Stay back: Your life's on the line

Spanning across our city is an extensive network of energy infrastructure, comprising over 3,000 kilometres of underground cables and 2,700 kilometres of overhead wires supported by 50,000 hydro poles. Serving as the lifelines of modern living, these wires deliver electricity to illuminate our homes and businesses, power our devices, and drive our progress. However, within this technological marvel lurks a silent danger - the potential hazards posed by power lines.

Although Power Line Safety Week (May 13-19) has concluded, it's never too late to reaffirm our commitment to respect the power of electricity and prioritize safety in every aspect of our lives. Whether we're embarking on a home DIY improvement project or simply enjoying leisure time in our yards, being mindful of power lines can mean all the difference. 

To delve deeper into the importance of power line safety, we spoke with Randy Hopkin, Supervisor of Occupational and Public Safety at Hydro Ottawa. Hopkin brings a wealth of experience and expertise from working closely with Hydro Ottawa crews, ensuring safety around power lines on a daily basis.

According to Hopkin, the most important thing for the community to remember is stay away from power lines. He emphasizes, “The thing that concerns me the most about customer safety is around downed wires. Anytime there is a fallen power line, you must maintain a safe distance. If you stay a bus length away - that’s 10 metres (33 feet) - that’s the safest spot for you, if not further.”  Additionally, he stresses the importance of promptly reporting any downed power lines to the local utility company to mitigate risks and ensure public safety.

If you see a downed power line, call 911 immediately and then call Hydro Ottawa at 613 738-6400.

Stay back 10 metres

Following Hopkin’s advice, it's important to understand the recommended minimum distances to maintain from power lines. "You shouldn't be within 10 feet of a high voltage power line," Hopkin says. "And you should not be within a metre of the service that goes into your house." Hydro Ottawa crews take strict measures to mitigate their own risks when working near power lines. If they are operating within the limits of approach, which is within that 10-foot window, they wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) and rubber gloves. Even when using a bucket truck, whether within 10 feet or not, they must wear full PPE and rubber gloves from the moment they enter the bucket until they finish their task. 

Recommended safe distances also encompass proactive measures such as vegetation management, where our crews ensure tree branches and other vegetation is kept at a safe distance of three metres or 10 feet from primary cables

When it comes to handling equipment safely, Hydro Ottawa has robust procedures and policies in place. Hopkin explains, "For tasks like bringing in a pole within the limits of approach, it's crucial to have a spotter guiding and signaling the end of your boom or pole." This practice of having a spotter should also be adopted by the public to ensure their safety when working with large tools and equipment near power lines. These measures ensure that everyone stays safe.

Power line worker in a bucket truck


Power line safety tips

Heed Hopkin's advice and take proactive steps to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. By following simple guidelines and staying informed, we can all play a part in mitigating the risks associated with power lines and fostering a safer community for everyone.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings and look up to identify the location of power lines before starting any outdoor activity. 
  • Maintain a safe distance of at least three metres (about 10 feet) from all overhead power lines, including any tools such as ladders or pruners.  
  • If you spot a downed power line, stay back at least ten metres (about 33 feet) and report it immediately to 911 and Hydro Ottawa at 613 738-6400.
  • Handle equipment safely by carrying ladders, pruners, and other long equipment horizontally to minimize the risk of accidental contact with overhead lines. When operating large vehicles or machinery near power lines, always maintain a safe distance and remain vigilant to prevent accidental contact.
  • Plant trees at a safe distance from overhead power lines, ensuring that branches are trimmed to prevent interference. If trees have already encroached upon the power lines, contact us for help or request a temporary outage for tree removal on your property.
  • Before starting any project that involves digging, such as planting a tree, installing a pool or building a fence, contact Ontario One Call to locate all underground infrastructure, including power cables, gas pipes, communication lines, and water pipes.
  • Educate children about the dangers of power lines and discourage them from playing near or climbing on utility poles. Hydro Ottawa offers an exciting contest for students in Kindergarten through to grade 8 which tests their electrical safety knowledge.

For more safety information, visit our website or the Electrical Safety Authority.


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