Be safe around utility poles, pad-mounted transformers, and more!
Most of us are familiar with the can-style transformers that hang from many utility poles. Transformers are used to change voltage levels. For example, the one positioned outside your home converts voltage from higher to lower levels so that the power entering your home is properly regulated for the electronics, appliances, and lighting you use every day. Each of URE’s transformers is vital to providing safe, reliable electricity to one or more homes or businesses.
Overheard transformers and power lines are mounted on utility poles, providing them with an extra layer of safety. Those utility poles are inspected on a rotating basis, checking for wood rot and hazards to the community or URE’s lineworkers. Never use utility poles as personal billboards. It may seem innocent enough, but putting garage sale signs, birthday party balloons, lost pet posters, or other items on utility poles creates serious safety hazards. Staples, nails, and tacks used to hang signs — as well as the signs themselves — pose dangers to lineworkers who must climb poles when restoring power or while performing routine maintenance. The nails and tacks left behind can snag lineworkers’ boots or puncture protective clothing and gloves, putting the linemen at risk of slipping or even electrocution.
There are other styles of transformers and equipment that are installed at ground level, making them easier to access. For this very reason, it’s important to take extra precautions around this equipment.
Meters are attached to the outside of your home or business and should never be tampered with or bypassed. Tampering with a meter is dangerous and also illegal — conviction can range from six months in jail and a $1,000 fine to five years in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Pad-mounted transformers (also called ground transformers), switch boxes, and pedestals are required for certain homes and businesses, especially those with underground wiring. URE has roughly 3,101 pad-mounted transformers on its system. They are connected to primary high-voltage lines, and secondary lines can also extend in several directions to distribute power to homes and businesses. It is extremely dangerous to tamper with these big green metal boxes.
Like the utility poles, the pad-mounted transformers are regularly inspected and must also be accessed to restore outages. Co-op crews need at least 10 feet of clearance on all sides of a pad-mounted transformer, and the front should be kept clear of all obstructions, including trees, shrubs, or other vegetation; outbuildings; fencing; or even sprinkler systems. This distance allows room for URE’s crews to work. Tools like hot sticks, which are used to work with energized equipment, are typically eight feet in length. Keeping this amount of space clear also ensures that crews working on a transformer have space to safely maneuver, especially in the case of an emergency.
Because they are surrounded by underground wiring, it’s also important to never dig near a pad-mounted transformer. Hitting a wire could result in electrical shock, power outages, or costly damage. Always call 8-1-1 before you perform any landscaping or other work that involves digging — it could save a life.
Finally, never allow children to climb or play on pad-mounted transformers. Don’t put sticks, fingers, or other objects into any gaps. And, if you notice something amiss about a transformer, such as damage or an open door, contact URE immediately. If you’re not sure if a situation could possibly be dangerous, err on the side of caution and call the URE office at (937) 642-1826.