Local people: Greg Bennett, Crew Lead, Edson

Feb 14, 2024, 14:30 PM

Serving more than 240 communities throughout Alberta, there’s a lot of opportunity to get to know our customers. But we also want you to get to know us. That’s why we’re excited to continue our look at those who keep the lights on.

Today, we introduce you to Greg Bennett, Crew Lead out of Edson and a recipient of an Electricity Canada Lifesaving Award.

How long have you been with FortisAlberta?

I've been here since 2009. I started my career in Drayton Valley and am now in Edson, where I've been Crew Lead since last November. 

Are you from Alberta originally?

I grew up in Athabasca, so yes. I'm through and through Albertan.

Can you provide an example of the work the crew takes on in their day-to-day?

The majority of what we do is more smaller projects and maintenance. Ten poles or less. Not that we don't have the option to do anything bigger. It's all good experience and the crew that we have is young as well. Great group of guys and a great place to learn about the work before some guys move onto larger areas and take on more large-scale stuff. 

Can you speak to a unique element of the job that people may not think about right away when considering the work of a FortisAlberta PLT?

What’s unique about the job is the people themselves. I mean that in a great way, obviously. That might not speak to the job’s uniqueness, but the people come with the work. I’ve heard this saying that we’re a different breed. Like, maybe you’re a lineman because of the way you feel the elements and stuff like that. It doesn’t matter if it’s -40°C and the power goes out or if it’s a downpour. We’re going out and getting the work done. I guess maybe the thought is that the typical lineman might seem a bit burly or something, but afterhours or when we go home, we’re just dads and husbands. We’re all just trying to accomplish the same thing – to be happy and productive whether that’s at work or at home.  

What are some more notable ways that work changes in the winter months?

The work gets a little slower, but not in the sense there’s less to do. You’re literally traveling safer and working slower when it gets really cold. You try and avoid removing too much equipment from vehicles because when they’re cold they don’t work the same. Hydraulics in the cold versus summer are very different. But that doesn’t mean things stop for us. We’re out there every day. As far as building and repairing line or projects, we go to work every day, the same as any other time. Just with a few more hurdles to get over sometimes. 

Can you talk about a highlight, success, or key memory from your time at FortisAlberta?

A success for sure would be to be going to Turks and Caicos in 2017 to support with hurricane relief efforts. There were crews from all over North America and Fortis’ subsidiary companies. Working with everyone to help and support those efforts stands out to me. We met a lot of great people working to get the power back on. 

You’ve been singled out a few times as being a safety leader. Can you speak to that a little?

I was asked to go to Ottawa to receive a Life Saving Award from the Canadian Standards Association and that’s something I’m proud of.

For some background, myself and another PLT were responding to an outage on a very cold day. It was somewhere between -35°C or -40°C.  We arrived on site and saw a large black lump. We initially thought it was a large shaggy dog out laying in the show. Then we realized that it was actually a large black Carhartt type coat. It was the customer and he could not get up. I asked if I could put my arms under his arms and we ended up getting him to his feet and helping him back to his driveway.

His wife was also stuck in the snow elsewhere, between the house and the driveway, where our other PLT was helping her. She hadn’t fallen but was moving through the snow back to the house from where the guy fell and the snow was too deep and she couldn’t move. She was completely stuck.

Basically, they had too many space heaters plugged in and it ended up tripping the breaker on their pole. The customer was trying to get to it but the snow was too deep and he collapsed in it. If that call hadn’t come in and come to us, it could have been a terrible situation. Right place, right time. We were patrolling the area and got the trouble call and were thankfully able to help.  

What's your favourite part of the work?

The people, the relationships and the comradery that we have. Every service point has been great when it comes to the people who work there and those I’ve gotten the chance to work with.

What would you consider one of the most challenging parts of your role at FortisAlberta?

Going out in -45°C for those calls when there may be an outage at 2 a.m. It’s tough crawling out of a warm bed to head out into the cold. But that’s part of the work and I think the drive to do it comes from the want to help people as best we can. It’s a big part of the work and we’re all committed to it here.

How does the work of your crew ensure public safety throughout our service area?

Actually, just this morning we were called to change a street light on Highway 16 in a very specific area where, without a light, visibility is pretty tough. We had traffic control and had to shut down a lane. There are obviously safety things for us there, but also, we were improving safety for everyone by improving visibility to the roadway.

When you’re not at work, what might your community members find you doing?

Spending time with my kids mostly. They just started a new school and are making new friends, as are we. We’re trying to get to know people in our community, go on walks on a great trail behind our house where we see all sorts of animal footprints.

The kids think there’s a bigfoot walking around.


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