A team of Duke Energy lineworkers won first place in the senior division at the International Lineman’s Rodeo, one of four awards company lineworkers brought home.
Sandy Barnhill, Keith Griffin and Jay Tipton of Duke Energy’s Carolinas West Division earned first place overall in the senior division.
Miles Bell, Heath Burrell and Jordan Henderson of Duke Energy Carolinas West Division placed first in the hurt-man rescue event and fifth place in the pole climb event. Barnhill, Griffin and Tipton also won fourth place in Mystery Event Two.
About 1,300 lineworkers competed at this year’s International Rodeo, including 60 Duke Energy participants who were selected by winning regional Duke Energy events across the company’s service areas.
“This type of work is a commitment and it’s not for everyone, but for those of us who work the lines each day it’s a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Chet Braden, journeyman lineworker based in Florida who has been with Duke Energy for more than 20 years. “Restoring the power for our communities is one of the best feelings in the world.”
Griffin, Barnhill and Tipton have won competitions at previous international rodeos. In 2022, the Journeyman team of Jason Worley, Tipton and Keith Griffin won third place in the IOU Division, fourth in Best of the Best, and fifth in Mystery Event One. In 2017, the journeyman team of Griffin, Barnhill and Tipton won fifth place in Mystery Event Two; and Miles Bell won fifth place in the speed pole climb.
Now in its 39th year, the International Lineman’s Rodeo, held in Bonner Springs, Kan., features competitions including hurt-man rescues, power line repairs and utility pole climbs. Mystery events involving repairing or replacing equipment require teammates to collaborate to solve problems as quickly and safely as possible.
Events take place on de-energized equipment in a simulated environment; participants are scored based on simulations, with deductions for mistakes. Competitors are judged on efficiency, agility, technique and safety procedures.
“On the job, linework comes with many hazards, but the extreme elements of storm damage, freezing cold or sweltering heat can increase the stakes exponentially,” said Scott Batson, senior vice president and chief distribution officer for Duke Energy. “It is through the training, experience, adherence to work methods and looking out for each other that our employees conduct this work regularly without injury.”
Lineworkers must be prepared for any circumstance. If conditions make it impossible for a bucket truck to reach a job site, line technicians must be ready to secure themselves in a harness, attach their tools and hoist themselves up quickly and safely to complete the work. In addition to restoring power after an outage, lineworkers are creating a more efficient, digital electric grid, working on strengthening the grid and hardening it against storms, and helping with a smoother transition to cleaner energy.
As the company modernizes the grid as part of its goal of net-zero carbon emissions, “The need for line technicians continues to grow,” Batson said. That’s why the company supports training programs across its service territory.
“Our lineworkers underpin one of the most important responsibilities of Duke Energy – caring for our customers by ensuring they have reliable service and restoring that service safely and quickly when Mother Nature comes calling,” said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy executive vice president of customer experience, solutions and services. “We could not be prouder of them as they showed off their impressive skills and shined on an international stage.”
Piedmont Natural Gas techs win championship title at national rodeo
Piedmont Natural Gas teams won six awards at the 2023 National Gas Rodeo in Springfield, Mo., including first overall, the company’s sixth time earning the national championship.
The Greenville, S.C.-based team of Cameron Smith, Jamie Exum, Peyton Huff, Chase McCroskey and Mitch Cothran (alternate) won the overall championship title and top honors in the hand dig and relay events.
A four-person team from Charlotte, N.C. – Christian Hernandez, Franyer Koschnny, Brian Trickett, Richard Bradley and Juan Hudson Jr. (alternate) – placed second overall and best in the pipe-cut event.
A two-person team from Greensboro, N.C. – Andy Andrews, Reece Graves and Kenneth State (alternate) – won third place overall.
“Agility, speed and safety are integral to serving our customers,” said Brian Weisker, senior vice president and chief operations officer for Piedmont Natural Gas. “We are proud our teams’ dedication to their jobs, peers and customers was on full display.”