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4 Myths about Power Lines Debunked

September 23rd, 2020

Whether you work in construction, oil and gas, or agriculture, knowing the risks of working near overhead and underground power lines can keep you from becoming just another statistic.

We’re debunking some of the most common myths and misconceptions about power line safety so that you’re prepared to protect yourself and your crew on site.

Myth #1: Power lines are only dangerous if you touch them.

Electricity is always moving and because of that, depending on the voltage of the power line and the conductivity of objects around it, electricity can arc or “jump” from the line to you or equipment. Arc flashes can expel enough heat to set fire to clothing and burn human skin within milliseconds. They also release explosive sound and pressure waves that can rupture eardrums. Your best line of defense is to follow the 7-Metre Safe Rule and never come closer than 7 metres to an overhead line.

Downed power lines also pose a significant risk by energizing the ground and nearby objects. Always assume that the line still has electricity flowing through it, stay at least 10 metres away and contact your local utility provider.

Myth #2: All power lines are insulated and that makes them safe.

Have you ever wondered why birds can sit on power lines and not get electrocuted? Did you think that it’s because the lines are insulated?

Despite popular belief, the majority of power lines aren’t insulated and the ones that are can lose insulation over time. The reason birds can safely perch on power lines is because electricity is lazy. It’s always looking for the path of least resistance to get to the ground and unlike birds, humans usually provide it with the perfect route through their equipment or themselves.

Never assume that a power line is insulated or deenergized. Stay at least 7 metres away from overhead lines at all times.

Myth #3: If your vehicle or equipment contacts a power line, get out!

When you contact a power line, your equipment and the ground around it can become energized. By stepping outside, you’re completing the electrical circuit and could be killed.

If it’s safe to do so, carefully move your equipment out of contact, park at least 10 metres away and call 911. Even at a distance, it’s not safe to exit your equipment until your local utility provider switches off power to the line and secures the area.

If your vehicle or equipment needs to be abandoned (e.g. it catches fire), make sure you know the steps to exit safely.

Myth #4: Wood and fiberglass aren’t conductors of electricity.

Wood and fiberglass might be safer than metal, but they can still conduct electricity if they become wet or dirty. Regardless of the materials they’re made of, always keep your tools and equipment 7 metres away from overhead lines and request a locate by contacting Alberta One-Call to have underground registered utilities marked before you dig.

Want to brush up on the do’s and don’ts of power line safety? Check out our online safety tutorials and complete the quizzes to earn limited edition swag for you and your crew!

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Contact Map

Think power line contacts are few and far between? Think again.
See the overhead and underground contacts occurring near you.

The Joint Utility Safety Team (JUST) is a partnership between the following Alberta electric utilities with contributions from local municipalities, formed to address the frequency of power line contacts across the province.