Keeping Students & Fans Safe: Athletic Field and Area Lighting Pole Inspections

School’s out for summer! That means it’s time for backyard cookouts, trips to the beach, picnics in the park, and… athletic light pole inspections. Okay, the last one might not sound like fun, but it’s a necessary, proactive step you can take to keep student athletes and their fans safe.

What to Know About Light Pole Inspection

Lighting Pole Manufacturing Gone Wrong

On March 9, 2009, a 120-foot tall, 12,500-pound steel light pole broke away from its foundation and collapsed on the roof of a gymnasium at Hays High School in Buda, Texas. While, thankfully, there were no injuries, the accident cost the school $700,000 in damages, and four poles had to be removed and replaced before the start of the next school year.

These specific poles were manufactured by Whitco Co. LLP, and following this accident, and several others in other locations across the U.S., the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a press release warning school officials, facility managers and municipal and public safety officials that any Whitco poles installed between 2002 and 2006 needed to be professionally inspected. By June 2010, the CPSC had confirmed 11 incidents of Whitco poles falling and issued a recall to inspect and repair any Whitco poles 70 feet tall or higher. The American Society of Civil Engineers issued a similar statement.

The design and manufacturing defects called for government intervention to ensure the public was aware of the safety threats and prepared to take action. Because there is no agency responsible for the oversight of lighting pole design and manufacturing or public applications, schools and recreation associations may unwisely neglect regular inspections. This is a big reason why sports lighting poles have had so many issues at schools and recreation areas. Add to these instances of manufacturing defects, the structural harm from more commonly observed weather-related corrosion or damage, and the consequences of overlooking inspection can be very grave.

What Do Pole Inspectors Look For?

The Buda High School Stadium pole failure shed light on the importance of athletic light pole inspections being routinely performed by qualified professionals. These stadium type lighting poles are not the only poles that have posed safety threats; over the course of our company history, Exo’s professionals have inspected tens of thousands of lighting poles and can attest that light pole maintenance is essential to an asset’s integrity. Exo has found that roughly 10 percent of poles inspected have significant strength loss, and 40 percent require significant maintenance to prevent strength loss that can lead to accidents.

Professional inspections can help mitigate the risk of structural failure by uncovering defects that cannot be seen with the naked eye. These inspections focus on the following components of the lighting pole structure:

  • Base plates:  Has proper non-destructive testing of the fracture critical base plate to pole shaft weld to identify fatigue-related weld cracking as well as any measurements of plate loss due to corrosion being routinely accomplished.
  • Anchor bolts: Are all anchor bolts free from corrosion and are all nuts securely and properly installed and tightened?
  • Pole shaft: Is the interior and exterior of the pole shaft itself free from corrosion that reduces the wall thickness and affects strength?  Are there signs of fatigue on any of the welded attachments to the pole?
  • Safety cable and fixture appurtenances: Are these items in good condition and appear to have been installed correctly?

What Next?

If an issue is identified, Exo’s professional inspectors and engineers are equipped to provide you with a recommended action plan for repairing or replacing your poles. By taking this step to have your poles inspected, you’ll have the knowledge you need to make any remediation necessary and bring peace of mind that your students and fans will remain safe under those lights. You’ll be all set to enjoy the rest of your summer!

Ready to Work With Us?

Our team would love to talk to you, so we can learn about your company’s goals and primary areas of concern. Contact us today, and we’ll help you take the first step in creating a comprehensive lighting asset management program. Give us a call at 281-259-7000.