stop, look, live - powerline safety week

Powerline Contacts are Instant and Lethal – ESA Reminds Ontarians to Avoid Deadly Distractions ahead of Powerline Safety Week

Mississauga, ON (May 16, 2022) — Spring is here and that means plenty of people will be undertaking outdoor home and work projects. With outdoor work comes the risk of lethal powerline contacts. May 16 to 22 is Powerline Safety Week, and the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is asking Ontarians to be aware of the risks and avoid fatal distractions by practicing three critical steps: Stop, Look, and Live.

According to the Ontario Electrical Safety Report, in the past 10 years, 18 Ontarians have died from overhead powerline contact, the leading cause of electrical fatality in Ontario. Front line construction workers are at an especially high risk, with 70 per cent of powerline contacts over the past 10 years occurring on construction sites. 

“Whether you’re pruning trees or taking on a smaller landscaping project, it’s important to locate powerlines before you start any work,” says Patrick Falzon, Powerline Safety Specialist, ESA. “Keep you and your tools and equipment at least three metres away from overhead powerlines at all times. A single distraction – no matter how momentary – could cause a life-threatening injury or fatality.”

Powerlines are an everyday object that can kill you with or without direct contact. You don’t have to touch a wire to receive a deadly shock. Electricity can jump to you and your tools if you get too close, which is why ESA is reminding Ontarians to stay safe and stay back at least three metres from overhead lines and at least 10 metres away (the length of a school bus) from downed powerlines. 

Powerline Safety Tips for Households

  1. Distractions can be deadly. Outdoor work is rewarding, but it can also be deadly. Before you start any outdoor work, locate all overhead powerlines. Be especially aware of powerlines that may be hidden by trees.
  2. Stay three metres back. Always be aware of your surroundings. You do not have to touch a powerline to get a deadly shock. Electricity can jump or “arc” to you or your tools if you get too close. Have someone watch to make sure you and your tools stay at least three metres back from powerlines. If you need to work closer than three metres to an overhead powerline, contact the owner of the powerlines to have the power safely disconnected.
  3. Plant trees away from overhead powerlines. Avoid problems down the line by determining how large the tree will grow and planting it a safe distance away, so branches don’t come close a powerline. If your trees are in close proximity to powerlines, contact your local utility or a utility arborist. Do not prune or remove trees around powerlines yourself.
  4. Carry ladders sideways. Never carry ladders upright as they may come in contact or close to powerlines. Check for overhead powerlines before standing a ladder up.
  5. Call or click before you dig. Before you start a landscaping project such as building a fence, deck or planting trees, check with Ontario One Call. They will locate all utility-owned underground infrastructure so you can protect your loved ones and your property. Private underground powerlines such as supply to a pool or detached garage are not located by the utility and will require a private locate.
  6. Watch for downed powerlines. If you see one, stay back about the length of a school bus (10 metres). Call 9-1-1 and the Local Distribution Company immediately and tell everyone to stay back. 
  7. Talk to your kids about powerline safety. Help children find safe places to play, away from utility poles and electrical equipment around fences. Remind children never to climb trees near powerlines. Make sure they look closely, since leaves and branches can hide the wires. Kids should not play on green boxes on lawns or in parks.

Powerline Safety Tips for Worksites

  1. Look up and look out. Identify all powerlines on site and make sure people and high reach equipment stay at least three metres away to prevent an incident. Electricity can jump to you or your equipment if you’re too close to a powerline. 
  2. Designate a signaller. A competent designated signaller for all high reach equipment such as a dump truck, boom truck or crane provides a second set of eyes at all times. Incidents often happen at the end of the day when workers are tired or rushing to finish a job.
  3. Drop your box. Ensure that dump trucks on site drop their box after dumping the load before driving away. It is recommended to install an audible and visual raised box indicator to remind the operator the box is in the raised position.
  4. Everyone has a role to play. It is good practice to inform everyone on the jobsite – including sub-contractors – of all electrical hazards. Install warning signs identifying the powerline hazards. Powerline safety is a collective responsibility, which means every member of the crew should be watching for powerlines and looking out for one another.

For more information about powerline safety, including tailored tips for homeowners, construction workers, and arborists, visit

About the Electrical Safety Authority

The Electrical Safety Authority's (ESA’s) role is to enhance public electrical safety in Ontario. As an administrative authority acting on behalf of the Government of Ontario, ESA is responsible for administering specific regulations related to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, the licensing of Electrical Contractors and Master Electricians, electricity distribution system safety, and electrical product safety. ESA works extensively with stakeholders throughout the province on education, training and promotion to foster electrical safety across the province.

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