Hello Everyone, This is my first post, thanks for taking the time to check it out.
I'm an "Underground Tech" in San Diego, and have been trying very hard to get into the Apprenticeship program. I started working for a Union company as an Underground Tech a couple of months ago, I've passed the Apprenticeship test, and I have the Interview in two weeks. I am very a mechanically inclined person, a very hard worker, and really fit in at the job-site. Being an Electrician is REALLY what I want to do for the rest of my life and I have been EXTREMELY enthusiastic about it.
The problem is, I have a weak knee. The work has been harder on my knee than I expected. I'd guess, if I take very good care of my knee, and maybe have surgury, the knee will hold up OK for the 20-25 years till retirement.
I haven't, and won't tell anyone at work, except for one JW that I really trust. He told me first that this isn't the job for me. He then said if I still chose to be an Electrician, that I would have to hide the problem, hide my knee-brace and hide a limp, otherwise I would be viewed as a liability by the company and possibly laid-off, or be given a tough time.
I guess what my question is: Is it really true that I will have to hide EVERYTHING, including a limp, or risk being blackballed or something to that effect?
Has anyone else made it in this trade having some type of physical difficulty? Or does everyone hide their achs and pains, or is everyone in perfect health...
Being an Electrician means EVERYTHING to me. But I am having to decide if I can pull this off with a less-than perfect body.
Please give me your input. I have a VERY big decision to make.
Brian,Welcome to ECN, its the mind that needs to be in the best shape, and yours sounds as if its OK. As you get older you get wiser and just because your not as fit as you used to be it does not prevent you from doing the job, you learn to think the job through more and cope that way. Good luck to you. Alan
#41479 - 08/29/0404:10 AMRe: New guy with very important question
Unless you're a cash in hand "under the table" guy, I wouldn't consider you "Underground". I'll limit my comments to that.
As for the knee, if it be a legitimate job related injury, or a week-end football thing. (two different stories...no need to hide either)It is all up to you on how comfortable you are with the work, as far as if you'd like to continue in the trade or not. If you are able to work... Being "Blackballed" or discriminated against for any reason is against the law! So is trying to call a football injury a 'Comp case as well, so if not trying to do that, I see no problem.
Personally, I have trick knee, and back that wakes me up a 3AM. Both could be a combination of snowboarding, all the crazy stuff I did in the Marines, or that time I got knocked off a ladder and bounced out a window. Who knows! I don't know where they came from, I can still work and do, and I'm not putting a claim in for them, so it's not an issue. If I did have a serious legitimate workplace injury I might file a claim, but I wouldn't call that an abuse of the system either. Nor could I legally be discriminated against if I did!
Brian, All of us have our physical and mental limitations. Most supervisors know everybody's limitations and schedule the work accordingly. You can and will find the right niche for yourself in this trade.
As Alan basically said, your mind is the most important asset. Heavy industrial/commercial work might not be the best place for you, but there will always be work for an educated and enthusiastic electrician. I know guys that have been in the trade for 25+ years and really aren't much more than a (barely) warm body and a pair of hands. Just show up every day and you will always have a job.
Power to the people
#41481 - 08/29/0410:33 AMRe: New guy with very important question
Much as I'd like to chime in and agree with the preceeding encouraging words, I can't. Unless you can spend a whole day climbing up and down a step ladder without your knee bothering you, then the electrical trade is out. If your knee pain is due to insufficient muscle tone, then that is easily fixed..no problem.
#41482 - 08/29/0401:10 PMRe: New guy with very important question
Thank you all for the replies, I really appreciated it.
Just to clear up a couple of points... My knee problem is the result some sports injuries, starting with High School, not something happened on the job.
and in San Diego, they call the ditch-digger and material handler type laborers "underground tech." I'm doing that to get experience before I apply for the apprenticship.
Thanks for the welcome Alan, and the ecouraging words.
Thanks for the links e57. I knew there are laws protecting disabled workers, but I didn't know if they held up at all for those of us with sore knees, or backs, or whatever else.
Pat, That is what I figured from the beginning. That if I worked hard and smart, and was the best electrican at the site, they'd overlook the limp and be glad to have me there. Thanks for the words.
Elzappr, Thanks for your honesty. I agree, it would be like torture to go up and down a ladder, in pain, all day. I plan on having the best knee brace available made for me. I'm hoping that the brace, along with strength training, will allow me to avoid any more damage.
It was when my co-worker told me I'd have to hide everything of get possibly laid-off, that I got very concerned, and started having second thoughts. But, there are laws against that, and I plan on using my brain to help avoid any physical problems.
Thanks again for the input everyone. Hopefully you'll see me back here after I've learned some stuff and am actually be able to contribute to this site.
Take care everyone. Sincerely, Brian.
[This message has been edited by BrianSD (edited 08-29-2004).]
#41483 - 08/29/0407:30 PMRe: New guy with very important question
I posted this question a few months ago, and just wanted to say thanks again, and give an update.
I have since been promoted to "intermediate wireman." I'm no longer in the ditches but transfered to a big highrise project and have traded in the shovel for wire-strippers. My knee is no longer bothering me *at all*, due to working on a solid surface, strengthening, and better working technique. The career is moving along very well and I'm very happy with my choice. I learn something every day and my managers say I do a very good job :-)
I just wanted to give you guys an update after you took the time to answer the first time.
#41485 - 11/04/0411:00 PMRe: New guy with very important question