Outdoor Electrical Safety

These tips will help you pay attention to your surroundings when working or playing outdoors.

Knowing Your Surroundings

  • Before beginning any work or play activity, conduct a thorough survey that identifies any power lines, utility poles, guy wires, service drops and other power-related equipment. Use a spotter when operating heavy equipment.
  • Establish a clearance boundary around power lines before any type activity begins.
  • Call Dig Safe (1-888-DIG-SAFE) for all underground work. It's the law. If you do not call and you hit an underground line, you could be hurt or killed. You may also be held liable for damages.

Work or Play: Beware

  • Beware of anything metal around wires. Keep in mind you don't actually have to touch the wire to get into trouble. Electricity can "leap" to a conductor like a ladder if brought close to an energized wire, so always keep yourself and metal objects at least 10 feet away from power lines.
  • When using an aluminum ladder, check above you for power lines. Aluminum is an exceptionally good conductor of electricity. If you touch a power line with an aluminum ladder, you could be seriously injured or killed.
  • Remember: Tree limbs can conduct electricity as they contain water. Electricity can pass through a branch that is touching a line, shocking the victim sufficient to cause injury, a fall from the tree or death.
  • Kids should be warned not climb trees or build tree houses in trees with lines nearby.
  • Leave tree trimming to a professional. But, if you are pruning trees with a long-handled pruning instrument, especially a metal one, check above you to avoid touching a power line or any limbs that are growing into power lines.
  • Never attempt to move an object (tree limb, kite, model airplane, etc.) from a power line yourself. Never climb the pole.
  • Grounded three-pronged extension cords are recommended for outdoor work. Periodically examine extension cords for breaks or damaged insulation. Replace if defective. Ground Fault Interrupters, or GFIs, are a good investment for all outdoor circuits.

Landscaping Dos and Dont's

  • Avoid planting tall-growing trees under power lines. The little tree being planted today could eventually grow into the lines, creating a safety hazard for your children and our maintenance crews who climb it. In addition, the limbs could break off, becoming entangled in the power lines, causing serious problems.
  • Trees, shrubs or vines that are too close to poles may need to be trimmed so utility workers can get access to the poles. Keeping clear access to utility electric equipment gives line crews the room to perform inspections and repairs – and keeps everyone safe.
  • Ask your nursery how tall your baby tree will grow once it has matured. If it is expected to grow under 30 feet at maturity, it can be planted near or under overhead utility lines. If it is expected to grow between 30 feet and 50 feet at maturity, it needs to be planted at least 30 feet from the roadside wires. If it is expected to grow more than 50 feet at maturity, it should be planted at least 50 feet from the wires. Landscaping this way ensures sagging and falling branches will not disrupt electric service.
  • Find out how sprawling the tree’s branches will be at maturity. A tree planted 30 feet away from an electric line can still interfere with the wire if the branches spread.
  • Although it is tempting to landscape around ground mounted utility equipment, avoid doing so. During an outage, WMECO crews may need to access to the equipment serving a homeowner’s house.
  • Keep shrubs and structures at least 12 feet from the “door” of a pad-mount transformer and at least three feet from other sides.
  • Landscaping too close to the transformer restricts air circulation, which can cause equipment failure and can delay the completion of your restoration work. In addition, electrical workers need space to open the transformer safely when working on underground power lines.
  • Don’t plant anything within three feet of an electric meter. The device should be accessible to meter readers. Also, please do not fence in the meter.
  • Again, always call Dig Safe at (888) DIG-SAFE (344-7233) before you begin any groundwork.