Regular, thorough field inspections are the best path to complete visibility of the current status and condition of your plant. From pinpointing pole location, verifying asset health and identifying potential unauthorized (bootleg) attachers, getting out into the field to visually survey equipment is invaluable to keep service flowing to customers.
However, there is another tangible benefit to field inspection: the ability to ferret out both potential and very real NESC violations, reducing liability and dollars spent on fines, as well as to improve safety for your staff and the public.
We have been beating the drum of proactivity considerably as of late and here is no exception. Regular equipment assessment gives you a much better chance of preventing small issues from turning into big problems, such as service outages or even injury.
What are the three most prevalent NESC violations a field inspection is likely to catch? Read on to find out.
#3: Clearance, Clarence
NESC requirements for vertical clearance under a drop cable’s lowest point—at mid-span—are clear: 15.5 feet over roads, streets, alleys and parking lots, 11.5-15.5 feet over residential driveways, 23.5 feet over railroad tracks and 9.5 feet over pedestrian-only areas.
The issue here is not that pole owners do not have the ability or desire to fix problem that can pose dangers to the public and their own technicians, it is simply impossible to know where low-hanging cables are without visually assessing and physically measuring the clearance. Field inspections give organizations the chance to take a closer look, asset by asset to ensure nothing is getting in the way of great service, good business and safe public space.
#2: Guy Problems
Part of a utility pole’s support structure and integral to the stability of a tall, fully-loaded pole, guy wires are the cables that lead from the pole at a more or less 45-degree angle to the ground. A simple thing, but they can become problematic for a couple reasons. Guy wires have a tendency to lose their reflective sheathes, which alert pedestrians, cars and other passers-by of their existence. While guidelines vary by state, the general rule of thumb is that single guy wires must be sheathed, and in the case of multiples, the top and bottom guy wires must be guarded. Guy wires can become untethered from their poles or the ground for various reasons such as traffic accidents. In some instances, an attacher will bury their plant and remove the guy wire, unbalancing the pole. Again, this issue is one of safety and one a field inventory can help remedy.
#1: Busted Up and Broken Down
Utility poles can fail if not properly maintained and will eventually reach the end of their useful life. The NESC notices and, when necessary, levies fines. Weather, pests, car strikes and rot can take down equipment, and unless a specific outage is created by the damage, a broken and dangerous utility pole may remain unchecked for long periods of time. Every year utility poles fall in the U.S., causing damage to property and injury. A field inspection is a first line of defense against such risk. When performed well, technicians visit each pole individually, check for signs of rot and grade the overall health of the structure while collecting any other information that is relevant to the business as well as the asset.
As with everything else mentioned here, proactivity is vital. A pole in failing health may not fall today, but it stands a chance of causing havoc at some future point. Knowing, as always, is half the battle. Using that knowledge to proactively monitor the plant, is the way to win it.