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PLEASE avoid powerline contacts, begs Electrical Safety Authority

May 15, 2023 | By Anthony Capkun

“We know there are many myths out there that may provide a false sense of security around powerlines.”

May 15, 2023 – Ontario has seen a whopping 310% increase in powerline contacts by the general public since 2019, says the province’s Electrical Safety Authority, citing 19 fatalities and 1393 overhead powerline contacts between 2012 and 2021.

While many powerline contacts can be attributed to weather-related events (e.g. tree branches fall across powerlines), ESA points out that almost a third involve accidental contacts from recreational activities, such as tree pruning, high-reach equipment and outdoor home renovations.

“We know there are many myths out there that may provide a false sense of security around powerlines,” said ESA’s Patrick Falzon, powerline specialist. “but whether you are cleaning up the yard or come across a downed powerline from a storm, there are important steps you should take to keep yourself and those around you safe.”

ESA hopes to dispel some of those powerline myths:

Myth – If they were energized, downed powerline wires would be moving or arcing.
FACT – Always assume a downed powerline is energized, even if it isn’t moving. Stay back at least 10 metres, and call emergency services and the local utility.


Myth – More than 67% of construction workers in Ontario believe (or aren’t sure) that orange cover-ups on powerlines will protect workers from electrical shock.
FACT – Orange cover-ups on powerlines are used for identification purposes only. You should always remain a minimum of 3 metres away from overhead powerlines.

Myth – If my ladder isn’t metal, it can rest on or near a powerline.
FACT – No, it is a possible hazard. Keep all ladders 3 metres away from overhead powerlines.

Myth – More than a third of Ontarians believe (or aren’t sure) that wearing leather gloves or safety boots can protect from a powerline shock.
FACT – You should always stay at least 3 metres away from powerlines, no matter what safety gear you may be wearing.

Myth More than 40% of Ontarians believe a tool or ladder needs to touch a powerline to get a shock or burn.
FACT – No. Anything that comes within 3 metres of an overhead powerline (e.g. pruning tool, a tree limb or your hand) can give you a shock or burn, or kill you.

Myth – I’m just digging a couple of feet into the ground. I don’t need to worry about underground powerlines.
FACT – The lines may be closer than you think, or a grading change may have happened over time. Always check before you dig. Contact Ontario One Call to request utility locates. It’s also the law.

As part of Powerline Safety Week, ESA has launched an education module specifically for construction workers.

Visit Electrical Safety Authority for even more information on powerline safety.

An administrative authority acting on behalf of the Government of Ontario, ESA is responsible for administering specific regulations related to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, the licensing of electrical contractors and master electricians, electricity distribution system safety, and electrical product safety.

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