There are more than 130 million poles in service in Canada and the United States. Maintaining these poles in satisfactory condition is essential for the delivery of reliable service to utility customers. The average cost of replacing an in-service pole is approximately $2500 – more than $300 billion to replace all the poles in North America.

Inconsistent and/or inadequate condition assessment of wood poles is a significant hurdle to the effective management of one of the largest assets utilities own and results in the unnecessary replacement of poles that should remain in service.

Even among contractors with trained and experienced staff, there are significant differences in approach, assessment methodology, and criteria. In addition to this, utility personnel responsible for preparing and supervising wood pole inspection contracts often lack knowledge of the work involved.

Utilities would greatly benefit from the establishment of standardized basic knowledge and skill requirements for pole inspection personnel. These could best be realized through a standard training program, that all participating utilities and companies might be able to implement internally, or outsource, complete with assessment criteria.

This training seminar will provide participants with the necessary foundationary knowledge to inspect and assess the condition of in-service poles.

This seminar was created following the publication of CEATI Report, initiated in 2003 by the CEATI Distribution Asset Life Cycle Management (DALCM) Interest Group, a consortium of electric distribution utilities from across North America.

Course Highlights:
Wood as a Material For Poles

  • Structure of wood;
  • Positive and negative attributes of wood as a material for poles;
  • Differences among pole species regarding strength, classification, preservative treatability, tendency to split, sapwood content, heartwood natural durability and other factors that affect their performance in service;
  • Pole brands and other identifiers – identifying age, species and treatment.

How and Why Do Wood Poles Deteriorate?

  • Agents of deterioration (fungi, insects, woodpeckers, fire);
  • Conditions favoring the early deterioration of poles and how they relate to position in the pole, pole species, location, quality control, etc. (pretreatment infection, checking, preservative depletion, inadequate treatment, etc.).

Protection of Wood by Preservative Treatments

  • Importance of pretreatments and post treatments that promote protection;
  • Wood preservatives, preservative treating processes and standards (creosote and pentachlorophenol butt and full length treatment, CCA and ACZA full length treatment, future wood preservatives);
  • Effect of treatments on performance (depletion of preservatives, sterilization of poles, effects on checking, etc.).
  • Disposal/Management of Out-of-Service Poles
Inspection of In-Service Poles

  • Tools and techniques for internal and external inspection above and below ground;
  • Inspection of distribution poles, transmission poles, spars and crossarms, stubbed poles and poles set in concrete;
  • Recording/reporting inspection results, estimating serviceability, scheduling future inspections, criteria for reinforcing or replacing poles (treat, stub or replace?);
  • Backfilling and cleanup.

Evaluating Serviceability and Criteria for Reinforcing or Replacing Poles

  • Remedial treatment of poles
  • Preservatives and application procedures (rods, wraps and fumigants)

Discussion of Certification Program

  • Objectives and benefits of certification;
  • Recommended requirements for certification.
Course Instructor

Dr. Paul Cooper is Professor and Chair of Value Added Wood and Composite Products in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto. Dr. Cooper holds a Ph.D. in Wood Science (1991 – University of Toronto).
Prior employment experience includes Research Scientist and Manager of the University of New Brunswick, Wood Science and Technology Centre in Fredericton, NB., Lecturer and Assistant Professor appointments at the Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto (1978-81, 1985-95), Research Chemist with Iroquois Chemicals Ltd. (1981-85), and Wood Preservation Specialist with the Western Forest Products Laboratory (1969-75). He has also worked as a consultant for a number of consulting firms, industry associations, government agencies and wood preservation companies.
His current research focuses on wood deterioration and protection issues, with emphasis on evaluating and reducing environmental impacts of wood preservatives during all stages of the treated wood product life cycle.