Contact with power lines is a leading cause of workplace deaths in North America. But accidents can be easily avoided with safe workplace practices. The first step to working safely around power lines is to call your local utility to determine voltages of all power lines in the project area.
Working near overheard power lines
The danger of overhead power lines is that there is no protection on the wire. Electricity is looking for a path to ground, so if you contact an overhead wire - you, or the equipment you're operating, can be its path to ground.
- Check with your local utility to identify voltages on any overhead lines and determine the required limits of approach.
- In Alberta, if the voltage is unknown, no work is permitted within 7 meters of energized electrical equipment.
- Once the safe distance has been determined, no work can encroach on this distance.
- Use caution when moving equipment or tools around overhead lines. This includes cranes, backhoes, scaffolding, or long lengths of pipe.
- If a large piece of equipment such as a crane runs the risk of encroaching on the safe zone, a designated signaller - whose only job is to maintain the safe zone - must be assigned.
- Your local utility may be able to install "line identification". This is a PVC pipe not used for protecting lines, but to make them easier to see.
- Lines may sometimes be temporarily moved or protected. Contact your local utility for assistance.
- Excavations in the vicinity of power poles can be dangerous. Soil near the base of a pole should not be disturbed without consulting your local utility.
- A pole may need to be supported if the excavation is too close and too deep.
- Spoil piles should not be located under power lines; this reduces the clearances and could create a hazard.
- If power lines are contacted or torn down, stay clear - at least 10 meters - and call for help.
For more information and videos about power line safety, visit the
Joint Utility Safety Team's website.