Linemen confront transformers, crossarms and low-voltage wiring when climbing structures. To get around these obstructions, they often unhook their belts, putting them at risk for a fall hazard. Because they sometimes have nothing to tie off to, they can slip off of a structure, causing serious injury or death.

To maximize the safety of its linemen, Potelco recently field tested a device called the Multi-Use Technical Tool (M.U.T.T.) from Utility Safety Technologies. Potelco, a Quanta Services company, maintains the lines and performs all of the transmission and distribution work for Puget Sound Energy in the Pacific Northwest.

One year ago, Potelco implemented a pilot program. The company then ordered 60 of the devices for its foremen to use out in the field.

Tool of Many Uses

Following the field testing, the linemen responded favorably to the M.U.T.T. because of its versatility. The device can handle rigging, hoisting, rescue, fall protection and other applications such as securing tools and equipment.

One reason why the Potelco linemen began using the M.U.T.T. is to adhere to the restrictions when working hot on Puget Sound Energy's system. Linemen can install the M.U.T.T. on the backside of the through bolt at the cut-out points. They can then hook off to the device and work 360 degrees around a structure without getting within the 5-ft minimum clearance of the live line. If they do get within this distance, they need to use gloves, hot sticks, sleeves and covers for protection.

In addition to being used as a secondary tie-off point, the M.U.T.T. can be used to lift up to 2,500 lbs up a structure. Linemen also can use the device on substation steel lattice or fiberglass structures.

Fall Protection

Quanta and Potelco require their linemen to wear 100% fall protection. When they can get into the working position and attach themselves to the M.U.T.T., they are then free to work on both sides of the pole without any restrictions. When they work on a structure, they can pre-install the M.U.T.T. devices on the ground or in the air as an attachment point rated for fall restraint.

The linemen also no longer need to sling a strap around one of the obstacles to circumvent it. The M.U.T.T. installs quickly and easily on existing 5/8- and 3/4-inch bolts, and replaces the existing washer by design.

A team with an extensive background in construction safety designed the device, which was then manufactured in Renton, Washington. Before launching it into the market 18 months ago, Utility Safety Technologies first had it tested by the same lab that works with Boeing and NASA. The M.U.T.T. met all of the OSHA and ANSI testing standards.

Protecting Linemen

Some utilities are creating a standard requiring linemen to install the M.U.T.T. device on every new structure when they dress them out. On new poles, this device can be specified at predetermined, key locations on a utility structure to improve linemen's safety and efficiency. It can be installed quickly on 5/8- and 3/4-inch through bolts.

Right now, Potelco and other companies are showing interest in the device. For example, Southern California Edison has made a commitment to retrofit all of its poles over the next five years with the M.U.T.T. devices. As the linemen go out into the field to maintain the poles, they will place the M.U.T.T. devices on the existing poles at the cut-out location.

To showcase the new tool to more utilities, Utility Safety Technologies is donating 100 of its M.U.T.T. tools to the International Lineman's Rodeo. Each of the competitors in the pole-top rescue event be able to use the M.U.T.T. for rigging and fall protection during the competition as they reach their working position, said Mark Hendricks of Utility Safety Technologies.

The company is also donating $1 of each sale of the product to its nonprofit organization called the Believe Foundation. These funds help to support the families of linemen who are injured or killed on the job site. For example, the board of directors gives families money for groceries, bills and college tuition for their children.

By giving linemen a secure attachment point, UST is working to help protect linemen at not only Potelco but companies nationwide. This tool can also help linemen to be more productive and get more accomplished without sacrificing safety on the job site.


Rob Carrigan (racarrigan@live.com) is a foreman in a line crew working for Potelco. Potelco, a Quanta Services company, provides services to Puget Sound Energy in the Puget Sound Region of western Washington. He has been in the industry for 25 years.

Companies mentioned:

Potelco | www.potelco.net

Puget Sound Energy | www.pse.com

Southern California Edison | www.sce.com

Utility Safety Technologies | www.utilityanchor.com