Too many incidents around power lines, utilities say

Contractors advised to remain grounded in safety around potential electrical hazards

Published on June 24, 2014
Power lines. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

So far this year, Newfoundland Power has recorded 10 instances of contractors coming into contact with power lines. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has recorded more than eight electrical contacts within its service territory.

These cases highlight a major safety concern in the province of electrical contacts made by contractors working around energized power lines.

“Each instance has the potential to be fatal, and there’s no going back once it happens,” said Gary Smith, vice-president of customer operations and engineering for Newfoundland Power, in a news release.

The utilities, along with the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association, Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association, Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission, are partnering to try to address the issue.

“Working together with these dedicated partners, our objective is to continue to raise awareness among those who work around power lines, reminding them to take precautions to ensure they go home safely to their families at the end of the day,” Smith said.

Over the last three years, both utilities recorded more than 121 electrical contacts made by contractors while on the job. The majority involved contractors using large equipment such as booms, cranes, tractor, trailers, snowclearing equipment and dump trucks.

“We are alarmed by the number of power line contacts and the incidents we are seeing each year involving heavy equipment operators,” said Rob Henderson, vice-president of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

“We are working diligently with our partners and urging people who work around power lines to understand the risks and take all precautions to work safely.”

Specific requirements for maintaining clearances and providing worker training are mandated by the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Special permits are required when working within 5.5 metres of energized power lines.

Operators of equipment with the capability of contacting overhead or underground power lines must attend an approved “Power Line Hazards” safety course.

“Safety is paramount in our construction industry and electrical safety involves all construction trades,” said Kirk Saunders, area manager for the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association.

“The NLCA is proud to be part of this industry partnership and truly emphasize the importance of both training and awareness of underground and overhead electrical hazards.”

For more information on working safely around electrical equipment, visit (1-800-663-2802) or (1-888-764-9376).