Regional Maintainer Forestry, Hydro One
I was born/grew up in: North Tonawanda, New York State, USA
I now live in: London, Ontario, Canada
I completed my training/education at: Algonquin College Pembroke Campus and Sir Sandford Fleming, Frost Campus
Describe what you do at work.
My main job is to trim or remove tree away from Hydro lines. We do this to prevent trees from falling onto the lines which could result in a power outage. It also keeps the area around the lines open for those times when workers have to get in to do maintenance or repairs to the lines. Before starting work, I fill out a tailboard. This is a description of the work me and my crew will be doing, safety and hazard concerns, and what we plan to get done.
Science (physics/biology) and math are key elements in performing my job safely and effectively. For example, I need to calculate in my head wood weights, rope strength and amount of shock load on ropes based on distance a piece drops into the rope. Shock load is the sudden force that a falling object exerts on the rope that is connected to it. If the shock load is too great, the rope will break and people could be injured.
Tree identification is very important as we use this to decide how much of the vegetation we need to trim. Information we use includes how fast it grows, site location, soil type, resistance to insects, diseases, specific tree structure, etc.
Most of equipment at my work is specifically designed and manufactured for the work I perform. Fiberglass inserts and upper booms are important components when we are working overhead around power lines to protect from electrical shock.
Generally forestry crews are small – 2 or 3 people working together. Sometimes, depending on the job, extra people will be needed to set up the rope rigging or for dragging brush after it is cut. The majority of RMF's enjoy the job very much for the most part and get along well.
When I was a student I enjoyed:
How does your job affect peoples lives?
My job is vital in making sure the power stays on. The majority of power outages are caused by vegetation. This usually happens during storms or high winds. As mature trees age they are not as resistant to insects and disease. This weakens the tree and it becomes prone to snapping or becoming uprooted. So when forestry managed efficiently and effectively there are fewer power outages. My work is very important to public safety as power lines are province wide. All major cities have Forestry crews trimming the power lines and many smaller towns have contractors doing the same work. Generally the public does not know what we do until a storm hits and takes out the power. That when they see what we do and appreciate what we do.
What motivates you in your career?
In my job, every tree is a new challenge! No two trees are identical in size, shape, or scope of work needed. So every time we set up our equipment it is based on variables specific to that tree. Some are extremely challenging and when you conquer your challenges it’s incredibly gratifying. I like knowing that Hydro One is a huge company with locations province wide and the opportunity to transfer comes yearly. So if a person wished they could, put in for a new job in a different department without losing seniority. The company will train for certain types of occupations based on qualifying with a written test. What I enjoy most about my job as an RMF is working outdoors on the road. You work on a feeder line till its complete then you head to a new feeder. This keeps job interesting as you are not working in same location month after month. I believe this is the perfect career based on my interest when I was younger. I’m working at a career I love doing and I think I'm pretty good at. It’s fun teaching coworkers and equally fun being taught something new.
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
Describe your career path to this career.
My career path actually begun in grade 13 when I realized university was not for me. I visited my guidance councillor at high school and researched the career library. I looked up careers based on what I loved doing, which was outdoor activity. That is truly when it started for me. It has been a long winding journey, but I never thought I would be back working with a company I'm proud of, in a career I love.
I started with Ontario Hydro in 1990, left the company in 1994 as I was told I would be laid off indefinitely. It was a 23 year journey to be back to a permanent position. I did the Ontario Hydro Forestry Apprenticeship in the early 90's. I'm a licensed Utility Arborist as well, a licensed Arborist and a licensed Industrial Mechanic Millwright. Over the years I attended college to be a Youth Councillor and left college for a councillor position at local school. I enjoyed the work but the politics were too much for me.
I left that job and did some research to figure out what I like doing and demographically where the jobs would be. That's when I went into be a millwright, another career I thoroughly enjoyed. I worked at that for 11 years and became good at welding, machining, machine tear downs and rebuilds. It was a great job and you had to be good in basic math and have an understanding of physics and science. About a hundred millwrights were laid off at once from same company as they were restructuring. That's when I came back to Hydro and now there is no looking back; only forward with Hydro One. I ran my own tree company for five years after I finished college. But, before I took that leap I had gained experience working for 3 other small tree companies. Then I joined Ontario Hydro and now I'm back and have 14 years seniority with the company. I believe you have to just keep moving forward with whatever is dropped in your path, climb over it, or step around it. No matter what, don't let setbacks stop you from reaching your goals.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I’m not as active as I was when I was younger. I used to enjoy hockey, baseball and golfing. I hurt myself playing baseball and haven't been involved in sports ever since. Now I enjoy short trail hikes and bicycling. My wife and I enjoy day road trips and have recently started dancing lessons. I like reading and listening to music.
What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?
Discover what your good at and enjoy. If it’s something you can be paid to do then make a career out. And if not then make sure it becomes your hobby. Most of all don't put too much stress on yourself. If you enjoy what you do then it will never feel like work. The trick is finding out what that is. Visit your guidance councillor.
Lets Talk Science is grateful to Skills Canada Ontario for connecting us with this individual.