Employee Spotlight: Bob Jacobson
Bob Jacobson is KEC’s General Foreman. He has worked for KEC for 28 years.
What does a day look like for you as a general foreman at KEC?
As a general foreman, I don’t have a specific crew that I work with. I help oversee all the crews (we have six) and work closely with KEC’s engineering staff, who design the power lines that distribute power throughout KEC’s electrical system. I also coordinate with the foremen as these design jobs are completed and need to begin the construction phase. In addition, I respond to power outages. I’m pretty much on call 24/7.
How many employees work on a crew?
Each crew has a foreman, at least 2-3 journeyman linemen, a lineman assistant/operator and sometimes an apprentice.
What is a crew foreman responsible for?
KEC is fortunate to have very experienced foremen, with a combined 120 years of experience. In addition to ensuring the job is completed, the foremen are responsible for the crew’s safety, time, materials and equipment.
What made you interested in line work? How did you train to prepare for work in this field?
I had relatives that were lineworkers and I enjoy working outside. My family worked in the timber industry and I learned to climb while logging with them. At the time, Boise State University had the only line school around. After completing the program, I applied for and got a job at KEC as a groundman. From there I moved through the ranks as an apprentice lineman, which takes three years to complete and then to a journeyman lineman. You have to work as a journeyman for five years before you can apply to be a foreman.
What is the most memorable storm of your career?
The ice storm of 1996. The poles we climbed were covered in ice and the work seemed never-ending. We’d repair and replace poles, only to find them broken the next day. The conditions made roads difficult to navigate and it became so dangerous we had to stop working for about 12 hours, which rarely happens. I think it took about 3-4 weeks of work to restore power to all our members. We didn’t have the equipment we have now such as large snow machine to carry five guys, side by sides with tracks and 4x4 bucket trucks to help us get into areas more efficiently than snowshoes. The 2015 wind and snowstorms were also pretty memorable.
What is the most important tool you use for your work?
Personal protective grounds. These are used whenever lineworkers perform tasks on electrical power systems that may become accidentally reenergized. We test all lines and then install grounds to ensure our safety.
What is the biggest challenge in your job?
Keeping up with the rapid growth KEC is experiencing. This includes the work we completed recently to convert more than 50 miles of overhead lines to underground with a FEMA grant. There is also significant growth in residential construction, transportation projects (like Highway 41) and the maintenance of our existing equipment.
What is the best part of your job?
Getting the chance to work with all the different departments at KEC. I enjoy working in the operations department and experiencing both the linework side and the engineering side of the cooperative.