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Avoiding dangers from Overhead lines

Overhead Lines


Overhead power lines can be confused with telephone lines but the difference is that they carry electricity between 230 and 33,000 volts. Even contact with a 230 volt line can kill!

Lines may be hard to see at night or against a dark or very bright background. They are normally bare (not insulated). A common misconception is that rubber-soled shoes protect you from shocks – they do not.

Higher voltage lines normally have yellow ‘Danger of Death’ warning notices fitted to the poles or pylons but lower voltage lines may not be marked. At higher voltages electricity may jump short distances through the air (known as 'arcing'). This means you need not touch an overhead electric power line to get a fatal electric shock, if an implement that can conduct electricity is near the line e.g. a carbon fibre fishing rod.  It is extremely dangerous to fly a kite beside overhead power lines.

The Safe Use of Mechanical Plant in the Vicinity of Electricity Overhead Lines

Every year in the UK on average, two people are killed and many more are injured when mechanical plant and machinery comes into contact or close proximity to overhead electricity lines. This information has been produced for anyone who uses mobile plant, (such as Hiabs, MEWPs, Tipper Lorries and Trailers, Grab Lorries, Concrete Conveyors and Excavators) for short duration work and provides general guidance on how to avoid becoming part of these statistics.


More detailed general information on this subject is available in the following publications from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

GS6 – Avoidance of Danger from Overhead Lines.

HS(G) 47 – Avoiding Danger from Underground Services.

AFAG 804 – Electricity at Work: Forestry and Arboriculture.

This information can also be obtained at Finally…. Please, always remember that electricity overhead lines can be very dangerous – the general rule is STAY AWAY and STAY SAFE!

Safe use of mechanical Plant

  • Treat all overhead lines as live and dangerous
  • Any contact may be fatal or cause very serious injuries
  • Electricity can jump gaps
  • Before you set up or use plant near to lines – STOPandLOOK UP
  • Take special care and use lights in the dark or poor light conditions
  • If there are lines in the vicinity of your work – stay well away
  • Set up your plant with care to reduce the chance of contact

Communication Information
For advice, telephone the MEA 687687

This information is based on from guidance provided by ENA (Energy Networks Association) on behalf of electricity companies. Content kindly provided by Western Power Distribution © WPD 2007

Downloadable Documents
Acrobat PDF FileLook Out Booklet (501 kb)
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Look Out Booklet

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