The First Stop in a Field Asset Audit: Making Utility Poles Safer

Posted by Ashley Little on May 12, 2015

utility_pole_009-a-1-502710-editedFrom first sight to final inspection a thorough utility pole inventory and inspection is a vital part of successful field asset management. But what actually happens during a utility pole inspection? Today we will discuss the first crucial step: Audit from Afar.

In previous posts we have explored the eight steps to accounting for, capturing data on, and closely inspecting the condition of utility poles and other assets in the field, but each of these warrant further explanation and exploration. Why is this so important? Well, when it comes to field asset management, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure. In-person asset inspection identifies potential and existing problems before they become actual hazards that may lead to fines. Proactive inspections will save companies time and money. More importantly, they can also save lives: simple audits have the potential to make working on or near a pole safer, so everyone benefits.

It Starts With a Long Look 

The first thing a technician does when conducting a utility pole inspection is take a good look at the pole from a short distance away. One Alden technician tells us that his “intention is to arrive at the pole having already identified a majority of the violations and potential violations that will require a little deeper investigation,” not waiting until arrival directly under the pole removes the pitfall of not being able to see the forest for the trees, as it were. “I can see a majority, if not all, of the attachments and can follow the wires leaving the poles to all of their destinations,” he adds. He then tucks these in his memory for further inspection upon arrival at the asset’s location.

Every Audit is Different

Companies may choose to audit their equipment for a number of reasons, from safety concerns to regulatory violations and pre-emptive audits to keep ahead of issues. In the initial long look, field technicians assess and add to the resulting report, a wide variety of things:

  • Attachments, from one attachment per company to all equipment on the pole

  • Verification of line distances, a measure that often depends on what regulations, including NESC, the state must recognize

  • Pole attributes, including brand, wood type, date of install/birth and height class verification

  • Work area, looking at whether the pole has enough safe working room surrounding it and whether trees need to be trimmed

  • Environmental and man-made dangers, from cliffs to dogs, bee hives to live power wires hanging

  • Missing guy markers

  • Damaged, loose or downed guy wires

  • Abandoned or damaged lines

  • Missing or broken ground wires

  • Pole damage, usually structural or rot

  • State-specific violations

  • Company-specific violations

  • Attachments needing transfer from an old pole to a new one

  • Idle poles that may need to be removed or “double wood” (where one pole is unused but still standing next to its replacement)

Once done (and through all the steps in the process) the technician provides pole owners with a detailed synopsis of each structure and its attachments, allowing the asset to be easily located using joint use management software. Field technicians also bring to the owner’s attention things about the pole that are not in compliance with their state or the NESC’s governing body’s rules and regulations, so that the owner can take action to conform—all without anyone except the technician needing to physically visit the site.

What comes next?

B, of course, for Behold your Pole Up Close. After collecting information and spotting issues that are readily visible from afar, technicians will approach the utility pole for a closer look and gather details of violations, conditions, and other information that can only be observed up close and personal.

Joint Use Asset Management Basics