This is the latest in an occasional series of posts featuring some of the interesting jobs and work at Your Seattle City Light.
Seattle City Light power lines travel through electrical towers to be delivered to substations and on to customers’ homes or businesses in the greater Seattle area. There are many types of electrical towers that contribute to servicing the greater Seattle area, including lattice, distribution, transmission and communication towers. The workers who repair these towers are known as ironworkers.
Seattle City Light’s 10 ironworkers have a wide variety of responsibilities in serving our customers’ electricity needs behind the scenes. Ironworkers work with the metal materials in electrical towers and make repairs. They also work with civil engineers in underground vaults when welding is needed.
You’re not likely to spot a City Light ironworker in the streets. Most of the time, they are in steel shops, welding and cleaning metal, or climbing high in the air to work on electrical towers.
To get a sneak peek at the work an ironworker does from their perspective, watch this video.
“In a lot of ways it’s very exhilarating,” City Light Structural Ironworker Eric Colville said.
Sometimes, ironworkers have to climb heights of up to 300 feet. Towers this high can take up to 20 minutes to climb.
Ironworkers have many roles to play in maintaining the functionality of these tall towers. The workers install additional steel and sometimes use a welding process to do this. The work also could involve punching or drilling holes into the existing tower to bolt on brackets, fabricated assemblies or structural members.
Ironworkers play an important role in maintaining the reliable delivery of electricity to City Light’s customers. With work involving welding materials and distant heights, the top priority for these workers is safety.
When working on a tower, Ironworkers are always tied to a system of ropes and pulleys to keep them from falling. The system that lifts the workers onto the towers only gets them to about 170 feet. When a job is higher up a tower, the workers have to climb the rest of the way.
“Whenever we climb a tower, we are perfectly safe. Even if you are up a couple hundred feet, you know in the back of your mind that you are tied off,” Colville said.
Most of the time ironworkers work under a clearance, so the power is turned off. If the power has to be left on during modification work, another employee is assigned as a safety watch for the workers to ensure safe practices.
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.