Pole Work

Pole Work

When I first started out doing electrical work, if we had to do work on yard poles or poles along the road, we had to use a set of pole climbers.  I mentioned that the first electrical job I had, involved climbing a pole.  Back then the companies I worked for did not invest in bucket trucks or cherry picker booms as some refer to them.  We used pole climbers.


Pole climbers are stirrups you strap onto your legs with a spike on the inside of each foot about 1-1/2” long.  (Tree climbers used the same type of equipment but their spikes are about 3 inches long as they have to penetrate past the thickness of the bark.)  There is also a body belt that is strapped on with a big buckle.  There are also hooks strategically placed around the belt to hold tools, and a “D” ring on each side designed to work with a “safety” belt.  To work properly the safety belt would be slung around the pole and each end clipped to the “D” ring on each side.


The beginner’s way to climb a pole is to strap the leg irons to your legs.  Tighten them up tight; put your body belt on; attach your tools to the hooks; toss the safety strap around the pole; and climb the pole a step at a time – sliding the strap up as you go.  That sounds reasonable.


However the top of the pole is not as thick as the bottom.  Therefore as the climber is ascending he must periodically stop to tighten up the safety strap.  Failing to do so would make the safety strap too long when you reached the top of the pole and you would have to lean too far back to place tension on the strap.  In other words, there wouldn’t be much safety involved at that point, not to mention being able to do any work.  Coming back down the pole was just doing the whole process in reverse.


If the pole existed in its own world you might not have a lot of problem.  Poles though, are put there to do a function.  That function includes wires, cables, boxes, and devices; all of which are very capable of getting in your way while climbing, descending or working on the pole.  Getting around all those impediments takes too much time.


You learn to look at the pole, estimate how big it is at the top, and make the strap adjustment to that size while still on the ground.  Then, strapping the safety belt into only one of the “D” rings you leave the other end to hang free.  You walk up the pole using your spikes and gripping the pole with your hands.  At the top, you use one arm to encircle the pole while with your other hand you sling the safety belt around the pole and attach it to the remaining “D” ring.  Lean back and you’re all set to work.  It didn’t take me long to purchase my own set of pole climbing equipment.  It was all leather and I still have it around in my stuff somewhere after nearly 60 years.


One day I was sent out to do some work on a farmer’s yard pole.  A farmer’s yard pole will have a cable coming in from the power company.  It will have a yard light on it at the top and a meter near the bottom about 5 to 6 feet up from the ground.  There will be conduit running up the pole from the meter to the yard light.  There will also be cables running up the pole and overhead to the house, the barn, the shop, the granary, the garage, the storage shed, actually to everything but the dog house.


The wind was blowing pretty well that day.  When you’re on a pole, you cannot stand with the wind at your side, as it will blow you around the pole.  You either have to have the wind in your face or at your back.


For this job I had to disconnect a number of wires at the top of the pole and then reconnect them.  When I had accomplished the task, I realized that I had run some wires between me and the safety strap.  I had two choices.  I could either unfasten all the wires I had just connected to facilitate getting the wires out from the area of the safety belt and then refasten and re-tape them.


Or I could (carefully) pull out one of the spikes and unfasten one side of the strap, swing my body way around on the remaining spike, taking a chance that the remaining spike would not twist out, then plant the other spike in the pole and refasten the belt.  I thought about it for a little while and decided I really needed to get out of the wind.  I chose option #2.


It worked.


As I came down I noticed that the farmer had been watching the whole process.  All he said was; “Oh, here’s a cap.”


I said; “Yes, it is mine.”


He said; “Here is a glove.”


I said; “Yes, it blew out of my pocket.”


He said; “Here is another glove.”


I said; “Yes, it is mine.”


He said; “Here is a jack-knife.”


I said; “Yes, I dropped it.  You don’t see any nerve laying in the grass do you?”


He said; “What?”


I said; “I lost that up there too.”