woman shearing tree branch

Spring Clean Safely

The end of winter brings warmer temperatures and brighter days, and what better place to spend time outdoors than in your own backyard oasis? Before you can enjoy sunny days in the garden or by the pool, spring cleaning is a must – but bear in mind a few things to help keep you and your family safe while making your backyard beautiful this season.

Prior to trimming trees, removing trees/shrubs, clearing eavestroughs, prepping gardens and repairing winter damage, it’s important to remember the silent hazards around you – powerlines that live above and below many homes. Although overhead wires are in plain sight and out of reach, they can also be buried or may come down due to falling branches or severe weather, and many people don’t know the harm powerlines can cause if you touch or come near them. Make sure you and your family know about powerline hazards.

  1. Look up and look out
    Whether you are painting the exterior of your home or pruning trees, remember to look up for electrical safety hazards. Know where powerlines run across your property and avoid working closely around them. If you don’t locate powerlines while you’re on the ground, you won’t be prepared to deal with them up on your ladder. Once you know where powerlines are, plan to leave at least three metres (10 feet) between yourself and overhead wires to stay safe.
  2. Have a strategic green thumb and think before you dig
    When planning to tackle your backyard foliage, make sure to implement the three metre rule of thumb, keeping yourself and your tools a safe distance from powerlines before trimming or pruning. When cleaning-up stray greenery, snip branches and vines to ensure they don’t grow and entangle themselves with the powerlines during the season. Do not trim trees or branches if there is a chance they may fall onto the overhead powerlines.

    There are a few things to consider if you’re going to be trimming near powerlines:
    • If a Local Distribution Company (LDC) owns the powerlines, you should contact the LDC to determine steps to trim the trees.
    • If you own the powerlines, you should hire a utility arborist to trim trees since they are competent to safely trim trees around powerlines.
    • If you choose to trim the trees yourself, the power should be disconnected.
    It’s also important to take into consideration what lays beneath before starting a new in-ground project. Contact Ontario One Call to have all underground services located – it’s the law. Utilities will only locate underground services that they own (ownership demarcation point). Underground services that are not owned by the utility will require a private locate. For example, electrical services to a separate building, shed or pool.
  3. Give ’em space
    Live wires can give you a big shock and can cause serious injury or even death. Always keep at least three metres between you, your equipment (think ladders, pruners and power tools) and wires. Electricity can jump to you and your tools if you are too close, always err on the side of too far away, rather than too close.
  4. Horizontal is the way to go
    An easy way to stay safe when doing outdoor chores is to always carry ladders and other tall equipment horizontally instead of vertically. This decreases the risk of bumping into overhead wires and is generally safer as it gives you more control.
  5. Electrical wires are not clotheslines
    It is extremely dangerous to attach, hang or drape anything on electrical wires. These wires carry enough electrical current to seriously injure or become fatal.
  6. Plan to protect
    If your backyard cleaning turns into more of a backyard renovation, it's important to plan ahead and understand your obligations under the Ontario law and safety risks of electrical work. Remember that if you're hiring anyone to do electrical work in your space (indoors or outdoors) they must be a Licensed Electrical Contractor.