The Joint Use Violation Most Wanted List, #3: Guy Structure

Posted by Ashley Little on October 28, 2014

improper_guy_structure.jpgWhile there are dozens of issues and violations in the joint use world, there are a few we see so often we consider them problems of interest: repeat offenses to which no utility pole owner is immune. This blog is the second in a series detailing utility pole issues and the steps it takes to remedy them. Today, we tackle an issue so common you may be able to look out the nearest window and see an example: improper guy structure.

How does this happen?

Guys are a part of a utility pole’s support structure—a cable that leads from the pole to the ground. Generally, poles have at least one and some sport multiples. Guys must be properly placed as to not impede traffic or pedestrian movement, and must be guarded with brightly colored plastic sheathing to increase visibility. While guidelines vary by state, the general rule of thumb is that single guys must be sheathed, and in the case of multiples, the top and bottom guys must be guarded as well.

The problem arises when guy sheathes go missing or are damaged, when guys become untethered from the ground, or when guys are removed altogether. There are a number of reasons these things happen. Vandals sometimes remove the sheaths. Guy guards and guys themselves are often broken during traffic accidents and not replaced. Sometimes an attacher will remove their equipment, bury their plant, and remove the guy. This has the potential to unbalance the pole, which could cause problems.

What can be done?

In the field, we see a large number of poles with unsheathed guys. Utility companies simply cannot address all of them without significant, organized effort. The biggest problem, however, is not the work involved, but that pole owners may not know the guys have missing or broken parts and are unaware there is an issue to be addressed.

There are a couple steps to solving the problem:

  • Conduct a field inventory to know the state of guys and what exists on them in terms of sheathing. Where a guy is needed, does it exist? In multiple-guy situations, are the proper guys sheathed? Are single guys marked with prominent, reflective plastic coverings, or are they broken or missing?
  • Ditch the paper. Many pole owners have paper maps and drawings of the areas where their poles stand, but paper makes the day-to-day status of a pole, its guy plus other critical information, difficult to properly record and communicate. 

Utilizing robust online communication software designed for joint use makes the task easier to manage.

A smart, online system such as Alden’s Notify™ gives utility pole owners easy access to field inventory data, and provides clear avenues of communication with attachers and internal service crews. This organized information and transparency is helpful in identifying and rectifying maintenance issues such as missing guy sheathes. Notify™ users put timers on common tasks, levy fines against anyone neglecting equipment, all in service to creating a safe experience on sidewalks and streets everywhere for their workers and the public.

Why fix the problem?

Put simply, a guy without its reflective sheath is very difficult to see at dusk and dawn, making it a hazard for passing pedestrians and bikers. Sadly, injuries do happen. In 2011, a Houston teen was charged with leaving the scene of a crime and tampering with evidence after he ran into a utility pole guy wire, gravely injuring his passenger.[1] This year, two small children were injured when a loose, unsheathed guy wire made contact with an pole’s energized components.[2] Both were maintenance issues that could have been corrected with better management and organization.

Missing guy sheathes, broken guy wires and otherwise damaged structures are a public hazard. Despite the issue’s seeming ubiquity, these problems can and should be remedied. Only one question remains: How will you get the job done?

Joint Use Asset Management Basics