Hidden rot: Garden causes power pole to snap, throws worker to ground

1 / 2
Hidden rot: Garden causes power pole to snap, throws worker to ground

A Nova Scotia woman whose husband plunged from the top of a power pole to a paved parking lot says people might not realize that their attempts to beautify a property could be putting lives at risk.

The base of the pole was covered by a garden, and Linda Gould said her husband had no way of knowing it was rotting under the surface.

The pole snapped as he was attaching his safety harness. It's estimated he fell seven metres to the ground.

"Nobody knows it because it's all neatly hidden away underneath these beautiful gardens that aren't so beautiful when somebody's falling," Gould said of the September incident.

Gould's husband works for a third-party company that does telephone and cable installations for Eastlink. He has climbed electric poles for 16 years and Gould describes him as a safety-conscious worker.

The Middleton man suffered a serious concussion and bruises in the fall. While her husband recovers, Gould is now trying to warn people to remove gardens from the base of poles.

"I'd hate to think of somebody else going through that or somebody else lose a loved one just because a garden looked pretty," said Gould.

Are wild plants OK?

Wild plants that grow on poles in vacant land drain properly and don't pose the same risk, said Gould. She said planted gardens are designed to hold moisture, which causes the poles to rot.

Nova Scotia Power agrees that landscaping can affect pole stability.

"We recommend people avoid decorating poles as some materials may have unintended results, such as causing the wood to rot," said spokesperson Tiffany Chase.

500,000 power poles in the province

She said while rot from a garden is uncommon, it's their safety practice to keep the area clear.

There are about 500,000 poles across the province. Chase said they're inspected during power restoration, repairs and service connections.

"If anyone sees a safety issue with a pole, they should report it to us directly so we can take a look and replace it if necessary," she said.

Gould's husband is slowly recovering. She said he will eventually climb poles again, but if he finds any gardens at the base, he'll be digging them up. 

"We were very lucky ... it could have been a whole lot worse," she said.

"I'm just trying to make their job a little safer for them, so they can return home at the end of the day."