Cable worker Dopers: How dangerous is it to go up the electric poles?

I’m thinking about possibly taking a part time job doing some work on the electric/telephone poles for the local cable company, and I wanted to hear from anyone in the know, how dangerous is it to work on the poles?

I’ve been shown how to secure the ladder against the pole, and how to use the cable hooks to do set the ladder on the wires themselves.

I haven’t actually gon on the ladder yet myself though but just watching the guy doing this is quite intimidating. Especially when the ladder is placed on the wires (as sometimes it has to be to reach the cable interface) the darn thing moves around a lot.

So again, how safe is it doing this? Should I look for another part time job?

First-I am not a power company line worker. My understanding of cable arrangement is the product of learning from my Father, who is a retired power company engineer. Also, I am a contractor who does electrical service work, but I start and stop at the aerial or underground point of connection.

Typically, the lowest two runs on a given pole are telco and cable. They are separated by several feet from the racked 240 or higher voltage primary(ies) which occupy the uppermost location on a power pole.

The actual cable which carries signal is usually laced to a stronger messenger cable, so hooking your ladder onto the assembly is safe, although it may test your pucker factor.

So long as your ladder is properly engaged, and no meathead runs into your van, life is good.

I asked a guy who works for the cable company & he said that he got zapped two times, the look in his eyes when he said that:priceless

If the cable company in question doesn’t have a thorough training program for such work I wouldn’t go anywhere near them.

You don’t get too many “OOPSEYS” up there, either.

My boss worked for 9 years as a cable contractor doing every type of wiring imaginable. He’s told me some wonderful stories about death-defying stunts they used to do, including things like hanging from high-rise buildings on 60-foot extension ladders. Also, although there are regulations about how far the power lines have to be from the cable and the like, sometimes that’s not true. He said on more than one occasion he had to go above the power line to reach the cable (which should never, ever happen) because the wires were just plain hung wrong on the poles. None of this was required, mind you, it’s just what they were willing to do. You can’t get paid unless the job gets done, so some guys were willing to take way more risks than others.

I think the real danger is dealing with the nuts should you be unable to fix the problem.


I’m an engineer for a telecommunications design/engineering house, specializing in outside plant. I know that of which I speak, having designed many communications networks which occupy exactly this space on utility poles over the past half-dozen years.

Communications conductors (CATV and telephone) are required to be, at minimum, 40" below the power neutral conductor on any utility pole by the National Electrical Safety Code which is promulgated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Entering the neutral space (or going above it) isn’t likely to be something you’ll ever have to do, but it is extremely dangerous. Also, cable companies, especially small independent operators, are, when it comes to construction practices, notoriously cheap, and will sometimes choose to interpret standards, shall we say, advantageously. They may also be given to short-cutting safety practices. If the company for which you are considering working doesn’t have an extensive safety training program in place, including an exam at the end of the course, you may wanna reconsider employment with them, because they’re likely just the kinda folks who’ll engage in unsafe practices. If, however, your local cable company is a regional office of one of the bigger national MSO’s, then you’ll probably find a good safety training program in place and I wouldn’t have too many concerns.

Thanx Everyone!

And especially thanx to you UncleBeer, that was of tremendous help!

I’ll look into the company’s safety programs :wink:

Glad to be of help. Especially where safety is concerned. I’d really hate to see someone injured, especially when it’s easily avoidable. I mean, people can and do frequently work in the power space safely. There are just some things you need to know to be able to do this and training is the only way to learn. Experience, in this case, can be an extremely harsh instructor.