Utility Pole Violations (Part 3): Environmental Conditions

Posted by Mary Ashley Canevaro on February 27, 2018

Tree in Utility PoleIn our 3-part blog series, we are inspecting common pole conditions that can be costly for asset owners, as well as attachers.

For our first article, we looked at dangerous conditions on utility poles. The second article examined the multitude of possible damage and violations on poles. Our final article in this series will dive into environmental forces that cause violations on and around poles.

Environmental causes and outside forces can quickly turn assets into liabilities. For example, wooden poles are susceptible to even the smallest forces out-of-doors, like woodpecker holes and insect infestation that cause damage leading to pole degradation.

Watch the video on environmental conditions below.

Environmental conditions can cause problems that lead to lack of public safety, lineworker safety, and asset owner and attacher safety. We’ve outlined a few common environmental violations below.

Insects & Animals
Insect and animal annoyances may seem small and insignificant, but they can actually cause major pole damage over time. Small splits from insect infestation will eventually make the pole weak. Woodpecker holes can lead to rot or decay of the pole, making them more susceptible to damage during storms or other natural disasters.
Overgrown Vegetation
Line workers are familiar with this nuisance: trees, limbs, and branches. Vegetation can become intertwined with a pole, causing wire damage and climbing obstructions. Vegetation hazards are a major liability to worker safety. Further, falling trees and limbs are one of the main causes of utility line damage during storms. They take down lines, causing outages and expensive repair. Keeping vegetation trimmed and out of the way helps to ensure limbs and branches do not take down lines during storms.
On a larger scale, environmental circumstances that create problems for asset owners and attachers are unavoidable weather conditions. Natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornadoes and storms, are unavoidable. Strong winds or ice can cause poles to fall, taking lines down with them, creating a threat to public safety.
Preparing for Environmental Factors
In addition to insects and animals, storms, and vegetation overgrowth, there are other outside forces that affect poles in the field. One example is broken or eroding ground that may cause poles to fall or excessively lean. Collision damage is also very common. Without routine pole inspections, owners may not realize the true condition of their assets.

The key to being storm-prepared and proactive in preventing violations thorough inventories of field assets and excellent record keeping. Why? Inspections help you stay ahead of problems to keep field assets accessible and operating. Inspection data is used to keep on-going management of utility assets running smoothly, while strengthening strong joint use partnerships. Properly trained inventory teams check for and report environmental damage and violations, like insect infestation, bird damage, decay, earth erosion, vegetation concerns, and more.

Staying Organized During an Inventory
Asset owners that hire audit or inspection teams would benefit from an overview of daily progress on their projects, typically delivered via a dashboard. Ideally, owners will employ a centralized asset management system to use as primary communication between joint use management teams, inspection teams, and attaching companies. Accurate inventory records are crucial to making the best use of inventory data for storm and environmental preparedness.

Dashboards in a centralized, asset management system let the user know in real-time the status of their current inventory. Users can stay aware of violations found, potential liabilities for environmental damage, and progress on the inventory. Dashboards alert asset owners (based on user preference) about necessary actions to take. They should also know pole basics—height, type, and ground clearance from the lowest attachment.

A centralized asset management system is capable of streamlining communication, storing important documents from inventories, and keeping accurate records through long periods of time. These features help owners and attachers be aware of pole conditions, no matter what the outside condition may be.

How does your joint use management team stay prepared for environmental conditions? Share with us in the comments below.