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Safety Tips

Overhead Hazards
Overhead power lines carrying 750 volts or more are defined as high voltage and are usually not insulated. Lower voltage lines may be, but you still should not touch them.

  • Any overhead wire is a potential hazard. Keep at least ten feet away from high voltage overhead power lines and keep any tools or equipment away also.
  • Use extreme caution when raising, lowering or moving pipe, rods, ladders, equipment or other metal materials near overhead power lines.
  • When guiding a crane load line, make sure it and the crane stay at least ten feet away from live, high voltage power lines.
  • Use extreme caution when painting or cleaning in an area where overhead power lines pass near to a building. Do not touch service wires that enter a building.
  • Do not work on trees or signs closer than ten feet to live, high voltage overhead power lines unless you are trained for the job. If you must work close to such power lines, ask your supervisor to arrange with the power company to guard the lines, disconnect or re-route them.
  • Never climb power poles or install equipment on them.
  • If you are outdoors during an electrical storm: stay away from large trees or poles, especially if they are the tallest in the area; and:
  • If you are in a large flat area such as a field or lake, crouch down with your feet close together and get to shelter as soon as possible. Do not lie flat. Keep to low areas rather than on high points such as ridges of land.

Underground hazards
In many areas, electrical equipment may be located underground.

  • Use extreme caution when digging or trenching any area serviced by underground power lines. Many new housing developments as well as older commercial areas have high voltage electrical cables running underground.
  • Find out the location of underground power lines before digging deeper than 1.5 feet. Have the power company identify the location of underground power lines if there is any doubt. In Kootenai County call 811.
  • Stop digging immediately if you run into a yellow plastic warning ribbon or plank in an area you are digging. (Not all underground cables are marked, although many are.)
  • Do not drive ground rods or other objects more than 1.5 feet into the ground within ten feet of an underground cable. Do not plant trees over underground cables.

Equipment hazards
Electrical equipment and appliances sometimes pose safety hazards.

  • Check that portable power tools are double insulated or are plugged in with a three-prong plug. Never break off or by-pass the third prong.
  • Know where the circuit shut-off switch is for any electrical equipment you are using. Ask for proper instruction before using equipment you are not familiar with. Never turn on a machine or circuit if it has an "Out of Service" sign on it.
  • Use a fused power bar with a three-prong plug to plug more than one piece of equipment into a single power outlet. Be sure the total power drawn is less than the circuit rating.
  • Use only three-wire extension cords rated for exterior use in outdoor locations.
  • Never run power cords or extension cords over or through water. Never touch an electrical tool if your hands or feet are in contact with water. Never use electrical equipment outdoors when it is raining.
  • If a fuse or circuit breaker repeatedly blows, move the equipment to another circuit. If it continues to blow, ask to have a qualified electrician check the circuit.
  • Roll and store extension cords properly to prevent damage. Discard any cords with frayed, cracked or missing insulation. Keep extension cords away from areas where vehicles may pass over them.
  • Disconnect tools before moving, adjusting, cleaning or repairing them. Have them "locked out" with your personal lock if they cannot be disconnected from the main power supply.
  • Only qualified electricians should work on electrical service equipment or wiring.

If an accident happens
If you are the first person on the scene of an electrical accident, use extreme caution. There may still be live electrical equipment in the area. Don't become the next victim. Before you do anything else, call for trained emergency help unless the danger is clearly over. If there is any question that a risk may continue, follow this procedure:

  • Call for trained emergency help. Keep everyone well back until the power is off.
  • If the victim is no longer in contact with the power source, help the victim move to a safe place. Offer first aid if necessary.
  • If the victim is still in contact with a low voltage power source (less than 750 volts), quickly look for the electrical power source and disconnect if at the source if possible.
  • If this is not practical, you may be able to separate the victim from the power source using a dry non-conductive broom handle or other dry insulating material. Do not directly touch the victim unless he or she is separated from the power source. Although many materials are non-conductors at any voltages, they must be dry.
  • If you cannot separate the person from the low voltage power source, stay clear and make sure others stay clear too.
  • If the accident involves high voltage wires (above 750 volts), the ground itself may be hazardous. Stay at least 30 feet away and keep others away until trained emergency help arrives.
  • If there is a danger of fire, call the fire department. Then use a chemical or gas fire extinguisher if possible. Never use water.
  • If you are in a vehicle or on a machine that is in contact with electricity, stay where you are. You are safer where you are. If you attempt to leave, you may become a path for the electricity to ground.
  • If you must leave a vehicle or machine that is in contact with electricity because of fire or possible explosion, do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Jump clear of the vehicle. Land with your feet close together. Do not fall onto your hands. You may become a path for electricity to travel between different areas in the ground. HOP OR SHUFFLE TO SAFETY. Keeping your feet together, hop or shuffle at least 30 feet from the power source.

 More information on electrical safety can be found on the Electrical Safety Foundation International website.

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