That’s Just Shocking

That’s Just Shocking

One time I was sent out to a pasture to install a service for a watering tank pump.  Of course this service had to be hung on a pole.  Though I was aware of it, I didn’t really cognitively understand the significance of the high voltage power lines about 100 feet away.  The power line ran all the way across the state of Montana and carried about 150,000 volts.


To save time on the pole, I assembled the meter, disconnect, conduit, wire and weatherhead completely on the ground.  Then I pushed the entire assembly up the pole intending to fasten it at the bottom and as far up as I could reach, then climb the pole and complete fastening it as I went up.


I kept getting bit by electricity.  The service hadn’t been juiced up yet, so there was no reason for me to get bit.  I would look around and find no reason for it, examine all my connections, try again, and get bit.


I finally realized that electricity was coming through the air from the high voltage lines, running down the conduit, through me and into the ground, thus completing a circuit.  Since I was the last thing in line, I got the shock.


Once I realized that, I had a solution.  I took the entire assembly and laid it on the ground, fastened a ground wire to it, drove a ground rod, and tied the ground wire to the ground rod, thus taking me out of the circuit.


I pushed the service and assembly up the pole and fastened it on the bottom and as far up as I could reach.  I put on my climbers and started up the pole.  As I started fastening the conduit to the pole I started to get bit again.  I looked around and couldn’t figure it out.  The grounding hadn’t come loose.


Then I realized that by working on the grounded assembly on the pole when I was not touching the ground myself, I was insinuating myself into the circuit once more.  The electricity was coming through the air, down the conduit, branching off into me, then back into the assembly and down to the ground.


Down the pole I went once more and disconnected the ground wire, pointing it up into the air.  Once more I climbed the pole and finished strapping the conduit to the pole.  After reaching the ground once more I then reattached the ground wire to the ground rod.


Later I was doing some wiring in an airplane hangar.  The hanger and the air strip were on the top of a hill.  One of the power company employees was on a nearby pole intending to run power to the service on the hangar.


A bad lightening storm came over the area .  He came down and visited with me inside the hangar until the storm was over.  I told him about my experience in the pasture.  He said; “Yeah, it gets kinda sticky out there.”


I watched his technique for climbing poles.  It was different than what I had developed.  He had one spike in the pole and would drag the other one against the pole for his next step as he climbed.


When I questioned him about it he said that it was a safety measure.  If one spike came out while the other one was also out, by dragging it against the pole the weight of his body would push the dragging spike into the pole and prevent a fall.


It gives a person a lot of respect for the people who make a living climbing poles (and trees).