‐Form Ties Skills Corie Hancock, Boone Electric
Transformer Arrester Change‐Out Kaleb Gaskell, Central Missouri Electric
Hurt‐Man Rescue Clint Deatherage, Ozark Electric
Modified Pole Climb Clint Deatherage, Ozark Electric
3‐Part Extendo Stick Bryce Menne, Cuivre River Electric
Excavator Skills Course Mike Hartley, Cuivre River Electric
Equipotential Grounding & Insulator Change-Out
Jacob Tiefenthaler, Mike Hartley, Jon Pauk, Cuivre River Electric
3‐Part Extendo Stick Clayton Long, Dalton Griffin, Jacob Boland,
Transformer Change-Out on A‐5 Structure with Cover & Truck
Chris Turner, Jeremy Rehkop, Clayton Kemp, Black River Electric
Hurt‐Man Rescue Cory Kleffner, Three Rivers Electric
Modified Pole Climb Alex Buschjost, Three Rivers Electric
Digger Derrick Obstacle Course Ryan Deekan, Three Rivers Electric