Lineworker's Rodeo Coming to IMS

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Crews have set dozens of poles in the "north 40" parking lot for next week's rodeo.

Photo by Jay Thompson

(posted Apr 11)

The April 17-19 American Public Power Association's Lineworker's Rodeo is a competitive teaching, learning and safety event that will take place on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mike Highland of the APPA said he organized the traveling event in 2001 to showcase the line worker's safety records and trade. The association represents 2,000 municipally owned electric companies ranging from the size of Los Angeles to Peru, Indiana.

Indiana is unique that it does not have a large municipal owned power company. Indiana has 72 small municipally owned electric companies. Approximately 62 teams and 70 apprentices will come from across the nation for the timed event that includes a simulated safety rescue from the lines, as well as a timed multiple choice test for the apprentices to make sure they are reading the APPA manuals.

The event will require the use of 80 judges to monitor the different teams ascending the various 110 poles on site. Improper safety can result in points deductions. The loss of points is referred to as "gigging." Many of the teams video the competition for training use. Whether a team represents a large or small municipality, the lineworkers all learn from each other.

The industry vendors also gather to showcase new insulated tools and protective clothing. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, protective clothing to shield workers from arc flashes was nonexistent.

Highland touted the strong camaraderie that has developed as a result of the APPA rodeo. He said he can send out email across the country looking for linemen to restore electricity after a major disaster and within minutes, he receives replies stating they are ready to go.

Highland explained there is always a need for linemen and the association tries to outreach to high school students about the trade. "This is a career," he said. It is a good job for those who are interested in climbing, like harsh weather conditions, as well as knowing they are performing a good public service. Northwest Lineman College offers a four month basic training course.