Utility Pole Hole Liability

POSTED BY: Ashley Little on 02.25.2014

utility_pole_hole_liabilityUtility poles need to be removed for various reasons. The pole may be old or damaged and needs replacing. Sometimes the location of the pole is found to be in violation of the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) and it needs to be relocated to a new area. Sometimes power lines are buried underground and the utility pole is simply no longer needed for an overhead connection. Whatever the reason, when a utility pole is removed, a large hole is left in its place.

Utility poles are buried according to a particular formula — 10 percent of the pole’s height plus two feet equals the appropriate depth of burial. A standard utility pole measures 40 feet, so a standard hole will go about 6 feet down into the ground. With a width of 18-24 inches in diameter, that is a pretty large hole, and could be an accident waiting to happen if it is not properly filled in after pole removal.

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The city of Lubbock, Texas found out the extent of such an accident after a woman accidentally stepped into a hole left after a utility pole was removed back in 2010.  A woman was walking along after leaving a football game on Nov.6 when the incident occurred, leaving her with injuries to her left knee and foot. The Lubbock City Council agreed to pay $80,000 (plus up to $10,000 in mediation fees, court costs and prejudgment interest) last year settling the woman’s personal injury lawsuit filed against the city for failing to fill in the hole as well as neglecting to put up any precautionary warning signs for pedestrians.

The specific details of the pole removal involved in this case are unknown, but this unfortunate situation underscores the importance of clearly defining the work required on projects as well as managing the workflow of projects from onset to completion. Imagine, for instance, a project in which an old pole needs to be removed and replaced. Assuming the new pole will be of the same height and width, the hole left from the original pole will likely not need to be filled in, but some sort of barricade would be needed if the new utility pole is not immediately buried following the old pole removal. If a pole is simply being removed without replacement, then the hole left behind needs to be filled, and the workers attending to the pole removal need to know this, to either perform the work or alert kick off the next step of the job workflow .

Joint use utility pole management systems allow users to predefine workflows for “work type” and can be used to outline the steps necessary to complete a specified project. A Pole Removal workflow, for example, could be used to define the steps necessary to remove a pole including filling in the hole post-removal. The ability to share access with others (such as 3rd party utility contractors or enginerrs) also ensures each involved party understands the extent of their responsibilities ensuring the job is completely and safety in the community.

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Topics: Utility Asset Management

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