Hanging 40 feet in the air at 2 a.m., in the dark, with just a harness and belt to support him while the winds are blowing and pushing, Dylan Haynes is working as quickly as he can to fix a busted powerline.
“I have definitely been scared before. There are some times when you go up there and you have to be really careful because you are by yourself in the dark. It can be a little tense, for sure.”
Dylan Haynes is a journeyman powerline technician at FortisAlberta, a company that he’s worked with for seven years. He deals with trouble calls and customer service work including car accidents and power outages. His job is to troubleshoot the issues and get the power back on.
“You come in and they dispatch orders, and then you would either be out building a powerline or fixing it, or troubleshoot power outages. Every day is a different day for sure," says Haynes.
When Haynes was younger he had dreams of working in the fire department, but when a friend became a powerline technician, he thought he’d try it out for himself.
“You don’t really know about this type of job until you try it. I wouldn’t do anything else. It’s really fun. I like being outside and I like climbing poles. I still think it’s fun and I get to meet a lot of different people from traveling. I mean, we don’t go super far, but you’re always out in the country.”
To ensure the safety of this job FortisAlberta has many safety protocols, so every man and woman working is safe and unharmed at the end of the day.
“We wear a climbing belt with a harness, and we also have bucket trucks, as well as a full climbing belt that straps around the pole, and there’s a choker on it so if you do fall, it’ll grab you. When we do live linework we’ll use rubber gloves with sleeves, and you can actually touch an energized line with it. They like to keep the power on as much as possible nowadays, so we’ll work on the lines while they’re still energized.”
When it comes to the risks of his job, Haynes believes that electrocution and working at heights are the two big ones.
“We’ve had a couple close encounters where we had an arc. So, we closed the switch, and then we had an explosion and it wouldn’t shut off. So we had to get everybody back. It had my heart racing and it started a big fire. If you’re not careful you can definitely get hurt or worse.”
Risky business: Cleaning up fentanyl in B.C.
Dean May is one of the owners of Mayken Hazmat Solutions. His job is to deal with the worst of the hazardous cleaning situations like contaminated buildings, mice, hoarding, drug-related incidents and health orders. May, a professional hazmat technician and spill specialist, started MayKen Hazmat Solutions 12 years ago after bouncing around to several companies. May says his job isn’t without risks.
Many of the risks including bringing home bed bugs after cleaning a hoarding house to being exposed to hazardous spills.
“Now we are dealing with the drugs and the drug labs, and specialize in fentanyl radiation of the drug labs. We are one of very few companies that can actually put our hands on military-grade products that actually neutralizes fentanyl. We work very closely with Alberta Health Services, the various municipalities … to deal with these fentanyl production labs."
May says that if him and his team are not careful with these potentially dangerous cleanups it could easily end in an instant-death. When discussing recent cleanups, May recalls a few that stand out — cleaning up a truck that caught fire with spilled fuel, and cleaning up the largest fentanyl property in Canadian history.
“There has been worse cleanups actually. We’ve done a couple of the fentanyl labs in northern BC. The whole property was green ...because of the fentanyl. The green color is a dye used to make the pills look more like oxycodone pills.”
The fentanyl residue and dust contamination is left when mixing fentanyl with additives (fillers) and pressing them into pills. Aside from all of the messes, spills and smells, what May like most about his job is that no two days are the same.
“We could be working on a drug lab or drug production facility for a week or ten days, and then we could have a couple days working on a hoarder house, and then we’ll have a day or two cleaning a drug-user property. We could be doing a crime or a trauma scene clean up [too].”
May’s education in hazardous materials and spill response prepares him for the worst every time he gets called out. For May and his company, knowing the materials, being prepared and knowing the level of personal protection that is needed are the most important things when it comes to safety.
“Whether it’s just a pair of coveralls with a reflective vest, to full level-B protection when we are working in a drug lab doing a full hazmat response.”
“The way I look at it is: whether it’s a litre of milk, a litre of fuel, a litre of acid or a litre of blood — it doesn’t matter to me. It’s just a matter of [the] personal protection that I have to protect me and my team with.”
This story appears in the November-December 2018 print issue of the Calgary Journal, on stands now!
- By Hillary Ollenberger