Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

Back to Standard (1910.269)

This is the version of 29 CFR 1910.269 that was in effect on April 11, 2014. As of July 10, 2014, this version of 29 CFR 1910.269 is no longer in effect. In accordance with OSHA's temporary enforcement policy dated June 20, 2014, compliance with this version of 29 CFR 1910.269 will be accepted as compliance with the current versions of 29 CFR 1910.269 and 29 CFR 1926, Subpart V through October 31, 2014.

• Part Number: 1910
• Part Title: Occupational Safety and Health Standards
• Subpart: R
• Subpart Title: Special Industries
• Standard Number: 1910.269 App D
• Title: Methods of Inspecting and Testing Wood Poles.

I. "Introduction"

When work is to be performed on a wood pole, it is important to determine the condition of the pole before it is climbed. The weight of the employee, the weight of equipment being installed, and other working stresses (such as the removal or retensioning of conductors) can lead to the failure of a defective pole or one that is not designed to handle the additional stresses.(1) For these reasons, it is essential that an inspection and test of the condition of a wood pole be performed before it is climbed.

If the pole is found to be unsafe to climb or to work from, it must be secured so that it does not fail while an employee is on it. The pole can be secured by a line truck boom, by ropes or guys, or by lashing a new pole alongside it. If a new one is lashed alongside the defective pole, work should be performed from the new one.

II. "Inspection of Wood Poles"

Wood poles should be inspected by a qualified employee for the following conditions:(2)

A. General Condition

The pole should be inspected for buckling at the ground line and for an unusual angle with respect to the ground. Buckling and odd angles may indicate that the pole has rotted or is broken.

B. Cracks

The pole should be inspected for cracks. Horizontal cracks perpendicular to the grain of the wood may weaken the pole. Vertical ones, although not considered to be a sign of a defective pole, can pose a hazard to the climber, and the employee should keep his or her gaffs away from them while climbing.

C. Holes

Hollow spots and woodpecker holes can reduce the strength of a wood pole.

D. Shell Rot and Decay.

Rotting and decay are cutout hazards and are possible indications of the age and internal condition of the pole.

E. Knots

One large knot or several smaller ones at the same height on the pole may be evidence of a weak point on the pole.

F. Depth of Setting

Evidence of the existence of a former ground line substantially above the existing ground level may be an indication that the pole is no longer buried to a sufficient extent.

G. Soil Conditions

Soft, wet, or loose soil may not support any changes of stress on the pole.

H. Burn Marks

Burning from transformer failures or conductor faults could damage the pole so that it cannot withstand mechanical stress changes.

III. "Testing of Wood Poles"

The following tests, which have been taken from 1910.268(n)(3), are recognized as acceptable methods of testing wood poles:

A. Hammer Test

Rap the pole sharply with a hammer weighing about 3 pounds, starting near the ground line and continuing upwards circumferentially around the pole to a height of approximately 6 feet. The hammer will produce a clear sound and rebound sharply when striking sound wood. Decay pockets will be indicated by a dull sound or a less pronounced hammer rebound. Also, prod the pole as near the ground line as possible using a pole prod or a screwdriver with a blade at least 5 inches long. If substantial decay is encountered, the pole is considered unsafe.

B. Rocking Test

Apply a horizontal force to the pole and attempt to rock it back and forth in a direction perpendicular to the line. Caution must be exercised to avoid causing power lines to swing together. The force may be applied either by pushing with a pike pole or pulling with a rope. If the pole cracks during the test, it shall be considered unsafe.

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Footnote (1) A properly guyed pole in good condition should, at a minimum, be able to handle the weight of an employee climbing it.

Footnote (2) The presence of any of these conditions is an indication that the pole may not be safe to climb or to work from. The employee performing the inspection must be qualified to make a determination as to whether or not it is safe to perform the work without taking additional precautions.


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