DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Ameren Illinois linemen and apprentices are gearing up to compete at the 38th International Lineman’s Rodeo in Kansas.
The event, also dubbed the Lineman’s Olympics, gives participants the opportunity to show off their skills.
“Linemen are working athletes,” Kevin Young, the manager of electric training for Ameren Illinois said. “It’s a very physical job that they do. They expend a lot of energy, a lot of thought in what they do and [it] requires technique. I mean, a bear can climb a pole, but what can he do when he gets up there?”
At the Ameren Illinois Training Center, linemen prepared for the competition Tuesday practicing on electrical poles.
“I’m just looking forward to going out there with the guys and hopefully having somebody bring home some hardware,” Kris Fiedler, an apprentice lineman, said. “We’ve been practicing for quite a while now. And some guys have gotten really good. So I think we got a pretty good chance.”
One of the events they’re preparing for is the pole top rescue. In that event, linemen climb an electrical pole and put a rope around an injured lineman, a dummy that weighs 175 pounds, and lower it to the ground.
“If somebody goes up and they get hurt, they got to know that the guy on the ground can get up there and help them get down,” Fiedler said. “When I first started I was doing it in about four minutes. And I got it down to about a minute and a half now. So the training really helps.”
But they don’t just practice this drill for the competition.
“If they were in an event and someone got hurt, we wouldn’t want that to be the first time that they perform that,” Young said. “We practice that throughout the year with all our linemen.”
As they practice, the workers put on their climbing gear including gaff guards and body belts to stay connected to the pole.
When they reach the top of the pole, they put a rubber gut on the electrical line to avoid getting shocked from the voltage.
Young says this training helps linemen and apprentices in the competition, but also on the job.
“Every aspect of what we train has a component of safety in it, I mean down to the gaff guards that we put on so you don’t injure yourself on the ground,” Young, who has worked for Ameren for 35 years, said. “It’s really well thought out and it improves every day.”
The events at the rodeo are timed and participants compete in both team and individual events. Winners will go home with plaques and trophies.