Bringing families together for a day of fun raises safety awareness –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Thousands of America’s utility line workers packed their bags and headed south in the days after Hurricane Harvey dumped a trillion gallons of rain on the Lone Star state’s eastern coastline.
The men and women who keep the power flowing to hospitals, homes, stores, factories, and refineries rarely get much recognition from the public or the media, but without them, everything from traffic lights to personal computers go dark.
Despite working one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in the country, utility line workers serve our communities often without anyone noticing or looking up to say “thank you”.
Line workers frequently have to repair damaged electrical lines while rain, wind, snow, and ice storms rage around them. They push themselves so that power is quickly restored, which can often lead to fatal mistakes.
Even in good weather, at nose-bleed heights, they’re required to handle high-voltage lines that can send thousands of volts surging through their bodies.
Michelle Ross, Manager of the AEP Chillicothe District, which serves six Service Centers from Circleville to the Ohio River, recently organized an AEP Family Day at the Seaman Service Center to recognize the sacrifices made by the families of line workers who face danger everyday to keep their community’s lights on.
“We can’t do a “bring your kids to work day” because our work is too dangerous,” she said. “I thought we could do something like that for our families because it’s important for them to be involved, and for us to say thank you because they go through it every day when our people are called out during storms.”
Ross said that Family Day gives AEP’s younger employees an opportunity to meet the family members of their fellow workers.
“A lot of our younger employees don’t know one another’s families,” she said. “When I first started in the company there were events that brought employees’ families together – picnics and softball leagues, now, a lot of those opportunities have gone by the wayside.”
Ron “Fred” Barnett, Line Crew Supervisor at the Hillsboro Service Center, said the event also helps promote safety among workers who have to “watch out for each other”.
“We’re all a big family here, and today is about showing our employees and their families just how much we appreciate them,” he said. “Guys get hurt in this line of work every day, so meeting their families and spending time with them makes it more personal, it makes you look at things a little differently when you’re out on a job.”
Young and seasoned workers brought their spouses, children, and grandchildren to the Seaman Service Center for a day of fun, food, and fellowship.
“I love the idea of having Family Day, it brings us all together as one team,” said line worker Brandy Persch. “We have to watch out for each other at work and it makes that job even more important when you know each others families, it really brings it home.”
“Today is really all about why we do what we do every single day,” said Jeff Frazier, Supervisor of the Seaman and Hillsboro Service Centers. “We work together as a team to make sure we’re able to serve our customers and communities by keeping the lights on, but more importantly, it’s about watching out for each other so we we all get back home safely to our families – that’s why we go the extra mile to watch out for each other, to take the time to assess hazards, and ensure that our people are able to do their jobs safely. That’s really what today is all about.”