Safety at the Core of Bare-hand Technique

The bare-handing crew wear special suits and gloves that provides a shield and prevents discomfort from static charges when they touch the powerlines. While bare-handing may be dramatic to witness, the linemen undergo intensive training to ensure the utmost in safety when performing.

They climb up steel towers, shimmy along ladders and are sometimes air-lifted to reach a 500kV transmission line to make repairs. They are called bare-handers—an elite group of specially trained electric lineman who work on high-voltage, fully energized transmission towers, sometimes up to 200 feet in the air. A very small handful of utilities in the nation have barehanders and SDG&E is one of them.

Developed in 1960, the bare-hand technique allows electric transmission workers to make repairs to damaged equipment with the least amount of disruption to customers.

The bare-handing crew wear special suits and gloves that provides a shield and prevents discomfort from static charges when they touch the powerlines. While bare-handing may be dramatic to witness, the linemen undergo intensive training to ensure the utmost in safety when performing. 

Safe, efficient and reliable

Bare-handing is used to perform necessary maintenance on transmission towers without having to take the line out of service and plays a role in helping keep our customers from experiencing an outage when repairs need to be made. The technique is also more efficient as the lineman have full control of their hands to do the work rather than using insulated “hot sticks” that can sometimes be awkward to handle. Bare-handing crews can work almost twice as fast, significantly shortening the time to complete the work–helping to deliver on our commitment to provide safe, reliable energy to our customers.

SDG&E started using the method in 2007 and has had no safety incidents related to bare-handing, as a result of the hard work and diligence of the crew who perform this type of work. Currently, only a dozen linemen are qualified to bare-hand and undergo 200 hours of hands-on training that familiarizes them with access methods including aerial lifts and rope and air rescue exercises. They also must do at least eight hours of refresher training every year to stay certified.

Watch this video to see SDG&E bare-hand training in action.