Overhead Power Line Safety


MEA is committed to the safety of both our members and the employees of our Cooperative. We urge anyone working in the vicinity of power lines to use the utmost caution to avoid  injuries, save lives, and prevent power outages and property damage. Coming into contact with a power line is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. Here are some precautions that you can take to stay safe.


If you are working in the vicinity of overhead power lines, always look up first and take precautions to steer clear. It only takes one accidental contact to create a serious and potentially deadly situation.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1992 and 2005 at least 154 workers were killed by electrocution when a metal ladder came into contact with overhead power lines.
  • Assume all overhead power lines are energized; do not use a ladder near them.
  • Look up for power lines when using tools or equipment of any kind. Even nonmetallic tools and objects can conduct electricity.
  • Look up for power lines when putting up scaffolding, framing a building, painting or trimming trees.
  • Trees can conduct conduct electricity. Before touching a tree near a power line, look up and determine the overhead clearance from the top of the tree. Keep a safe distance away as required by OSHA.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that equipment be kept at least 10 feet away from power lines with voltages up to 50kV. For lines with voltages higher than 50kV, the required distance is even greater. When uncertain of a power line’s voltage, stay a minimum of 20 feet away for voltages up to 350 kV and 50 feet away for voltages greater than 350kV. Cranes are required to take additional steps before beginning work (see OSHA Standards 29 CFR 1926.1400).


If the vehicle or equipment you are operating contacts a power line                                                  You should:
If you are safe and not in danger from a fire or contacting a power line
  • Stay in your vehicle.
  • If possible, drive the vehicle or equipment to a safe distance away from the power line.
  • Warn others not to approach the equipment.
  • If you are unable to drive away, stay put and call 911 (Inform them your equipment or vehicle is in contact with a power line!
If your vehicle or equipment is disabled and you are in danger
  • Jump as far away from the equipment as you can and land with both feet together. (No part of your body should touch the equipment and the ground at the same time.)
  • Hop or shuffle away from the equipment with your feet together to reduce the risk of electric shock.
  • Once clear, do not return to the equipment until MEA arrives and declares it safe.
  • Call 911!
If a someone else is in danger
  • Stay away.
  • Warn others to stay away.
  • Call 911!


 Proper landscaping near electric and other utility rights-of-way helps prevent power outages and allows maintenance and repair crews to access the corridors and equipment safely and efficiently. Learn more about proper landscaping.


Burn barrels, fire pits and other controlled flames need to be at least 50 feet away from underground or overhead utility corridors.


Hanging signs on power poles greatly increases the risk of serious injury to MEA linemen. Linemen wear protective clothing, including special gloves, to prevent electrical shock. Protruding nails, heavy staples, hooks or fence wire can tear their equipment, thereby increasing their chance of electrocution. When linemen climb poles, they wear special boots and climbing gaffs. If these gaffs hit metal they could be deflected and cause a fall, which could result in a serious injury to the worker.

Electric poles are the property of MEA, and maintenance crews have been instructed to remove signs or other nonessentials from the poles.