The Singing Lineman: Brandon Wylie combines his two talents

Brandon Wylie Singing Lineman

Brandon Wylie Singing Lineman Highline CowboyBrandon Wylie grew up with line work in his blood from his father and music in his soul from his grandfather, so it was just a matter of time before the two parts of him collided. And when you cross a passion for music with that of line work you get a song that can light up a room and help bring recognition to an entire industry. Wylie wrote the song “Highline Cowboy” to express his love of the industry and can be found working on his music when he’s not working his full-time career. For his day job, Wylie is a certified Safety and Training Specialist at Electric Cities of Georgia (ECG) where he teaches the importance of safety to linemen across the country. Thankfully, he hasn’t had any safety issues of his own but has lost a couple friends to the dangerous profession.

“Being a lineman is not just a job or a paycheck, it’s a lifestyle,” said Wylie. “You live it every day of the year.”

And this job requirement is what frustrated Wylie as a child since his dad would sometimes miss big family events, including holidays and birthdays, in order to keep the lights on during a storm. Eventually, he realized his father’s actions taught him how to have a strong work ethic in order to provide for his family.

Brandon Wylie Singing Lineman

So how did he make the transition from hating the lineman life his dad chose to decide on the exact same career? He did it through trial and error. Wylie started down a mainstream career path but realized utility work was in his DNA. He admired his father and wanted to follow in his footsteps of a rewarding career so he blazed his trail into a life that is as strenuous as it is rewarding.

Wylie began his journey as a lineman around the same time he taught himself to play the guitar. It took him about 8 years to realize that teaching safety was another of his passions. The most important safety tip Wylie has is that a lineman should always wear his rubber gloves even when they aren’t required.

Brandon Wylie as a child practicing being a utility lineman.

Brandon Wylie as a child practicing being a utility lineman.

“You can never go wrong by wearing [rubber gloves],” he said.

Other top safety items he recommends are glasses, Flame Resistant (FR) clothing, fall arrest gear and ergonomic battery tools that can be a tremendous help in reducing shoulder and elbow injuries.

He’s currently a member of the National Utility Training & Safety Education Association and the Georgia Lineman Rodeo Association. Wylie also serves on the board as Vice Chair of the National Association of Journeymen Linemen. He has previously served as an APPA Power Lineman’s Competition Judge and as Master Judge for the Georgia Lineman’s Rodeo and a Competitor in the International Power Lineman’s Competition.

Before serving the different associations, he won the APPA rodeo in 2004 and a 2nd place finish in 2007. He has seen the industry from all sides and continues to help various organizations with their mission of bringing recognition to the linemen who deserve it.

Brandon Wylie on the job

Wylie is currently a trainer with over 16 years of experience, but when a big storm hits he’s sent in to fill the General Foreman/Coordinator role. When there is an opportunity to roll up his sleeves and do the work he will jump in and help his crew. The latest major storm he assisted on was Hurricane Sandy of which he said, “was the safest storm I ever worked.” He did however hear stories from that storm where guys were burned or killed so he counted himself among the lucky.

“We watch each other’s back because everybody gets tired when working a storm,” he said. Many work 16-18 hour shifts for weeks at a time during a storm and Wylie advises they be conscious of their pace and try not to be a hero when in dangerous situations. There is an unspoken lineman bond and the goal is always to get home safely each day to see their loved ones.

“Lineman work around the clock and many die in the line of duty in order to keep the rest of us comfortable,” he said. “People have become so dependent on electricity that they don’t realize who keeps the power on.”

Linemen don’t get the recognition they deserve because they are usually very humble. This phenomenon is what makes Wylie’s song even more important to the industry. Linemen are a group of people who take risks to put the needs of others before their own and are often the first responders on a scene.
Brandon Wylie climbing utility pole

One time while on vacation in Florida, Wylie was thinking about his career and the hurricanes, tornados and ice storms that bring down the lines and put linemen in danger. It was at this time when the words to his song “Highline Cowboy” popped into his head. Just like a lineman, a cowboy would have to leave his family and spend weeks out in the elements doing a job in some of the most harsh weather conditions in order to take care of his family at home. A cowboy and a lineman both do the work because they have a passion for it and both risk their life never knowing what they could encounter each day. “The song literally wrote itself in 5 minutes,” he said. “There may be better songs lyrically and musically, but this one came from God and a lineman.”

His grandfather, who was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame as a mandolin player, would be proud of his grandson’s passions. Wylie enjoys writing more serious songs that pull at the heart strings and is a country music performer at heart. Being a part of the utility industry has allowed Wylie the opportunity to play his music at various linemen rodeos and conventions. His song will also be featured in a new industry film that plays tribute to linemen across the country.

Brandon Wylie with his son

Brandon Wylie with his son.

Wylie knows first-hand how difficult the line career is on families as he has a 9 year old son and wife at home. He’s always trying to practice what he teaches when it comes to safety on the job. “Your family expects you to come home,” he said. Wylie’s own father is his hero and role model and he hopes his son might carry the same lineman passion in his own DNA.

“He loves the music but he’s not into line work yet,” Wylie said. “I would definitely recommend this career to my son.”

To download Wylie’s song, go to iTunes, or to learn more visit:

Posted in The Lineman Lifestyle

Not Just a Job: A family’s love of the industry turns into a full-time business


Lineman Barn

Many utility professionals are familiar with Lineman Barn’s online store and Facebook blog, but a decade ago the founder, Tammy Kent, couldn?t have imagined that her hobby would turn into such a successful career.

Kent started in the utility industry fresh out of high school when she got a clerical job at a power company in Florida. Not long after starting the job she met a lineman named Jimmy, whom she ended up marrying less than a year later. Kent moved into various positions at the company as she followed her husband to his different job locations.

She eventually landed in the company’s the Human Resource Department and became its IBEW recruiter; hiring all employees who were under a union contract. Though she didn’t grow up with a history of linemen in her family she was able to create a legacy of linemen through her job as a recruiter. Since she knew so many of the linemen at the company and had excellent management skills she was asked to run the company’s lineman’s rodeo.

“I handled everything from team registration to cooking the hamburgers,” she said.

She also had the job of creating the t-shirt and hat logos for the rodeo that the linemen traded at the event. This is where her first light bulb moment occurred when she realized that the linemen’s wives in attendance had nothing to wear to support their husbands.

“You’d see a 100 lb woman walking around in her giant lineman husband’s oversized t-shirt,” she said.

This was when Kent decided to create the first woman’s rodeo t-shirt. The shirts became very popular and soon the women were looking for more items they could wear to represent their husband’s career. She decided to take her shirts on the road and traveled with her husband to sell them on weekends at rodeos in other states, as well as, network with her customers at the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Kansas.

Kent moved on to her dream job of Service Coordinator working in the field doing new construction and selling her clothing as a hobby when Mother Nature intervened. Four back to back hurricanes over a 6 week time period hit the Sunshine State and were the catalyst that forced the Kents to change course. Tammy Kent was directing tree and line crews when the hurricanes began and switched into the office managing the storm process for her region of the utility, while her husband Jimmy was working on the hundreds of damaged power lines. The couple didn’t see each other or their kids for well over a month straight. They leaned on their family to help take care of their 3 young boys during the stressful time but knew something needed to change. After the hurricanes had blown over Tammy decided to turn her hobby into her full time career so she could stay home with their sons.

“Our kids deserved better and it was best for our family for me to spend more time at home,” she said. She never could have imagined that those terrible hurricanes that rocked their family’s world 10 years ago would lead to her reward at the end of the rainbow.

Kent instantly became the CEO, Chief Everything Officer, for Lineman Barn, a move that gave her more satisfaction than she dreamed possible. It started as a simple shopping cart web store and over time has turned into so much more and she was able to successfully raise their kids while growing the business at the same time. Since the business is run out of their home, the Kents were able to move to their retirement hunting land
in Missouri when Jimmy attempted to semi-retire. But after being in such a rewarding career, he had a hard time relaxing, so he took a new management position and they are moving back to Iowa with Lineman Barn in tow.

Kent has gotten to know people from around the nation while working her business and can work it from anywhere. They get orders and posts from linemen around the world which is an eye opener to see how other professionals do their job.
They have also opened up a forum where people can share information, updates, safety tips and ask questions in order to get feedback.

The increase in technology and web traffic has allowed her business to grow and to make more connections online. “Facebook has been great for us,” she said. It gave her more followers and helped her find new organizations that shared her passion for the industry. It is also where Kent crossed online paths with National Sisterhood United for Journeymen/Linemen, NSUJL, and she struck up a relationship with the organization.

NSUJL helps families of injured and fallen linemen. When asked to become a sponsor and member it was an easy answer for the Kents. No one in the world can better understand the demands placed on a lineman than a spouse who works in the same industry. Jimmy Kent had gotten an electric shock the year that they were married when he was helping build a temporary line to a commercial building when the line fell on him.

“The electricity went in his hands and out his foot leaving him with injuries throughout his body,” she said. He did overcome the injuries after rehabilitation and his injury history has allowed him to better relate to the dangers of the job
so he could assist others in need through NSUJL. The Kents are now territory reps for the state of Missouri for the organization and help other families when they are called upon.
This year marks Lineman Barn’s 10th anniversary, and the Kents worked hard to add to their product line by shopping for American made clothing, as well as, creating handmade signs, wood art and decals together.

“It’s not just a job it’s part of who I am,” said Kent. “I can’t imagine my life without this line family.”

The company is truly a family business and at various times their boys and her mom have helped work with them when needed.

The Kent’s family has a history of trade blood and all 3 sons are involved at some level. Stetson, 28, is an apprentice in Florida. Cody, 21 is a union welder and has aspirations to become a lineman, and Austin, 19, is a contractor grunt and is waiting to go through IBEW. Together the Kent family has successfully created a community where linemen and their families come together to share their lives on the line.

Their goal is more than to just supply products to the trade; it’s to bring pride and recognition to the many people who work in the industry and it is a huge success. For more information about Lineman Barn please go to

Posted in Jobs in the Utility Industry

Spotlight on Danny Branneman: High Voltage Superintendent

Danny Branneman High Voltage Utility Lineman

Danny Branneman High Voltage Utility Lineman

Danny Branneman is the High Voltage Underground Transmission Superintendent for Hawkeye, LLC

Danny Branneman knew he wanted to be an electrical worker after his dad showed him how to build a circuit board with a light bulb and batteries for a 4-H project.

“From then on, I knew I wanted to do that kind of work,” Branneman said.

Learning the Trade

Branneman knew what he wanted to do, but he did not know how to get the proper training until Chris Thorsen, Training Director from IBEW Local 16’s Apprenticeship Training Center in Evansville, Indiana gave a presentation during career day at Mitchell High School. After graduating in 2002, he applied for the apprenticeship but did not get in on his first try and had to wait until the following year.

In the meantime, Branneman went to work for Snedegar Construction in Bloomington, Indiana where he first learned about working with high voltage.

When Branneman began his apprenticeship a year later, he continued to work, but needed to drive two hours after a work day to attend his classes. For the next five years, Branneman would attend his classes twice a week after work. Classes would last until 11 p.m. and then Branneman would drive two hours back home only to get up for work at 4:30 in the morning for his job.

“During my apprenticeship I started working in coal-fired power plants and that’s where I got into doing high voltage splicing,” Branneman said. “It’s extremely dangerous, but I always felt confident. For whatever reason, it never bothered me. You just need to pay attention to what you are doing.”
Danny Branneman Extra High Voltage specialist
Specializing in Extra High Voltage

After the apprenticeship Branneman took a job with General Cable, which flew him to Montereau, France for a month-long certification program in Extra High Voltage at Silec Cable. He became the youngest person to become a factory certified installation technician at the company. The program teaches the skills needed to work on cables that can carry up to 500,000 volts, which provide power to entire cities.

Once certified, Branneman worked for several different contractors, but continued to work with extra high voltage.

“It’s extremely specialized and I wanted to learn how the big boys do it,” Branneman said. “Only a few places have the equipment and knowledge to successfully do it.”
utility lineman
In the beginning of 2012, Branneman became the High Voltage Underground Transmission Superintendent for Hawkeye, LLC in Hauppauge, New York on Long Island.

Brian Kalwicz of Haugland Energy Group in Plainview, New York worked with Danny and acted as his mentor. Kalwicz said Danny is not only a quick learner, but willing to learn.

“Dan is a very dedicated person who is attentive to details,” Kalwicz said. “He approaches each project with professionalism.”

The Line Life

Branneman often works long days or needs to travel to other locations. After Superstorm Sandy Branneman put in 16 hour days, seven days a week for a month. With 90% of Long Island without power, bucket trucks were being flown in from as far as California and about 11,000 line professionals came to New York to help.

Danny Branneman, certified in high voltage, works with Superconductor.

“The average person takes electricity extremely for granted,” Branneman said.

Branneman says that linemen need to be willing to go where there is work. He has traveled across the United States for jobs, from Virginia to California to Texas.
His wife Tiffany, whom he met while in high school, always moved around with Branneman.

“It’s always nice to have someone to come home to,” Branneman said. “There were times when I was gone for 21 days and could only come home once a month, but she hung in there.”


Working around high voltage poses many risks, but other aspects of a lineman’s job are also risky. Whether working from heights or in a manhole, conditions need to be continuously monitored.

Every day, Branneman’s job involves pulling extremely heavy high voltage power cables underground. The cables can be 6” in diameter and the reels can weigh up to 100,000 pounds. Some jobs can require 3,000 feet of lead cable to be pulled where tensions can reach 30,000 pounds.

“If that rope breaks, it’s bad news,” Branneman said.

Although he has never seen it happen, he knows the dangers all too well. Others on his team have seen teeth knocked out or broken bones.

However, these dangers do not compare to when his wife told him they were expecting their first child this June.

“I can work around high voltage all day, but as soon as she told me she was pregnant, that’s a whole different ball game,” Branneman said.

Posted in The Lineman Lifestyle

Building a Case for Ergonomics with Cutting and Crimping Tools for Electric Utility Linemen

Equipment safety for professionals is an important part of every business decision. Professionals who use handheld cutting tools for applications such as cutting and crimping wire rope, cable, ground rod, or chain are at risk of repetitive motion injuries. Just as an office worker considers the proper height for their chair and best placement for their keyboard to decrease pain, industrial professionals also need to think how to make their workspace more ergonomic. Ergonomics is the science of fitting the workplace to the worker.

The old-fashioned, manual cutting and compression tools were inexpensive, but caused workers to put extra strain on their bodies to operate and led to musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, which end up costing companies money through medical payments. Manual cutting and compression tools required workers to use about 70 pounds of force to operate. Even worse, only about 1% of people have enough strength to operate the tool, making it more difficult to find qualified workers (EPRI Journal, p. 18).

Today, the best option is to use battery-powered cutting and compression tools. Although battery powered tools cost more than the manual products, supplying professionals with these tools offer the greatest benefit to the company and employees. Also, avoiding just one injury will more than pay for the cost of new tools.

Even though manual tools, known as “clackers” have fallen out of popularity, there are still places that use this type of cutting or compression tool. Without any hydraulic system to help do the work, the professional’s body is required to use force to work the tool.

Huskie Tools, known for its battery operated tooling, long joked that the manual tools were used by “Primitive Pete”.

Ergonomic Options

Manual Hydraulic Compression Tool

Manual Hydraulic Tool-More ergonomic than a manual tool, but still requires two hands and repetitive motions

streamline battery operated ergonomic compression tool

Streamline Style Tool-Ergonomic, Battery Operated

pistol grip ergonomic compression tool

Pistol Grip Style Battery Operated Tool-Most Ergonomic

A step above a manual tool is the manual hydraulic tool (Above, Left). However, even this tool requires the use of two hands to make a cut or compression, plus several pumping motions by the user. Battery operated tools provide the best solutions for repetitive jobs. Both the streamline style tool (Above, Center) and pistol grip tool (Above, Right) take the strain off the worker, but the pistol grip provides the most ergonomic grip.

Battery operated, hydraulic tools take the work off the person’s body and shortens the time it takes to make a cut or a crimp. With just a press of the button, the sleeve is crimped onto the cable.

Therefore, companies should ask themselves the following questions in order to choose the proper tool.

1. Is the job repetitive?
2. Does it require force?
3. If there is a hazard, or potential for injury, am I supplying the best tool to abate the issue?

Once it’s determined that a job is repetitive and musculoskeletal disorders are associated with the job, the company needs to find the correct tool for the job that minimizes the risk for injury.
Oftentimes, companies form safety teams to make the determinations and document the areas that need improvement. This also helps with implementing the safer tools in order to communicate the need for safer tools.

Over the course of a few months, companies will start to see the benefits of using ergonomic tools, including an increase in the productivity of employees.

Marklin, R. W. and Jeremy R Wilzbacher, 1999. Four Assessment Tools of Ergonomics Interventions: Case Study at an Electric Utility’s Warehouse System. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, 60, 6, 777-784.

Seeley, P.A. and R.W. Marklin, 2003. Business case for implementing two ergonomic interventions at an electric power utility. Applied Ergonomics 34, 429-439.

OSHA Site:

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Posted in Safety in the Field, Tips

If I were a utility line professional…

By, Stephanie Gandsey


For the past four and a half years, I have worked for Huskie Tools which supplies hydraulic cutting and compression tools to the utility industry. When I first came on board, I honestly had no idea how the utility industry operated, let alone the daily life of a utility line professional.

Through the many stories I hear from professionals in the field, I have a deep respect for the work these men and women do on a daily basis. Like most people, I like my power and I like it on, but just what working conditions do utility linemen work in to make this happen?

Let me equate my day to that of a utility line professional.


The temperature in my office never seems to be right. I’m either so cold I want to keep my scarf on or so hot it feels like I need to pour the water cooler over my head. We all complain, but then I think of the utility line professional….

The utility line professional deals with all sorts of weather, even the ones in Hawaii. Think about climbing a pole with wind whipping you around or freezing rain pelting your face. Just because the storm isn’t over doesn’t mean the line professionals aren’t suiting up. Whether it’s 50 below zero or 110 outside, line professionals keep working.


Oh, the hidden dangers of an office worker. I can’t count how many times I’ve went to open a door and someone was rushing out, almost knocking me in the face or the times I’ve spilled my coffee all over my desk. We all talk about these stories to other co-workers, but think for a second about real danger…

A line professional often works on a LIVE WIRE. Yes, that means electricity is running through the cables and can electrocute someone. Line professionals need to take every precaution because they can be electrocuted. And let’s get this straight, electrocuted means killed, not like getting a shock because there’s static electricity in the air. Line work defines a dangerous work environment.


After finishing a project at your office, you may feel you don’t get enough thanks for your work, but think of the utility line professional. Like a ninja, no one sees them as they fix the lines to get the power back on, but during this time, most customers are complaining. They may rejoice in their own homes once the refrigerator begins to hum again, but are usually still upset at how long it took for the power to come back.


I sit in a cushy office chair all day, with food, water and a toilet at my disposal, ‘nuff said.

The utility line professional has to climb poles with lots of equipment and get the job done quickly. I remember speaking to a lineman from Louisiana who told me how he had to wade through a few feet of water after Hurricane Katrina to fix a line. In case you didn’t catch that—water and electricity don’t mix—this was an especially dangerous day for that line professional.

Utility line professionals definitely have a challenging work environment, yet many people do not realize what it takes to keep the power on. I hope everyone out there takes a minute to reflect on this profession and be thankful for the people willing to climb a pole and work on live wires.

Posted in The Lineman Lifestyle