Inspection

What We See: Neglected Steel Poles

September 30, 2020

If you have steel light poles or utility poles on your property, you know that owning and operating these kinds of assets can present unique challenges. Since these structures remain outdoors, they are constantly subjected to the forces of mother nature. Wind, rain, constant thermal cycles, and other weather-related issues all contribute to the gradual corrosion, degradation, or structural weakening of poles and towers and may lead to catastrophic failure. 

There are a number of critical outcomes that can result from pole failure, and the expense of replacing a damaged asset is the least of your worries. A pole failure can mean an expensive shutdown that delays all of your daily operations if the pole was a provider of critical utilities. Tragedy could also ensue if the pole failure results in a collapse in a public area.  Pedestrians in busy parking lots or drivers along roads and thoroughfare could be at significant risk of injury or even death should they happen to be in close proximity to a falling pole.

This is precisely why it is crucial to closely monitor damage like the corrosion we see in this photo.

What Damaged Steel Poles Look Like

Ferrous metals such as mild steel, carbon steel, stainless steel, cast iron, and wrought iron are most often used because of their tensile strength and durability.  However, unlike some other metals, ferrous metals may be a bit more susceptible to corrosion due to their composition. Since ferrous metals, like the steel light poles in the photo, also contain high amounts of carbon they are at a greater risk of rust when exposed to the elements. Aside from stainless steel and wrought iron, ferrous metals will likely corrode without a well maintained protective coating.

Repairs and Prevention

Corrosion is always at work on ferrous metal assets. It pays to be proactive in your inspection protocols so your assets don’t end up like this. Minor corrosion, even on the inside of the pole, is much less expensive to repair than replacing the entire pole. In any circumstance, it is crucial to conduct regular, thorough inspections of your utility or lighting poles to catch issues early and prevent failures.  It is also important to know specifically what you are looking for.  Detailed non-destructive testing (NDT) inspection by an experienced and qualified technician must be a part of the inspection strategy.  Otherwise, it is likely that evidence of early stage issues would be missed and the problems would go undiagnosed, allowing them to continue to grow in severity and consequence.

Once properly inspected, a tailored remediation should be performed as needed to resolve the issue.  This might include anything from coatings repairs to structural reinforcements (or full replacement in some cases).  The key takeaway however, should be that “one size fits all” repair solutions usually are not the best approach,  While they may succeed in eliminating failure risk, they might also add unnecessary costs to your maintenance program.  Taking the time to customize proper remediation efforts on an asset by asset basis, derived from a detailed health rating from your inspections, will allow you to prioritize and optimize your repairs.  Ultimately, this will help you lower your spend while still mitigating the risk of failure.

Trust the Exo Difference

With services like Exo’s Ex-Tend asset management program, we strategize the best ways to approach lifecycle management and to protect your assets and save you money. 

Whether it is through lifecycle management, field service and repair, or plant maintenance, Exo is uniquely prepared to serve your company’s needs and continue providing the utility services vital to all of your operations.

At Exo, we don’t wait for problems to arise before we take action. Stop problems like the ones in this photo before they occur by calling today to talk with the Exo experts. 

Phone us at 281-259-7000 or contact us online for a free consultation to see how Exo can protect your assets.

Get Started with Exo

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Our team would love to talk to you, so we can learn about your lighting 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.
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