Most overhead power lines are made of highly conductive aluminum with a steel core, or are copper—and they are NOT insulated. If you look up at a utility pole or tower you may not be able to identify which lines are communication cables and which are energized wires. You should assume that any wire on a utility pole or tower is energized and dangerous, and stay away. All downed wires should also be considered energized and dangerous—stay far away from them as well.
Don’t be fooled by the covering on the service drop wires that go from utility poles to homes. This coating is designed to protect the service drop from the elements, but it is not true insulation and will not prevent injury to people. This covering will NOT protect you from electrical shock.
Keep yourself, your tools, and all equipment at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines carrying up to 50 kV. And if you are using cranes or derricks in construction, keep equipment 20 feet away from lines carrying up to 350 kV, and 50 feet away from lines carrying greater than 350 kV. Use tape, signs, or barricades to mark a clear safety boundary. Contact Duke Energy to confirm the power line voltage and distance requirements:
- Carolinas: 800-769-3766
- Indiana: 800-343-3525
- Kentucky/Ohio: 800-634-4300
As voltage increases, clearance distances also increase. Contact Duke Energy and consult the OSHA regulations at www.osha.gov for specific safety clearance requirements.
Additional digging guidelines, case studies, instructional videos, and training tools can all be found, at no charge to you, on Duke Energy’s e-SMARTworkers™ website.
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