Giving Power to the Next Generation: Andrew’s Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Andrew “Dinger” Bell of Chesley, Ontario is a High Voltage Lineman for Hydro One Construction Services. He is also a member of the Canadian Union of Skilled Workers. “Our job is to maintain, and erect new transmission lines for Hydro One within the province of Ontario. The job involves climbing towers and hydro poles, working out of bucket trucks and man baskets attached to cranes, and the operation of wheeled and tracked heavy equipment. We have a very large selection of tools, rigging, hardware, and devices--most of which have been specially designed to our trade. Rope is one of our main tools, for fastening, climbing, hoisting, tool augmentations, etc. ” Andrew explained. The chain hoists that Andrew works with can lift anywhere from ¾ of a ton to 6 tons.

“We have specially designed ladders and working platforms for reaching the wire off the tower. The job involves a lot of training, which is constant, and safety is paramount. Working in an electrical atmosphere is very hazardous and limits of approach for men and equipment must be maintained, while performing approved work practises” he continued. “To become a powerline technician you must complete an 8000 hour apprenticeship [with a] minimum of grade 12 math and English to apply.”

Andrew admits that he initially “had no intentions of following this path”. As he puts it, “I didn’t even know anything about it….” From 2004 to 2006, Bell attended Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario where he was enrolled in Law and Security Administration. From there, he planned to join the army as a police officer, or to “get a security job at Bruce Power”. However, he was offered a job at Hydro One after college and he “never looked back”.

What Andrew loves most about his job has changed over the years. In the beginning, it was about seeing places beyond his hometown, but as time went on, Andrew came to know and love the experiences he’s had with his co-workers, including the newest members of the team. Today, Andrew acts as a mentor for those who are completing their apprenticeships:

“What I loved about my job at first when I started back in 2007 was the travel. I got to see a lot of Ontario and meet a lot of great people along the way. The brotherhood that you become a part of is pretty special. Every co-worker has their own story and family that they’re away from. Once I went north, I just loved working outdoors. Being in the bush in the middle of nowhere in northwest Ontario is very liberating. Now the part I love most is training the new apprentices and being a mentor to the younger generation.”

Now that Andrew Bell has had several years of experience both on his own and while training others, he is able to offer the following advice: “… Be prepared to test your limits, especially working at heights and in the elements, both good and bad. … It can get very windy and very cold in the winter [and] also very hot in the summer, due to no shade. Be able to travel and be away for long periods of time, have a good work ethic and some common sense, and most of all, be eager to learn.”