Leave the pole alone: Placing a sign on a utility pole could endanger a life

What do yard sale and political campaign signs, basketball hoops, deer stands, satellite dishes and birdhouses have in common? They’re often found illegally attached to utility poles. But this isn’t only a crime of inconvenience. Safety issues caused by unapproved pole attachments place the lives of lineworkers and the public in peril.

It may seem innocent, but a small nail partially driven into a pole can have deadly results around high-voltage electricity.

Your local electric cooperative line crews climb utility poles at all hours of the day and night, in the worst of conditions. Anything attached to utility poles can create serious hazards for our line personnel. Sharp objects like nails, tacks, staples or barbed wire can puncture rubber gloves and other safety equipment, making linemen vulnerable to electrocution. And even when nails are removed, the leftover holes provide easy entry for bugs and water, causing a pole that should have lasted four decades or more to weaken much faster.

Electric cooperatives, like East Mississippi Electric Power Association, rely on more than 41 million utility poles to deliver more than 2.5 million power lines, and these staunch supporters of electricity are under constant attack from the elements – storms, woodpeckers, insects, moisture and harsh soils. But people play a part in pole erosion, too.

Lineworkers with electric cooperatives have reported poles used as community bulletin boards, satellite mounts and even support legs for deer stands, lights and carports.  And with political campaign season upon us, it’s becoming an even bigger issue. Abandoned nails or tacks can rip through protective gloves, leaving the lineworker potentially exposed to thousands of volts of electricity. Not only do these attachments put line crews at risk, anyone illegally placing these items on poles comes dangerously close to energized power lines with thousands of volts of energy pulsing overhead. It’s always wise to keep any structure at least 10 feet away from utility poles.

Unauthorized pole attachments violate the National Electrical Safety Code, the accepted manual containing guidelines for safe electrical engineering standards. Utilities strictly follow this code that includes a section that reads, “Signs, posters, notices and other attachments shall not be placed on supporting structures without concurrence of the owner (the utility is the owner of the pole). Supporting structures should be kept free from other climbing hazards such as tacks, nails, vines and through bolts not properly trimmed.”

We need your help. If you notice anyone trying to attach something to a utility pole, let them know it’s dangerous and against the law. Whenever we see an illegal attachment – whether it’s a satellite dish, a birdhouse, a basketball hoop, deer stand, political sign or anything else – our employees will remove it and are not responsible for any damages caused to the unauthorized item.

Please help us keep our linemen—and our community—safe. Don’t attach any of these unauthorized and dangerous items to utility poles. Thanks for your help as we work together to prolong the lifespan of our utility poles that provide us with safe, reliable and affordable electric service.

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