Lineworkers showcase safety at annual rodeo
Safety is paramount to electric cooperative lineworkers. Safety trainings, job briefings, tailgate sessions and open lines of communications are all used to make sure they make it home to their families each and every night. Once per year, they get to showcase their safety skills in a friendly competition.
Fifty-eight cooperative lineworkers representing a dozen co-ops competed for bragging rights and the top trophy at the Fifth Annual Lineman’s Rodeo hosted by the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives in Jefferson City Sept. 28-29. The event not only reinforces proper safety techniques, but also raises funds for Missouri’s International Program which electrifies remote villages across the globe.
“Our biggest concern for the linemen when they go out is that they do it safely,” says AMEC’s Craig Moeller who both organizes the rodeo as well as the international missions. “The Lineman’s Rodeo helps nail down those safety procedures so they are even more second nature to them whether they’re doing maintenance on their lines at home, working a hurricane in Florida or electrifying a village in Bolivia.”
This year’s rodeo raised more than $32,000 which will be used to fund future Missouri International Program trips. The last mission to Guatemala happened just before the COVID-19 pandemic paused the program. Missouri’s lineworkers will return to the Central American country in 2023 to deliver power to another village for the first time.
The linemen competed in events such as the Hurt-Man Rescue, where they had to climb a pole and lower a mannequin — playing the role of an incapacitated lineworker — to safety on the ground. Other events were modified pole climbing, bayonet fuse changeout in an underground transformer, digger-derrick obstacle course and extendo stick. There also is a 100-question written test. There are three divisions: journeyman, apprentice and team.
Winners in each event and division are decided first by safety. The competitors begin with 100 points and receive deductions for anything they have not completed correctly. The events are timed, but time only plays a factor in the event of a tie.
This year’s first-place winners were Garret Lynn of Central Missouri Electric Cooperative in the apprentice division, Jacob Tiefenthaler of Cuivre River Electric Cooperative in the journeyman division and Barry Electric Cooperative in the team division.
Chris Turner has been a lineworker for Black River Electric Cooperative for 18 years. He says the competition is good to both sharpen his safety skills and meet his counterparts from across the state.
“This gives us a break from our day-to-day work and shows the younger lineworkers we’re all here to do things the right way,” he says. “But it’s really good to meet up with other lineworkers and talk with them so when you work with them on a storm, you’ll already have gotten to know them.”
That was top of mind to some lineworkers who were waiting to hear if their services were needed to restore power following Hurricane Ian, which made landfall on the first day of the rodeo. Ultimately, the co-ops Missouri was assigned in Florida had enough help close by.
Chris traveled on an international mission in January 2019 to electrify the village of Trapichitos, Guatemala for the very first time. He says knowing what the money is being raised for only elevates the rodeo for him. “You always hear the older guys talking about turning the lights on for the member at the end of the line for the very first time,” he says. “I got to experience that down there seeing people get for the first time what we already have here.”
Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick addressed the lineworkers following the competition and thanked them for the work they do. “It may not be top of mind to everyone, but it’s great when the lights come on in the morning or the air conditioning stays on in the summer or heat in the winter,” the Barry Electric Cooperative member says. “A lot of that, if not all of that, is because of you guys and all that you do.”