October 18, 2021
Safety tips for arborists and landscapers this fall
With fall maintenance season in full swing, landscapers and arborists are urged to stop and look for overhead powerlines.

Powerlines present significant dangers with either direct or indirect contact. In fact, comparing 2020 to 2018, there have been four times as many overhead powerline contacts made by Ontarians in non-work settings. According to the survey of over 1,000 Ontario homeowners, 39 per cent don't look to see where powerlines are located when doing maintenance and repair work on their homes.

"With people choosing to spend more time outside because of the pandemic, it's important to remember to look up and look out for powerlines when completing renovations or doing yard work," said Patrick Falzon, powerline safety specialist, Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). "Keeping yourself, loved ones and any high reach tools at least three metres away from powerlines can help everyone stay free from electrical harm."  

ESA has compiled a list of safety tips for arboritsts and landscapers, particularly as unpredictable weather conditions may warrant extra time and attention to outdoor yard work:
  • Distractions can be deadly. Before you start any outdoor work, locate all overhead powerlines. Be especially aware of powerlines that may be hidden by trees, particularly after storms.
  • Stop, look, live. Stay back 3 metres. You do not have to touch a powerline to get a deadly shock. Electricity can jump or "arc" to you or your tools if you get too close. Have someone watch to make sure you and your tools stay at least three metres (10 feet) back from powerlines.
  • Plant trees away from overhead powerlines. Avoid problems down the line by determining how large the tree will grow and planting it a safe distance away, so it does not grow into a powerline. If your trees have already grown into the powerlines, contact your local utility or a utility arborist. Do not prune trees around powerlines yourself and carry your ladder sideways – never upright!
  • Call or click before you dig. Before you start construction on a fence, deck, or other landscaping project, check with Ontario One Call. They will tell you about any utility-owned infrastructure you may need to work around. Underground services that you own requires private locates.
  • Talk to your kids about powerline safety. ESA's survey showed 71 per cent of Ontario homeowners with children don't talk to them about powerline safety. Remind children never to climb trees near powerlines. Make sure they look closely, since leaves and branches can hide the wires. The green boxes on lawns or in parks are also off-limits.
  • Watch for downed powerlines. Stay back 10 metres. You can get an electrical shock from a downed powerline, even if you don't make direct contact. The ground around the downed powerline may be energized. ESA's survey revealed 25 per cent of Ontario homeowners have encountered a downed powerline. However, half don't know to keep at least 10 metres away. If you see one, stay back and call 911 and the Local Distribution Company immediately.
  • Aerial lifts are essential equipment but operating them requires extra vigilance. Make sure you have clearance when operating aerial lift equipment and bucket trucks. Always keep equipment at least three metres away from powerlines. The use of a competent designated signaller will ensure the equipment does not encroach on the required three metre clearance.
    • If the lift or bucket contacts a powerline, the ground around it could become energized. Stay in the bucket until the power has been shut off and call 911 and the local utility right away.
    • Do not let anyone come within 10 metres of the lift, including first responders. Wait until a utility worker on site can confirm the power is off.
  • Everyone has a role to play. It is good practice to have a tailboard meeting with all crew members before starting work. Powerline safety is a collective responsibility, which means every member of the crew should be watching for powerlines and looking out for one another.
For more information about powerline safety, visit esasafe.com/safety and connect with the ESA via Twitter @homeandsafety and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ElectricalSafetyAuthority.