A little over 20 years ago Michigan Country Lines featured an article titled “The Well-Dressed Lineworker.” The article featured a picture of an old friend, Mike Stelter, outfitted in the proper safety equipment of the day.

The picture included the cost of Stelter’s personal protective equipment (PPE) with a combined price tag of approximately $1500. That was in the fall of 1995.

What else was going on in that time period? DVD was announced as a form of disc media storage. EBay was founded, The Washington Post and the New York Times published the Unabomber’s manifesto, and Steve Forbes announced he was a Republican presidential candidate. O.J. Simpson was found “not guilty,” and Quebec independentists narrowly lost a referendum for a mandate to negotiate independence from Canada. There were not CFL or LED light bulbs and no electronic meters on your home.

Indeed, much has changed.

Twenty years ago lineworkers provided their own belt and hooks. Fire Retardant (FR) clothing was a “best practice” but not a requirement. Almost no one wore the high-priced clothing that was often heavy, hot and uncomfortable. Lineworkers wore cotton and other natural fabrics. Wearing man-made fabrics like nylon, rayon and acetate have long been forbidden in line work.

Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers exposed to high voltage arcs be protected with appropriate FR clothing. And, it is up to the employer to provide these items. Today, OSHA requires that the employer provide employees with belts and hooks. The cost to do so is substantial. Today, it costs over $4000 to outfit men like Jerry Carpenter, our modern day “Well-Dressed Lineworker.”

As the years have passed, the safety training that is provided for all of our employees has changed as well. An example of these changes is in injury prevention training. Much of the work done in the field is rigorous and physically demanding. The work isn’t just about being strong enough. It’s about flexibility, positioning, and understanding the mechanics of our bodies. We didn’t take a whole-body approach years ago, but now this type of training helps avoid injuries on and off the job.

Here at Cherryland Electric Cooperative, our mission is “Member Focused: Safe, Reliable, Affordable.” Our employees are like family and making sure they go home safely every day is one of our deepest values.