Play Safe Around Utility Poles

 

At first glance, our field tech thought this playground looked like fun however what he discovered was an opportunity to teach youngsters the dangers that might exist when playing around Utility poles.

What looks like fun could hold a shocking surprise

The first danger that comes to mind is the possibility of ground wires that would be attached to the utility pole. Should a child come into contact with ground wires, a possibility of electrical shock could be present through contact voltage.

Since stray voltage can not be seen, smelled or heard, there is no easy way for the public to know when a dangerous condition exists. It is always best to be on the safe side of precaution and encourage children and pets to keep a safe distance from utility poles. Periodic testing is an important precaution, but it is possible that a dangerous condition can develop without warning. The Contact Voltage program at RAMS can help utility companies detect such dangers to the public. Click here to view our video on contact voltage.

Another possible danger might be the pole itself. Utility poles are treated with chemicals to help preserve their longevity in the field. There is a variety of treatment options the most common in the United States are the following:

  • Penta has been used for utility poles since the early 1940s. While Penta has a “bad rap” from some environmental organizations, the Penta manufactured today in the U.S. and Mexico has reduced toxic characteristics due to regulatory mandates.
  • CCA is a chemical preservative used on wood. Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), which contains inorganic arsenic, is the chemical compound most commonly employed to pressure treat lumber so that it can withstand termites and decay.
  • Copper naphthenate (CuNap) became  a popular treatment in the United States in the late 1980’s when regulatory activities stimulated interest in the product because of its general use classification by the EPA.
  • Once widely used for poles, creosote is now primarily used for railroad ties, except in Texas and Louisiana where creosote is still commonly used for utility poles. Creosote is a robust preservative, but utilities generally prefer Penta or CCA poles due to cost and environmental considerations. Creosote also recently underwent EPA’s re-registration process.
  • Ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate (ACZA) is not a widely used preservative for poles because of its tendency to be brittle and experience after-glow. It is an excellent preservative with a long history of performance, however. With increased costs on the oil-borne side of the business, ACZA may be more attractive as a wood preservative since it is waterborne.

Granted all these treatment options have been reviewed and register by the EPA, but again cautioning on the safe side, nobody wants a splinter or scratch from chemically treated wood.

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