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Danger around us

Take a few minutes to learn about electric power line safety. It may help prevent injuries and even death.

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Most people give little attention to the overhead power lines that string our streets and crisscross our communities. But these power lines can be fatal.

Transmission lines often carry 345,000 volts of electricity, and even lower voltage distribution lines that bring electricity directly to consumers and businesses are extremely dangerous. While your power company takes great care to place power lines out of reach, people may come in close contact with them as they go about daily activities.

By taking a few minutes to read the following information, you may prevent serious injury or even death.

Electricity fundamentals

First, it is important to understand a few basics about electricity:

  • Electricity is always seeking a path to ground or earth. If you become part of that path to ground, you are in danger.
  • Electricity travels best through conductors, which carry current. The best conductors are metal, such as copper and aluminum. Water is an excellent conductor and so are people.
  • Each year hundreds of people nationwide are killed on the job by electrical contact and many others are injured. Countless close calls are averted because someone remembered this basic rule: Never touch a power line and never touch anything that it is touching.

 

Avoiding accidents with power lines

Electricity accidents outdoors usually involve contact with overhead power lines. Here are some tips:

  • Look up! Being safe means being aware of overhead power lines and what you are doing that might provide a pathway for electricity to travel through you to ground.
  • Use extreme care when moving ladders, trimming trees, installing antennas, or doing other activities that may result in contact with a power line.
  • Keep kites, model airplanes and other objects away from power lines. If a kite does become tangled in wires, make no attempt to remove it.
  • Check trees for overhead wires running near or through limbs and branches before climbing. If lines are present, do not climb the tree for any reason.
  • Teach children these and other basic electricity safety rules.

 

Special care: trees

Tree limbs that grow into power lines may carry an electrical current. Do not attempt to remove them yourself. Remember: Using long-handled pruning tools, especially ones made of metal, is extremely hazardous around power lines. Instead, notify your power company to remove limbs. LCRA maintains a tree-trimming program to prevent power outages. For more information, contact us through Ask LCRA.

Downed power lines

If you encounter a downed power line, do not approach it, warn others and leave the area immediately.

Other tips:

  • Always assume a downed power line is energized and therefore dangerous. A downed power line that is energized may not spark or snap. But it can kill.
  • Electricity can travel through objects that are in contact with a power line. Never touch an object that is in direct contact with a downed power line, including a car, tree, or another person.
  • Contact your local power supplier or LCRA's Telecommunications Operations Control Center: 1-800-776-5272, Ext. 8911. In a medical or public safety emergency, call 911.

 

Danger: vehicles and power lines
  • If your tractor, truck or other vehicle comes into contact with a power line, stay on board to remain safe. Be sure to warn others to stay away from the area.
  • If the equipment is operable and can be moved out of contact without doing additional damage to the line or poles, do so. As long as the vehicle is in contact with a line, do not step off.
  • If you must get off because of fire or another emergency, jump clear of the vehicle with both feet together, making sure that you are never in contact with the equipment and the ground at the same time. Once off the equipment, hop away, keeping both feet together.

 

Transmission towers

Transmission towers, which support lines carrying power to communities, have a designated right-of-way to allow inspection and maintenance. Steel cables, known as guy wires, hold the towers in place. Keep vehicles, tools and people clear of guy wires. If you strike a guy wire or pole, call LCRA immediately at 1-800-223-7622, Ext. 8911.

Underground hazards

While most injuries involve overhead power lines, each year people also are killed or injured when coming in contact with underground power lines. To help avoid such accidents, Texas established the One-Call Board of Texas to administer the state's "call before you dig" program.

Before digging, call one of the toll-free numbers: 1-800-DIG-TESS, 1-800-245-4545 or 1-800-669-8344. Texas law requires all excavators using mechanical tools to call at least 48 hours prior to digging.

Learn about Electric and Magnetic Fields.

​Death by contact

Most U.S. workers who die on the job from "exposure to harmful substances or environments" came in contact with overhead power lines or electrical currents. Here are the number of these deaths in 2005, the most recent year available:

​Event​deaths
​Contact with overhead power lines
​110
​Contact with electric current
​250
​Total​360

Source: Burea​u of Labor Statistics

For your information

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers establish a buffer zone around power lines that no object can enter. The buffer zone, or line clearance distance as OSHA calls it, must be at least 10 feet for lines operating at 50,000 volts.