Do you know how far away you and your equipment need to be from power lines before you begin attacking tree branches? Many people don’t, and risk serious injury. Photo: Matthew Paul Argall.

Do you know how far away you and your equipment need to be from power lines before you begin attacking tree branches? Many people don’t, and risk serious injury. Photo: Matthew Paul Argall.

‘Weekend logger’ electrical contact incidents on the rise

Many homeowners risk injury, or worse, by not staying safe around power lines.

A report released by BC Hydro finds electrical contact incidents involving “weekend loggers” are up 60 per cent from 2013.

The report—titled “Crossing the line: The dangerous rise of incidents involving power lines and ‘weekend loggers’”—found there have been more than 400 incidents over the past five years, and many more go unreported.

Many of these incidents could have resulted in serious injury or death. In fact, the report estimates that 7,500 British Columbians have had a close call with electricity while pruning trees or doing work on a roof, such as cleaning gutters or replacing shingles.

According to a survey of 800 British Columbians conducted for the report, a large number of “weekend loggers”—homeowners trimming trees and pruning hedges on their property—are unprepared, or unaware of vital safety rules.

Eighty per cent of those surveyed do not know how far their tools should be from overhead power lines when doing yard work, and 60 per cent of those surveyed trim trees, bushes, and hedges near power lines without the help of a professional.

“Contact with a power line can cause severe injury or death—and accidents happen every year,” says Chris O’Riley, president and chief operating officer, BC Hydro. “That’s why we want to remind the public that when trimming a tree, a property owner, their equipment, and the tree should be at least three metres—about a car length—away from a power line.”

The same report also finds there are other important safety rules British Columbians are unaware of. Thirty per cent of those surveyed are under the mistaken impression that tools and ladders must touch a power line to be dangerous. However, electricity can “arc” or jump from power lines across a gap to tools and ladders.

Twenty per cent of those surveyed believe trees cannot conduct electricity. Trees do conduct electricity, and branches that touch power lines can make the tree a safety hazard, especially when wet.

Public safety is a top priority at BC Hydro, where safety is promoted year-round through a number of channels, including on radio and television, online, and face-to-face at a variety of community events around the province.

BC Hydro also offers safety programs for elementary and secondary students, as well as free training for trades workers and first responders.

For more information on how to stay safe around electricity, visit http://bit.ly/2LXUjQj.