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Pole Safety: An Owner's Perspective

POSTED BY: Ashley Little on 10.10.2014

safety_a_pole_owners_perspectiveAt the Alden Updater, we are declaring October utility pole safety month. We actually think this should be every month. In the interest of raising awareness and spurring action toward safer plants and poles everywhere in the U.S., we boldly claim this 31-day period in the name of avoiding violations - NESC and others, reducing accidents and promoting good stewardship of every utility pole in the country.

Today, we will look at the issue of pole safety from the viewpoint of a utility pole owner. Consider the following three common safety concerns regarding utility poles and attachments, and take them to heart for a safer, healthier October—and every day—for your technicians and your business:

Safety Issue 1: Unknown Equipment

In some ways, power pole safety is about knowing both the equipment and the equipment owners that reside on the pole. Unfortunately, many pieces of equipment simply have zero markings or labels. Plus, a lot of things can look similar, so figuring out who the piece belongs to can be a challenge. Not knowing, however, can be a safety concern. For this reason, the FCC and OJUA (the Oregon Joint Use Association, a frontrunner in the cause for joint use and utility pole safety in the U.S.) are working to have labeling of equipment at eye level become a mandatory practice across the nation.

What can you do?

Conduct regular field audits to survey and identify attachers and their equipment, then record all information into an intuitive, robust joint use management system, so the information can be readily accessed at any time for safe approach of equipment and effective contact with its owner. 

Safety Issue 2: Unauthorized Attachments

Bootleg attachments are problematic for a variety of reasons, but safety is the top motivation to curb them. First, if an entity neglects to get a permit to attach to a given pole, they may create loading issues. For example, say an attachment is added in the spring, and all seems fine. Equipment, however, can gain weight in the winter in various places in the U.S. as ice builds up on the surface and wind pushes and pulls at it. Poles are weight-balanced for safety. One extra, unwarranted attachment could tip the scales—and tip a pole into dangerous territory. Bootleg attachments are also unknowns to the technicians and linemen working on the utility poles. Were they installed correctly? Are the live and/or dangerous? With proper permitting and contracts, the answers are easier to come by, and liability is decreased.

What can you do?

Banish bootlegs by conducting regular field audits and by keeping close tabs on contracts and communication with attaching companies via a joint use management system that organizes such documents for easy reference.

Safety Issue 3: Untested Poles

All poles eventually require standard maintenance, at which time a technician may be required to climb the pole. If the pole is not structurally sound for any reason, be it rot, insect or weather damage, this puts that person in danger. In-depth pole analysis on the fly, at the moment of maintenance rarely happens and really is not practical, so the potential for injury and accident remains high.

What can you do?

Regularly inspect poles using visual assessment as well as more comprehensive methods such as Resistograph® testing, a sound and bore method. Read more here.

Our final piece of advice: be safe out there. With technicians on poles and the public driving, walking and biking beneath aerial attachments, the potential for danger is everywhere. Follow a few simple steps however, and everyone can gain a little peace of mind.

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