Most jobs do not require you to climb 40 feet in the air and conduct business within a few feet of high voltage power lines that carry 7,200 or more volts of electricity. However, for many utility workers, this is just another day at the office.

Across the nation there are between 160 to 180 million ­utility poles that provide the elec­tricity that ­powers everything in your daily life – ­including the brewing of your ­morning cup of coffee and the ­lighting you turn off before going to bed. The electricity we depend on would not be possible without the utility workers who maintain and repair them. Although seemingly innocent enough, putting signs or other items on utility poles creates serious safety hazards. Staples, nails, and tacks used to hang signs, as well as the signs themselves, pose an unnecessary danger to utility workers.

The Safe Electricity program urges everyone to keep utility poles free from all personal materials such as balloons, fliers, and metal objects like staples or tacks. By respecting utility poles, you can help keep your ­community powered, and your local utility workers safe.

“Respecting the men and women who provide electricity for your town is a community effort,” says Safe Electricity Advisory Board Member Matt Eisenmenger. “So please keep your local utility workers’ safety in mind, and refrain from posting ­material on utility poles.”

Eisenmenger is a former journey­man lineman for Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, and now serves as a safety instructor for all of the state’s electric cooperatives. He says an unseen nail or staple could ­damage the gloves line workers use to ­insulate them from high voltage, or it could cause a climbing gaff to deflect from the pole and cause a serious fall.

This practice is not only illegal in many areas, it’s unsafe for the line worker and the public. It could lead to an electrocution and lawsuit.

Other items that have been found on utility poles include tree stands for hunting. If you plan on ­hunting, do not place tree stands or other objects on utility poles. Doing so not only creates a risk for utility workers, but it is also extremely dangerous for ­yourself or anyone who uses it. For your own safety, please keep as much distance between yourself and overhead power lines as possible. Satellite dishes and basketball goals are two other items that should never be attached to a utility pole.

Utility workers use specialized climbing devices to perform regular maintenance and repair damaged power lines at the top of utility poles. Nails, tacks, and other metal objects that are used to attach objects to ­utility poles can interfere with the safe operation of the climbing boots used by utility workers.

Foreign objects that are ­embedded in utility poles can also snag or ­damage the protective clothing that keeps line workers safe from elec­trical shock. These men and women already work in extremely hazardous ­conditions, so everyone who relies on electricity should take steps to make their job as safe as possible.

Posting items on utility poles creates a public safety risk as well. “Nails, staples, and other materials that are posted to utility poles can cause wooden utility poles to degrade more quickly, which may reduce their structural integrity and ­stability and increase the risk of falling over when struck by a vehicle,” adds Eisenmenger.

Molly Hall is Director of Safe Electricity. E-mail molly-hall@SafeElectricity.org. Safe Electricity is a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council. www.EnergyEdCouncil.org
Molly Hall is Director of Safe Electricity. E-mail molly-hall@SafeElectricity.org. Safe Electricity is a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council. www.EnergyEdCouncil.org

Fallen power poles mean power outages, which at the very least are an inconvenience. Utilities must spend valuable resources on repairing or replacing damaged utility poles. In addition, downed power lines are very dangerous for pedestrians and ­motorists. It is important to always stay far away from downed lines.

You can help keep yourself and your community safe by not posting objects to your local utility poles. Help keep the line workers who keep your power on safe and do your part to make sure they make it home at the end of the day injury-free.

For more information on staying safe around power lines, utility poles, and electricity, visit SafeElectricity.org.