How can I Stay Safe Near Overhead Lines?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 February 2020
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In many communities, overhead lines are simply part of the landscape. Providing electrical power to homes and businesses, these power lines are a modern necessity. Still, the fact that overhead power lines are such a familiar sight around the neighborhood does not mean they don’t deserve respect. If you have to work around electrical wires, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind.

Before trimming trees or cleaning out gutters, it is a good idea to get a good look at the overhead lines in the immediate vicinity. While it is true the lines are insulated, that covering may be more to protect the interior wires from the weather and less for protecting people from getting a sudden shock. Don’t be lulled into thinking that a protective coating makes it safe to lean against or touch the lines while working.


When you must work around overhead lines, make sure you do not position yourself or any of your tools near the lines. Many power companies recommend that you try to keep a minimum distance of ten feet (3.05 meters) between yourself and any power line. This means that if you must do some pruning or tree trimming, position the ladder so that you will not come in contact with the lines while working. Also, make sure that as the trimmed limbs fall, they do not tangle or put pressure on any segment of a line. This will minimize any chance of accidentally damaging a line and exposing people below to a hot wire.

The same basic approach is true when cleaning gutters. Position the ladder so you are not touching any overhead lines, but still have relatively easy access to the gutter. Also, check to see if a wire is drooping down low enough to touch any segment of the gutter. While this is particularly important when your home is equipped with metal gutters, a drooping line is a potential hazard in any case. Back away from the gutter and report the drooping power line to your local power company. The gutters can wait until the line is repositioned by a professional.

Make it a point to only work in the vicinity of overhead lines when the weather is sunny and fair. Attempting to work in heavy winds, rain, or when ice or snow is present only increases the chances of losing control of your tools or slipping off the ladder. In the process of losing that control and balance, you could find yourself or your tools coming in contact with a line, resulting in a nasty shock.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to work around any overhead lines that are damaged or currently dangling to ground level. Report problems of this nature immediately, and keep your distance in the interim. While a downed line may appear to be innocuous, there is a good chance that the line is still energized or “hot”. In fact, the line may still carry enough current to cause permanent injury or even death.

The main point to remember is that overhead lines must be respected. Keep your distance, and don’t allow anything you do to compromise the integrity of the lines in any manner. This one common sense approach will ensure you stay safe while still enjoying all the benefits associated with that steady supply of power to your home.


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