Crews thanked for putting it on the line every day - Joyce Vanselow
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Florida - While most people are just stirring out of bed or maybe on their second cup of coffee, one very select group is in a safety briefing before heading out to meet the challenges of the day.
Despite numerous safety precautions, these workers could face potentially deadly conditions on a daily basis. It’s a job that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is one of the deadliest and most dangerous in the United States.
Yet, with all the known hazards of working with live electricity, lineworkers are committed to keeping the energy flowing safely to homes and businesses no matter the conditions or weather.
And for that, Gulf Power and the State of Florida will recognize the contributions and dedication of lineworkers during Lineworker Appreciation Day, August 26, a day set-aside by the state Legislature in 2012.
Joyce Vanselow, a service technician with Gulf Power, is one of those lineworkers attending the safety briefing, and one of the more than 190 employees who work on the nearly 9,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines.
A veteran technician with more than 15 years working the lines, she listens intently to what will be the expected local effects of a tropical storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Within 24 hours, the Panama City Beach area received an unexpected six to seven inches of rain.
“It’s a dangerous job, there is no sugar-coating it,” she said. “From working the lines to dealing with all kinds of weather, such as the oppressive Florida heat, thunderstorms and high winds, we have to be safe at all times and never let our guard down. We have to be focused on the task and don’t forget the hazards.”
Tanned from the years spent in the Florida sun working the lines, Vanselow originally applied at Gulf Power because she was looking for a job that would allow her to be outside. She had thought about following in her father’s footsteps as a firefighter, and wanted something that would be just as challenging.
“I’ve worked for Gulf Power for 24 years and while I absolutely love my job, it’s been tough,” she said in a quiet voice with a hint of Southern drawl. “I had to prove myself first as a utility person by doing a lot of grunt work, and learning the business and basics of electricity. Once an opportunity opened up for a lineworker position, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
As a woman, she was also entering into a field dominated by men. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 3 percent of the estimated 120,000 lineworkers are women. But, she never saw herself needing any special favors or treatment because of her gender, nor did she receive any. No one, she said, has ever challenged her because she is a woman.
“Every morning I put my boots on knowing that I am capable of doing the job,” she added. “My experience has taught me that whether you are a man or a woman, if you didn’t have the skills to do the job and do it safely, you wouldn’t be working the line. We are a team, and I am proud of the work me and my team do everyday.”
As a service technician for the past 15 years, Vanselow also knows all about the dangers of the job, a job so hazardous, that it is considered the 10th most dangerous and deadly jobs in the U.S. According to Vanselow, safety is the number one priority on everyone’s mind.
“We are very safety conscious and we want to make sure everyone goes home at night,” she said. “The biggest thing we have to remember is to be safe and work safe. It’s a tough but rewarding job.”
But for all the tough conditions lineworkers have to deal with, along with working all hours of the night, it is a job she would not trade for anything. Sitting back and reflecting, Vanselow says the best part of her job is helping people. As a first responder, she said, lineworkers are the first on the scene when customers have a problem or when faced with a large-scale outage.
“Whether their lights are flickering, the power is out or a storm blew through that caused outages, we are first on scene to assess the situation and restore the power,” she said with a hint of a smile. “Our customers appreciate what we do. They like to be able to flip the switch and to have the power go on. I like to be able to give them the opportunity to do that everyday. Their appreciation is what keeps you going everyday.”
Gulf Power is an investor-owned energy provider with all of its common stock owned by Atlanta-based Southern Company. Gulf Power serves more than 447,000 customers in eight counties throughout Northwest Florida. The company’s mission is to safely provide exceptional customer value by delivering reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity while strengthening our communities. Visit online at MyGulfPower.com or on the company’s Facebook page. News information can be found at GulfPowerNews.com.
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