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Dangers of Attaching Items to Power Poles

Nails, brackets or flags on utility poles may be small but dangerous.
By Sally Jeun

A utility pole may seem like a convenient place to post a “lost dog” or “yard sale” sign, but attaching prohibited items to utility poles can be dangerous.

Some might find it particularly tempting to hang flags on utility poles on a commemorative holiday like this Wednesday’s national Flag Day, so we spoke with Dean Yarbrough, Southern California Edison’s director of Transmission & Distribution Safety, Training and Compliance, on why a patriotic act can endanger the lives of linemen and the public.

Q: How does attaching items like signs or flags on utility poles impact linemen?

A: Our line crews work around the clock in all types of weather conditions, and attaching items like homemade signs, banners and brackets to utility poles can cause serious hazards because it impacts the ability of our line crews to do their work safely.

If a lineman needs to climb a pole to access overhead equipment for maintenance or to restore power during an outage, these items can become hazardous obstacles. Even a small nail can puncture a lineman’s clothes and gloves or snag safety gear, making the lineman vulnerable to falls or possibly electrocution.

Additionally, objects like a big sign or flag can create a challenge for linemen climbing poles. If they slip and fall, they can also get injured by the items on the poles.

Q: How can it impact residents?

A: There are always risks associated with overhead power lines. The height of our lines are based in part on the voltage or current they carry to ensure the public is not in close proximity to be impacted by those lines.

For example, if an unqualified person gets too close to energized lines to attach a prohibited object, they could be exposed to thousands of volts of electricity. If that object is metal, other people could be put at risk for an electric shock. As a good rule of thumb, it’s important to stay at least 10 feet away from an overhead power line.

Q: Are there any other precautions people should keep in mind?

A: We determine what size utility poles to use depending on the amount of equipment on the pole and the area’s historical wind speeds. If additional equipment that has not been accounted for is added to the pole, it can impact a pole’s ability to remain standing in the event of a storm or strong winds, and possibly cause equipment damage or widespread power outages.

Items can also become dislodged and come into contact with power lines, bringing them down and potentially leading to serious injuries and property damage.

If you ever see a downed power line, always assume that it is energized and call 911 immediately. We encourage our customers to help keep our communities and linemen safe by not affixing any items to utility poles.

For more information on electrical safety, visit www.sce.com/staysafe or call 1-800-611-1911.

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