Ohio Co-op’s ‘Lunch With a Lineman’ Serves Safety Lessons to Young Members

Firelands Electric Cooperative’s Evan Clemons points out a safety feature for members during the co-op’s first Lunch with a Lineman. (Photo By: Tracy Gibb/Firelands Electric Cooperative)

National Electric Safety Month was around the corner and Fireland Electric Cooperative’s Tracy Gibb was looking for a new way to engage the co-op’s youngest members.

A longtime coloring contest for elementary-aged children had run its course. And Gibb wanted to provide an enriching experience with a safety message that didn’t involve (too many) plastic giveaways.

“It got to the point where it was the same kids and the same families entering and winning the coloring contest time after time, and it wasn’t really accomplishing the goal of teaching about electrical safety,” said Gibb, communications and member relations specialist at the New London, Ohio-based co-op.

But then she remembered that big equipment and hands-on encounters enthrall young children. Throw in a behind-the-scenes tour of the co-op and a pizza lunch with a real lineworker…and Lunch with a Lineman was born. The second annual event is coming up July 31.

Last year’s highlights included trying on rubber gloves and learning how to blow an air horn in a bucket truck, Gibb said. “The kids enjoyed it last year, and they, and the chaperones asked our linemen a lot of questions and seemed genuinely interested in learning more about the trucks and equipment.”

To participate, K-5 students living on co-op lines complete a quiz on lineworker safety gear, and their names are entered for a chance to win one of three spots. Winners can bring one adult chaperone.

Gibb said she learned several lessons from last year, including working around line crews’ unpredictable schedules. This year, she’s holding the event after a mandatory safety training at the co-op’s New London headquarters, “so we can snag them right then and there.”

“It’s always great to see kids interested in what we do,” said Line Superintendent Zach Collins. “And who knows—maybe they will even work with us some day.”

This year, instead of an open-ended format, the program will include more structured segments on wearable safety gear and equipment, such as hot stick demos, and safety features on trucks.

“Our linemen are always willing to help and show the kids around, but sometimes they’re not sure where to start,” Gibb said.

During the two-hour program, Gibb also promotes the co-op’s other youth engagement activities, including recognition of middle schoolers with at least three A’s and NRECA’s Electric Cooperative Youth Tour for high schoolers. And, of course, each student gets some co-op swag.

“They get the gift bags, but they also get the experience—an above-and-beyond special treat.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.