Safety Precautions for Working Near Electrical Lines

Working Near Electrical Hazards

If you are washing windows in a downtown metropolis city, you will certainly be working close to live power lines.  Whether it is working from a:

  • Bosun’s chair
  • Ladder
  • Temporary platform
  • Scaffold

working near hydro lines can be dangerous!  Unfortunately, some property managers and maintenance workers do not fully understand the risk that these lines present.

Making the Area Safe

In Ontario for instance, the Occupational Health and Safety Act states that it is the constructor’s responsibility to assess hazards and ensure that everyone on the work site adheres to the safe limits of approach for live lines (this is not the responsibility of the hydro company).  A constructor may be a building owner, general contractor, property manager/owners representative (amongst others).

If the hazard assessment and the safe limits are not conducted or adhered to then the work site could be shut down.  If an injury did occur one or all of the constructor’s could be held liable.

If you are working near lines, you must do one of two things:

  1. call the hydro company for more information about having the power lines de-energized (power temporarily cut off) or relocated/removed.
  2. call the hydro company to have the lines covered.  This option is beneficial as it makes the lines much more visible than they usually would to alert (remind) the workers of the danger.  Please be aware that while covered lines draw attention to the lines; they do not provide any protection when contacted.  These covers must also be removed, tested and replaced every six months.

There is a fee for the above mentioned services though.  Cost estimates and installation schedules can be obtained by contacting the hydro company ahead of time.  Although, the work may be performed by a contractor if authorized by the hydro company.  Check your local listing for the hydro company in your area.

All Electrical Lines Are Hazardous

It must be noted that contact with any line (even a residential secondary line) can cause serious injury or death.  That is why it is important that proper precautions are taken to protect workers.

In Ontario, it is required that all workers and “tools ladders, scaffolding and other equipment that are capable of conducting electricity” keep a minimum distance of three metres (ten feet) from high voltage lines between 750 V and 75 kV (the full listing is shown below).

All lines must be treated as high voltage until the voltage has been identified by the hydro company.

The property manager/owners representative must evaluate the work site well in advance.  Then before the work starts they should review the work site with their general contractor (and their workers) and point out the location of all lines near or within the building.

Daily Inspection

If you have covers installed (option 2. mentioned above) you must inspect them each day prior to work commencing.  You should look for:

  •  Fallen covers
  •  Loose covers
  •  Gaps in the covers

If you notice any exposed equipment or lines then call the hydro company immediately and they will make the necessary repairs.  Only the hydro company or one of their authorized contractors may install or repair covers and only their covers may be used on lines.

Bottom Line

If you come across any power line:

  • Stay back three metres (ten feet)
  • Contact your local hydro company
  • Have the lines de-energized or covered
  • Stay alert daily

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