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Line Installers and Repairers

Line installers and repairers install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics. Show Details

Duties

Electrical power-line installers and repairers typically do the following:

  • Drive work vehicles to job sites
  • Install, maintain, or repair the power lines that move and distribute electricity
  • Identify defective devices, circuit breakers, fuses, voltage regulators, transformers, and switches
  • Inspect and test power lines and auxiliary equipment
  • String power lines between poles, towers, and buildings
  • Climb poles and transmission towers and use truck-mounted buckets to get to equipment
  • Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
  • Follow safety standards and procedures

Telecommunications line installers and repairers typically do the following:

  • Drive work vehicles to job sites
  • Install, maintain, or repair telecommunications equipment
  • Inspect or test lines or cables
  • Lay underground cable, including fiber optic lines, directly in trenches
  • Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
  • Set up service for customers

Every time you turn on your lights, call someone on the phone, watch cable television, or access the Internet, you are connecting to complex networks of physical power lines and cables that provide you with electricity and connect you with the outside world. Line installers and repairers, also known as line workers or linemen, are the people who install and maintain these networks.

Line installers and repairers typically specialize, and the areas in which they specialize depend on the network and industry in which they work:

Electrical power-line installers and repairers install and maintain the power grid—the network of power lines that moves electricity from generating plants to customers. They routinely work with high-voltage electricity, which requires extreme caution. This can range from hundreds of thousands of volts for the long-distance transmission lines that make up the power grid to less than 10,000 volts for distribution lines that supply electricity to homes and businesses.

Line workers who maintain the interstate power grid work in crews that travel to work locations throughout a large region to take care of transmission lines and towers. Workers employed by local utilities work mainly with lower voltage distribution lines, maintaining equipment such as transformers, voltage regulators, and switches. They may also work on traffic lights and street lights.

Telecommunications line installers and repairers install and maintain the lines and cables used by local and long-distance telephone services, cable television, the Internet, and other communications networks. These services use different types of cables, including fiber-optic cables. Unlike metallic cables that carry electricity, fiber-optic cables are made of glass or plastic and transmit signals using light. Working with fiber optics requires special skills, such as the ability to splice and finish off optical cables. Additionally, workers test and troubleshoot cables and networking equipment.

Because these systems are so complicated, many line workers also specialize by duty:

Line installers install new cable. They may work for construction contractors, utilities, or telecommunications companies. They generally start a new job by digging underground trenches or putting up utility poles and towers to carry the wires and cables. They use a variety of construction equipment, including digger derricks, which are trucks equipped with augers and cranes used to dig holes in the ground and set poles in place. Line installers also use trenchers, cable plows, and directional bore machines, which are used to cut openings in the earth to lay underground cables. Once the poles, towers, tunnels, or trenches are ready, line installers string cable along poles and towers or through tunnels and trenches.

Line repairers are employed by utilities and telecommunications companies that maintain existing power and telecommunications lines. Maintenance needs may be identified in a variety of ways, including remote monitoring equipment, inspections by airplane or helicopter, and customer reports of service outages. Line repairers often must replace aging or outdated equipment, so many of these workers have installation duties in addition to their repair duties.

When a problem is reported, line repairers must identify the cause and fix it. This usually involves testing equipment and replacing it as necessary. To work on poles, line installers usually use bucket trucks to raise themselves to the top of the structure, although all line workers must be adept at climbing poles and towers when necessary. Workers use special safety equipment to keep them from falling when climbing utility poles and towers.

Storms and other natural disasters can cause extensive damage to networks of power lines. When a connection goes out, line repairers must work quickly to restore service to customers.

Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers Except Line Installers

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, also known as telecom technicians, set up and maintain devices or equipment that carry communications signals, connect to telephone lines, or access the Internet. Show Details

Duties

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers typically do the following:

  • Install communications equipment in offices, private homes, and buildings that are under construction
  • Set up, rearrange, or replace routing and dialing equipment
  • Perform equipment maintenance, such as inspecting wiring and phone jacks
  • Repair or replace faulty, damaged, or malfunctioning parts
  • Test repaired, newly installed, or updated equipment to ensure that it works properly
  • Adjust or modify equipment to improve its performance
  • Demonstrate and explain the use of equipment to customers

Telephone, computer, and cable telecommunications systems rely on sophisticated equipment to process and transmit vast amounts of information. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers—often called telecom technicians—install and service this equipment.

To inspect equipment and diagnose problems, telecom technicians use many different tools. For instance, to locate distortions in signals, they may use spectrum analyzers and polarity probes. They also commonly use handtools, including screwdrivers and pliers, to take equipment apart and repair it. In addition, telecom technicians frequently install and update software and programs for some devices.

Equipment installers who work mainly outdoors are classified as telecommunications line installers and repairers. For more information, see the profile on line installers and repairers.

Telecom technicians do many tasks, often depending on their specialization and where they work. The following are examples of the types of telecommunications equipment installers and repairers:

Central office technicians set up and maintain switches, routers, fiber-optic cables, and other equipment at switching hubs, called central offices. These hubs send, process, and amplify data from thousands of telephones, Internet connections, and other sources. Increasingly reliable, self-monitoring switches alert central office repairers to malfunctions, and might allow repairers to correct problems remotely. 

Headend technicians do almost the same work as central office installers and repairers, but work at distribution centers for cable and television companies, called headends.

PBX installers and repairers set up and service private branch exchange—or PBX—switchboards. This equipment relays incoming, outgoing, and interoffice telephone calls at a single location. Some systems use voiceover Internet protocol—or VoIP—technology, which functions like PBX systems, but uses computers to run Internet access, network applications, and telephone communications.

PBX installers connect telecom equipment to communications cables. They install frames, supports, power systems, alarms, and telephone sets. They test the connections to ensure that adequate power is available and communication links work properly. Because switches and switchboards are now computerized, PBX installers often need to also install software or program the equipment to provide specific features.

Station installers and repairers—sometimes known as home installers and repairers—set up and repair telecommunications equipment in customers’ homes and businesses. They install telephone, Internet, and cable television services, often setting up modems and other computer hardware and software.

When customers have problems, station repairers test the customer's lines to determine if the problem is inside or outside. If the problem is inside, they try to repair it. If the problem is outside, they refer the repair to line repairers.

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