OHS Canada Magazine

Powerline incidents, including fatality and two serious injuries, prompt safety awareness campaign from ESA

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July 25, 2023
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety ESA Powerline

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There have been three powerline-related incidents in Ontario that resulted in either a near fatality or the loss of life, according to the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).

These incidents, reported to the ESA earlier this month, occurred across Western and Northern Ontario and are an example of the breadth of ways in which people can come in contact with powerlines. One incident, fortunately non-fatal, involved an attempt by an individual to move a downed powerline they had mistakenly identified as non-electric.

The other two incidents involved construction sites. At one, a log boom made contact with an overhead powerline, and in the other an individual’s tool came within three metres of the powerline, tragically, resulting in a fatality.

The ESA is supporting the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development regarding the incidents that are under investigation, it said.

August the most lethal month: ESA

According to ESA data, August is the most lethal month for powerline contacts with the highest number of fatal incidents among both the general public and on job sites.


Since 2012-2021 there have been 19 fatalities and 1,393 overhead powerline contacts in Ontario. These recent incidents underscore this concerning trend, and further demonstrate the serious risks posed by powerline contacts.

“The consequences of making contact with a powerline can be instantly fatal or physically devastating,” said Patience Cathcart, director of data science and public safety officer, ESA. “It is crucial to know where powerlines are when you’re working, whether that’s at a job site or doing work around your house, and we urge Ontarians to take precaution to ensure their well-being when working in the vicinity of powerlines.”

Raising awareness

To help everyone stay safe around powerlines, ESA has launched a multi-pronged campaign to raise awareness among at-risk workers and the general public about the dangers posed by powerlines.

Using everyday objects like ladders and basketball hoops to conceptualize what a safe distance should be from overhead and downed powerlines, ESA will be reminding people that the distance between life and death is closer than they think.

Safety tips

  • Wires don’t have to move or make noise to indicate if they’re energized or not. Assume that any wire – overhead or downed – is live and deadly.
  • Electricity can jump (arc) to you and your tools even if you don’t make direct contact with an overhead powerline.
  • Job sites should use a competent dedicated signaller to guide and warn operators of machinery that could come within 3 metres of powerlines.
  • Treat all downed wires as energized and call your local utility immediately when found. Don’t approach the downed wire. Remember to keep everyone back 10 metres; the length of a school bus.


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