Wellston Technician Kris Irwin lost count of how many broken poles he saw during the February ice storm in southern Ohio. (“It was quite the experience. Definitely every other pole we pulled up to had snapped in half,” Irwin said.) He got so used to dealing with them that, just a few weeks later, when he came upon a similarly unsafe situation in Oak Hill, he knew exactly what to do.
Irwin was coming home after doing some field work when, turning a corner along State Route 140, he came upon a cable company’s small bucket truck that had veered off the side of the road. The driver lost control when the soft berm collapsed and his vehicle entered a culvert and struck our utility pole. The bottom of the pole was badly damaged, with the top half still hanging from the power line and likely energized.
Irwin parked in a safe place and activated his vehicle’s flashers. He checked on the driver who, along with neighboring customers, were loitering around the accident site. The driver was OK but “pretty shook up,” Irwin said.
Irwin made sure they stayed clear of the hazards and began making the area as safe as possible. The communication cable remained connected to the pole across the road but, because of the accident, it sagged to a dangerous level. Irwin placed cones around the vehicle to block the northbound lane as well as alerting oncoming trucks about the low-hanging wire and making sure they had enough clearance.
Irwin snapped photos of the pole grid number and the situation and sent them to a line crew supervisor, who assigned a line servicer and contract flagging crew to the site to make repairs.
C.J. White, a senior Safety & Health coordinator for the Chillicothe district, said Irwin’s actions didn’t happen by accident. They were the result of years of training and being keenly aware of his surroundings.
“Kris was really looking out for the public on this one. He did all the right things to make sure the scene was safe,” White said. “He checked on everyone involved in the accident. He addressed the immediate hazards such as the primary line that was still energized. And he prevented further equipment damage or an electrical flash by blocking traffic around the low communication line over the road.
“It could have turned out differently but thanks to Kris everyone went home safe.”
Published April 2, 2021