I Want Your Job... Hot Glover

'It's risky, but we make a difference'
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The Independent Online

Richard Mellor, 48, is a hot glove linesman, repairing and maintaining live high-voltage electricity lines. He works for Central Networks, a company of E.ON UK, the country's largest power and gas company and owner of Powergen.

What sort of things does a hot glover do?

I work on a network of 11,000 volts live electricity power lines, carrying out repairs, improvements and maintenance. We travel all over the country to put lines back up after storms have dashed them down, and put in transformers that step down the voltage to 240 volts so it's safe for domestic use. We can also nip problems in the bud by installing protection equipment. If a bird or a branch hits a power line, a device will trip the network out instantly and then start it again. People wouldn't notice anything more than a dip in their lights.

Isn't it dangerous?

Yes, it's risky, but I always say that being a lollipop man is dangerous if you step off the curb at the wrong time. I've been a linesman for well over 20 years, and my team is very experienced - we're masters in the field. We work on an insulated platform, wearing protective rubber sleeves and gloves for safety. We'll discuss the job carefully before we do it, agree exactly how we're going to do it, then follow a step-by-step plan. In a team of four, there'll be two guys up doing the job, one person watching them, and another working on the ground.

What sort of skills would someone need to become a hot glover?

You've got to love working outdoors, and to be very practical and fit, with a common sense approach to safety. It's important to have the confidence to tackle challenges, but seek advice for difficult problems instead of diving in. The technical skills come with training and experience. And a must for any linesman is a sense of humour - you need it when you're laden with a rubber outfit.

What's great about your job?

We get to see some beautiful countryside. No two jobs are the same, and the scenery changes daily. And there's a great sense of achievement having completed a job, knowing that no one has lost their power supply while we've been working. I feel like we make a real difference - the camaraderie is second to none. It's absolutely great working as a team and returning home safely at the end of the day for a well-earned beer.

What's not so great about it?

Occasionally I feel a little cheated when no one knows what we've done after a long and difficult job. Having power is something people take for granted when they turn the kettle on. And hot weather can be quite horrendous, because we wear three layers of flame-resistant workwear with full rubber sleeves.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a hot glover?

Apply for an apprenticeship and gain as much experience as possible on overhead live work - things like repairing, restoring supplies, and maintaining lines. Build up your experience by doing as many training courses as possible. Because it's such an unusual job, it can seem daunting at first, but don't be put off. It really is the best job in the world.

What's the salary and career path like?

Our salaries stand at around £20,000, but there's the opportunity to earn much more because there's lots of overtime and unsocial hours. You start as an apprentice and work up to a linesman. Then you can start training to work on increasing voltage levels, and then get authorisation to work on live lines.

For more information on training, go to the Central Networks apprentice website www.fill-these-boots.co.uk, or to www.eon-uk.com. You can also find useful career resources at the Energy and Utility Skills Council website, www.euskills.co.uk or the Institute of Engineering and Technology website, www.theiet.org.uk.