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SDG&E workers get course in handling live wires

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Some San Diego Gas and Electric workers are part of an exclusive group who grab live transmission wires with their hands as part of their job.

Fox 5 got an inside look at how they train in Chula Vista.

The 13 SDG&E electrical transmission employees trained in “barehanding” are required to go through a refresher course each year.   Linemen in Chula Vista Thursday worked on a 500,000 volt line.

“These linemen are learning to energize themselves the same voltage as the lines so they can work on the line,” said construction supervisor Curtis Fitzgerald.

The protective stainless steel woven suits send the electricity all around the crewmen’s bodies as they repair or maintain the lines.  The technique is called barehanding because the crews actually grab the power lines.

“They’re not going to get hurt,” said Fitzgerald. “They’re just going feel a little zap as it becomes energized and it enable s them to work on things with their hands instead of using the long sticks.”

Using hot sticks takes twice as long according to authorities. Barehanding was developed in the 60s but only an estimated 20 utilities across the country have barehanding teams.

“This is a very specialized procedure,” said Fitzgerald. “A lot of companies still don’t do this, but it is a way to make repairs more quickly and safely while the line is energized.”

Experts said this keeps the lines flowing with no service interruptions.  Since SDG&E has been using this technique since 2007, the company said it has not had any injuries.

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