BC Hydro sees uptick in power line accidents during yard work

Almost 400 accidents since 2013 reported to BC Hydro, due to misconceptions and lack of safety

Despite BC Hydro’s warnings to keep a minimum three metres from power lines when trimming trees or doing other yard work, a surprising number of British Columbians are unprepared or unaware of vital safety rules.

According to a new report by BC Hydro, incidents involving ‘weekend loggers’ – people who do yard work or gardening near power lines or poles – are up 60 per cent from 2013.

That’s almost 400 accidents, occurring mostly in the spring and summer months, that have been reported to BC Hydro and attended by a BC Hydro crew in the past five years.

A lot of these incidents have to do with misinformation and false perceptions around working near power poles, a new survey suggests.

BC Hydro said that when asked in a province-wide survey, 7,500 B.C. residents reported close calls with electricity while pruning trees, as well as work on a roof such as cleaning gutters or replacing shingles.

Of those surveyed, 80 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know how far their tools should be from overhead power lines when doing yard work.

More than 30 per cent also mistakenly believe that rubber-soled shoes or gloves protect them from danger when trimming near power lines, and 18 per cent believe trees cannot conduct electricity.

Almost 10 per cent of respondents said they think it is safe to remove branches from a tree that has fallen or become entangled on a power line on their property, so long as the branches are not touching the line directly.

Most service lines from BC Hydro poles to houses carry both 120-Volts and 240-Volts, with the higher voltage used to power large appliances such as clothes dryers and stoves.

The severity of an injury from electrical shock depends on the amount of electrical current and length of time it passes through the body, according to BC Hydro.

Even prolonged exposure to a 120-Volt household electrical current – something that can happen when muscles in hands and arms freeze up, or continue to hold on as a reaction to the shock – can lead to respiratory paralysis to the point that breathing stops.

In response to the survey, BC Hydro has launched its “If you’re near, stay clear” campaign, urging people to stay at least three metres away from power lines at all times.

During Electrical Safety Day this month, staff went to more than 200 schools in over 60 B.C. cities to educate students on electrical safety.

If any part of a tree or hedge is within three metres of a power line, property owners are asked to call 1-800-224-9376, and call a certified utility arborist to prune trees.

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