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Powerline contacts are still a thing – and they’re still deadly

May 8, 2024 | By Anthony Capkun

May 8, 2024 – With Powerline Safety Week around the corner (May 13-19), Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority is reminding construction and trade workers of the serious risks posed by powerlines.

Over the last decade, ESA recorded nearly 1400 incidents involving overhead powerlines, with 60% occurring in the construction sector. During this period, powerline contact also led to deaths of eight workers.

A recent survey of trade workers has ESA raising some worrisome red flags:

1. Only 18% correctly identified the safe distance to stay back from overhead powerlines. (answer below)


2. Only 26% correctly identified the limit of approach for downed powerlines. (answer below)

3. 70% think it is okay to touch a powerline with an orange cover-up—a “deadly misconception”. (why? answer below)

Despite these risks, 45% of survey respondents said they do not receive regular training on powerline safety. ESA says this indicates “a significant gap between awareness and education in this crucial area”.

8 Powerline Safety Tips

Do not begin any work until you’ve identified all the powerlines around you. Knowing where they are is the first step toward avoiding them.
Keep yourself and your equipment at least 3 metres from overhead powerlines. Electricity can arc to you or your tools if you get too close.
An orange coverup does not make a powerline safe to touch, only more visible.
Before beginning any excavation work, contact your local utility for a cable locate for all utility owned infrastructure. (Privately owned underground powerlines need a private locate.)
You must have a competent, dedicated signaller to support drivers of dump trucks and other high-reach vehicles.
Ensure dump trucks lower the box after dumping a load. (It’s good practice to have a “raised box” indicator installed in the truck).
Should wires fall on the truck or ground, always assume they are energized. Stay in the vehicle, call 911, and keep everyone 10 metres back.

Additionally, contact incidents often happen at the end of the day, when workers may be tired or rushing to finish a job.

The haulage industry, aerial lifts and excavators, are the most likely to contact powerlines, says the agency, with contacts peaking from March through October.

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