Matt Morris, 32, is a journeyman lineworker who has worked for five years at Holmes-Wayne Electric Cooperative in Millersburg, Ohio.
Our organization has created two working crews at both locations—a maintenance crew and a construction crew, which work independently from each shop. Me and one other lineman, we’re basically designated to work with each other. But we don’t really work with any other linemen right now. We don’t even really come to the shop. We’re driving the truck home, and we’re reporting right to the job site from our houses for whatever we have to do for the day and running outages through the day. We can’t go to the shop if anybody else is here. So they fully separate all of us linemen. There are certain groups that can work together, but we can’t mix the groups.
Normally in our shop, we have eight linemen and seven at the other location. So, on a normal day, we all show up together at the shop. And usually we have a five-man construction crew and a two-man maintenance crew that week. Whoever is on those crews changes every week. So, you’re at least with one other guy, but usually you’re with five other people unless it’s a big job. And, actually, all of us will work together for the most part.
It is kind of weird now. The two of us are usually doing construction work. And now we’re doing more of the maintenance end of it. So it’s a little different. It’s weird not being at the shop and seeing all the other guys. We all have to drive our own trucks. There’s no one riding the trucks together. So if our construction crew goes to work somewhere, people always think that there’s a parade coming because every guy’s got his own truck to drive for the simplest job.
We try to practice staying 6-foot away from each other. Most of our jobs we can maintain that, especially me and the other lineman. With just two of us, usually a guy’s on the ground and a guy’s in the bucket.
Some of our members will come up and try to talk to you. You kind of just back up and tell them that we’re trying to keep the 6-foot rule. Most people understand. We’re trying to have the least amount of interaction with the members as possible.
They kind of made us exempt from wearing masks just because there for a while you couldn’t get fire-retardant masks. If we’re working primary, we have to wear all fire-retardant clothing. We can’t have something on that’s not fire retardant in case there’s an arc flash, which we discussed as a team on a phone conference with our supervisors and safety director. A concern with communication and fogging up our safety glasses when wearing masks were factors too.
I feel pretty safe. There’s maybe five cases in the whole county. So we don’t have a large outbreak. It’s all country, smaller towns. Our district office is serving a county with higher cases, including 50 deaths, mostly from a nursing home outbreak.
I guess my only thing is I have an almost 6-month-old daughter so I don’t want to bring anything home that she can get, and that’s basically my only concern. But I’m really not too worried about it around here. I mean, if something happened to me, I can go sleep in a tent outside away from my wife and daughter. I’m not worried about me. I just don’t want them to get anything.
I think what I miss most is the camaraderie with all the guys. We’re a pretty tight group of guys as linemen. We all get along pretty well. We usually make work fun. Well, now you don’t see everybody every day, so that’s probably the biggest thing. That’s what I miss the most.
I think when things get back to normal, people will be more mindful about disinfecting and cleaning things. We’re all taught you don’t cough in people’s faces and all that, but I think you’re going to see a change with more people wiping down trucks and steering wheels—the things people touch. Everybody uses hand sanitizer now, and I think that will continue.
I do like doing an essential job. It’s just good to know you’re always helping people. You got big outages or storms and you’re there to help. I’m proud of that.
Erin Kelly is a staff writer at NRECA.