Story of a… Power Lineman

When the electricity goes out, OUC’s Sean Carroll, 43, climbs into the spotlight.



ROBERTO GONZALEZ

Working with high voltage, “The danger of the job crosses your mind all the time. Each morning, we have a ‘tailgate session’ where we talk about safety and everything that could potentially happen and how we can prevent it. We always go out as a team—as many as a five-man crew. We watch each other’s back.”

Carroll became a lineman for Orlando Utilities Commission 16 years ago after an elbow injury ended his minor league baseball career. “You start as an apprentice, do the climbing tasks and then there’s schoolwork. Twice a year we have to go back for training.”
 

“We get money to buy gear like fire-retardant clothing, sunscreen, hard hats, heavy rubber gloves and safety glasses.’’
 

Poles have not only power lines, but cable and phone lines, too. The lowest wire is neutral—above are the primary wires, which hold a charge. “A regular pole has 7,200 volts. Transmission poles have a higher voltage—115,000 to 230,000 volts.”
 

Carroll’s most common repair is when a transformer needs replacing—because it’s old or damaged, or it blew out. “Some of the transformers weigh up to 800 pounds. We rig a pulley system using ropes with one guy on the pole and others on the ground. It’s all teamwork.”
 

Fascinating fact: “Squirrels get burned up when they are jumping from a neutral wire to a primary wire. When they have one foot on each wire, they get zapped. It can cause a small outage. You see it all the time. It’s an easy fix.”
 

Each truck has a computer in it that monitors every power line OUC manages—overhead and underground. The underground lines are accessed via manholes. “It’s pretty dangerous down there—there’s nowhere to run if something goes wrong.”
 

“During the hurricanes of 2004, we worked 16-hour days for 2½ months straight. Then we went to Mississippi to help out. In 2012 we went to Long Island for 2 weeks to help out after Hurricane Sandy.”
 

“I think I have another 5 to 8 years in the field. After that, you hope for a coordinator’s job. It’s a half-desk/half-field job. I couldn’t do a full-time desk job.”
 

At home, Carroll does as little as possible when it comes to electrical fixes. “My wife piddles around with wiring ceiling fans and stuff, but when there’s a big project, I have to hire someone.”
 

“My kids think I’m brave. They know the danger of my job. In 16 years, I’ve never had a bad experience.”

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