Powerline Hazards

Working around powerlines can be hazardous and can lead to serious injury or death if the necessary precautions are not in place. Any work near powerlines needs to be carefully planned and carried out to prevent a worker from coming in contact with electricity. Make sure you look for both overhead and underground power lines and keep back a safe distance.

Some common activities that could result in contact with an overhead or underground powerline, would include:

  • Working on aerial work platform such as a scissor lift.
  • Operating a boom truck or mobile crane.
  • Rigging or guiding loads near a power line.
  • Using Excavators and backhoes can contact overhead and underground lines.
  • Dump truck operation – raising or lowering the dump or the leaving the box elevated while moving
  • Erecting or Dismantling Scaffolding
  • Handling long materials such as rebar, pipe or conduit
  • Felling or trimming trees
  • Placing or repositioning extension ladders
  • Floating oversized loads or operating oversized vehicles have potential to snag powerlines on public roadway


The most significant hazard associated with working around powerlines is electrocution. Powerlines are not typically insulated and can carry tens of thousands of volts. Electricity is always looking for a path to ground and is dangerous to anyone along that route. If a worker, tools, materials or equipment makes contact with a powerline, a path to ground can be created.  Contact with electricity can be fatal. It can also cause serve damage to major organs of the body such as cardiac arrest, heart failure, damage to the lungs, internal bleeding, and severe burns. It is important to note that direct contact with the powerline is not always required.  Electricity can arc or jump between conductors, particularly in moist or damp environments.

Other possible hazards could include:

  • Fire & explosion caused by sparks from electrical equipment;
  • Flash fire or electrical equipment flashover (i.e. arc flash);
  • Falls can occur when climbing or working on a powerline structure,

Hazard Assessment

A hazard assessment is a process used to identify hazards and eliminate or reduce the risk of injury or loss.  The steps of a hazard assessment include:

  1. Identify the Hazard – Review the workplace and/or a specific task to identify real and potential hazards.
  2. Evaluate the Risk – Estimate the potential loss to people, equipment, materials, and environment due to the hazard.
  3. Select Appropriate Controls – Controls are used to eliminate the hazard or reduce the risk of injury, illness or damage.

When conducting a hazard assessment for work around powerlines, ensure that you consider things like:

  • Overhead and underground lines
  • Weather conditions (wind, rain, ice etc.)
  • Equipment operating in the area
  • Workers in the area
  • Other work being conducted
  • Public access/traffic control

Control Measures

Minimum Clearance

When it comes to electrical safety, there is NO crossing the line. Death or serious injury can result from contact with or proximity to electrical power lines and equipment. Always maintain a safe clearance from electrical lines and equipment.

An employer is required to obtain the safe clearance requirements from the electrical utility when:

  • Materials are piled, stored or handled;
  • Scaffolding is to be erected or dismantled; or
  • A mobile crane, boom truck or similar equipment will operate in an area where overhead or underground conductors are located that are capable of energizing the material, mobile equipment or load.

Specifically, permits are required when working within 5.5 metres (18 feet) of energized power lines. These permits must be obtained from the appropriate electrical utility (Newfoundland Power or NL Hydro).

Other Controls

Always maintain a safe clearance from electrical lines and equipment.  An employer shall not allow material to be piled, stored or handled, a scaffold to be erected or dismantled or mobile crane, boom truck or similar equipment to operate within 5.5 metres of a power line without first obtaining an Energized Power Line Permit from the electrical utility.

Dial Before You Dig! If excavation, digging or other underground work must completed, contact the local electrical utility company to have the location of any underground powerlines identified and clearly marked.

Depending on the types of hazards and the site requirements, the appropriate PPE must be selected and worn.  This might include PPE specific to electrical work.  All persons working in proximity to mobile equipment must also wear hi-visibility apparel, to ensure they can be seen by the equipment operator at all times.

Where a worker may be exposed to a flash fire or electrical equipment flashover, an employer shall ensure that the worker wears flame resistant outerwear and uses other protective equipment appropriate to the hazard.


An operator may also have to communicate with a signal person, particularly if they do not have a clear view of the energized lines.  Prior to work commencing, the appropriate signals must be established.  The signal person must stand in an area where they can be seen by the operator but maintain a distance where they will not be injured.

Communication amongst all workplace parties is vital to ensure that everyone is aware of the hazards and the controls.  The company’s procedure, hazard assessment, and rescue plans are required to be communicated to all workers.  This can be completed during a toolbox meeting with all participants signing the document to indicate their participation.

When working in proximity to energized powerlines, written rescue and evacuation procedures are required, and a worker must be assigned to coordinate them.

Training Requirements

In accordance with Section 483 of the Newfoundland and Labrador Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, anyone who is operating mobile equipment that has the potential to encroach on a power line, is required to complete the approved WorkplaceNL 1/2 day Powerline Hazard Training course. Recertification is required every three years.  Powerline hazard training requirements are set out in WorkplaceNL Powerline Hazard Certification Training Standard.

Additional training that may be required include, but is not limited to:

  • Aerial Work Platform Operation
  • Scaffold Erection and Inspection
  • First Aid

Employers should also ensure that workers are trained on site and equipment-specific hazards and procedures.

NLCSA Powerline Hazard Resources

TitleContentFile TypeLink
Power Line Hazards ProcedureSafe Job Proceduredoc
Working Near Power Lines: Construction, Maintenance & Vegetation Brochurepdf
Trees and Power Lines Fact Sheetpdf
Trees and Power LinesToolbox Talkpdf
Power Line Hazard Poster – GeneralPosterjpeg
Power Line Hazard Poster – Tree TrimmingPosterjpeg
Power Line Hazard Poster – Dump TruckPosterjpeg
Power Line Hazard Poster – PainterPosterjpeg
Power Line Hazard Poster – ExcavationPosterjpeg
Power Lines – High Risk Activity Infosheetpdf

External Resources