OHS Canada Magazine

Electrical Safety Authority urges vigilance after 50 per cent jump in powerline fatalities

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May 14, 2024
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety

Photo: Adobe Stock

It’s Powerline Safety Week, and the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) in Ontario is issuing a reminder following a 50 per cent increase in powerline-related fatalities.

Between 2018-2022, there were 12 fatalities due to powerline contact – a 50 per cent increase from 2013-2017. In the past 10 years, there have been nearly 1,400 powerline contacts and 45 per cent of all electrical-related fatalities in the province were from powerline contact.

Despite the real danger, according to ESA research, many Ontarians are not taking precautions, it said. One-third (34 per cent) say they rarely or never identify overhead powerlines before doing outdoor chores; and 30 per cent say they never think about getting hurt by electricity because they seriously doubt it will happen to them.

“Powerlines are an extremely serious and deadly threat,” said Patience Cathcart, director of data science and public safety officer, Electrical Safety Authority. “One wrong move near a powerline can have irreversible consequences. Stay cautious, and always keep you and your equipment 3 metres back from overhead powerlines.”

Most powerline incidents are reported between April and October, as more people are doing outdoor projects and construction season is in full effect.


Tips to stay safe

Here are some essential tips to stay safe around powerlines, courtesy of ESA:

Keep three metres away from overhead powerlines. Electricity can jump or “arc” to you or your tools if you get too close. You don’t have to touch a powerline to get a deadly shock.

Keep 10 metres away from downed powerlines. If you see a downed powerline, always assume it is live. It doesn’t have to move or spark to be energized. Downed powerlines can electrify the ground around it, so stay at least the length of a school bus away.

Locate powerlines.  Before you start any outdoor work, locate all powerlines nearby. Look up for overhead powerlines and for those buried underground, before digging, it’s the law to contact Ontario One Call and ask to locate all utility-owned underground infrastructure. You may also require a private locate for underground wires that are not utility-owned.


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