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How to Work Safely Around Underground Power Lines

June 20th, 2018

From track hoes to augers, shovels to spades — if you're breaking ground, here's what you need to know about working safely around underground power lines.

Before you even break ground, locating electrical utilities lurking beneath the surface is the key to preventing potentially deadly incidents.

If you can’t avoid working around underground power lines while on site, here’s how to locate and expose them safely:

1. Submit a Locate Request

At least five days before breaking ground, submit a locate request to Alberta One-Call online or call 1-800-242-3447.

2. Learn the Colour Code

After processing your request, Alberta One-Call will notify registered underground facility owners of your project and a representative will be sent to your worksite where they’ll locate and mark all underground facilities with coloured paint called chevrons, stakes or flags. Electrical lines will be marked red, but it’s important to know the colour code for all underground hazards.

Note: If there are privately-owned underground facilities in the work area, you’ll need to contact the property owner and engage a private locator.

3. Review the Locate Ticket

Compare the locate ticket and your work area to make sure the markings match. If they don’t, you’ll need to request a new locate.

4. Safely Expose the Line

If you have to disturb the ground within one metre on either side of a chevron, you’ll need to use excavation techniques approved by the underground facility owner.

Once the line is exposed, you can use mechanical digging equipment to dig near the line. Always use a spotter to make sure your equipment stays at least 30cm (one foot) away from the line.

You have your locates. You’ve taken all the steps needed to safely exposure the underground line. But you still make contact. What do you do?

Stop all work immediately and call 911

If contact can’t be broken, stay in your vehicle. Or, if it’s safe to do so, drive at least 10 metres away from the power line and turn off your vehicle. After instructing others to also stay at least 10 metres away from the scene, call emergency services and the utility company for assistance.

If your equipment or vehicle needs to be abandoned (e.g. catches fire), follow these steps to get to safety:

1. Open the door to your vehicle and look for the flattest spot on the ground.

2. Prepare to jump to the ground, making sure you land with your feet together. Never contact the ground and the vehicle at the same time.

3. Jump clear, but keep both feet together upon landing. Crouching will help you keep your balance.

4. With feet together, slowly shuffle (with both feet on the ground at all times) at least 10 metres away from vehicle. If you need to quickly reach safety and the ground is flat and level, hop with both feet together.

NOTE: Keeping your feet together will prevent your feet and legs from forming a bridge between two points of different voltage, making a path for electricity to travel.

Do your part to make sure everyone gets to go home at the end of their shift by remembering these three words: Look. Locate. Live.

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Contact Map

Think power line contacts are few and far between? Think again.
Keep track of overhead and underground contacts occurring across Alberta.

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.