You’ve had an eye on the perfect spot for your get-away cabin. But if you try to build your dream home too close to a power line, you may not live long enough to enjoy it. Whether you’re a contractor or a do-it-yourselfer, always use caution when working near power lines and never get closer than 10 feet to an overhead line.

Electricity flows through metal, wood, water, and many other conducting materials, including human beings—all in an effort to reach the ground. Small birds can sit on power lines unhurt because they don’t create a path to ground. But you and your ladder do.

A line doesn’t have to be touched to spark danger—electricity can jump, or arc, from a power line to a person or equipment that gets too close. When equipment comes into contact with power lines, it becomes energized and dangerous.

Overhead power lines are not insulated. Touching a power line or an object in contact with one can result in serious injury—even death. Please contact us if you’re working near power lines so that we can help you stay safe. Remember the 10-Foot Rule, and notify us if any work will be done within 10 feet of a power line; and don’t operate equipment around overhead power lines unless you are authorized and trained to do so.

Here are some general guidelines for safety:

  • When working near overhead power lines, the use of non-conductive fiberglass ladders is recommended.
  • If an object (scaffolds, cranes, etc.) must be moved near overhead power lines, appoint a worker whose sole responsibility is to observe the clearance between the power lines and the object. Warn others if the minimum distance is not maintained.
  • Never touch an overhead line if it has been brought down by machinery or has fallen. Never assume lines are dead.
  • When a machine is in contact with an overhead line, DO NOT allow anyone to come near or touch the machine. Stay away from the machine and contact us.
  • If you should be in a vehicle in contact with an overhead power line, DON’T LEAVE THE VEHICLE. As long as you stay inside and avoid touching outside metal, you should avoid an electrical hazard. If you need to exit to summon help or because of fire, jump out without touching any wires or the exterior, keep your feet together, and hop to safety.
  • If you’re planning to build a home or other structures near power lines, call Access Energy Cooperative at 1-866-242-4232 first. 

Source: U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Electrical Safety Foundation Institute