Stories & Features

Trimming trees? Check for power lines, know to stay three metres away from lines

Survey shows nearly 75% of us don’t know safe distance from power lines

Spring has finally arrived, and you can see it in the way trees and shrubs have burst into life. Before you venture out to start pruning, commit to memory this one simple, vitally important rule: Always stay back at least three metres – about the length of a standard four-door car – from power lines.

It’s a rule worth repeating to members of your family and your friends. Why? A recent survey showed that nearly three quarters of British Columbians couldn’t identify the safe distance they should maintain between equipment they're using and the power lines near their property.

"Take a couple of moments to understand what you're going to be doing in the yard, and to identify if there are any potential hazards," says Jonny Knowles, BC Hydro'’s public safety lead. "Have a plan."

Contact with a power line can cause severe injury, or even death. While it's the property owner's responsibility to ensure vegetation on their property is clear of power lines, it’s not always safe to do that tree trimming on your own. If any part of the tree or hedge is within three metres of a power line, call 1 800 BCHYDRO or a certified utility arborist. Only a professional trained to safely work with vegetation close to power lines should be doing the work.

Before you start trimming, read this safety information

  • First, locate the line: Look around and locate power lines before beginning any work outdoors.
  • Trees conduct electricity: It’s not just metal that conducts electricity. Branches that touch power lines can make the tree a safety hazard.
  • Stay back: Always maintain a safe distance from power lines, both for you and the equipment you’re using. Stay back at least three metres from power lines near your home – about the length of a standard four-door car.
  • Be aware of the arc: If you get too close, electricity can "arc" or jump from power lines across a gap, to tools or ladders that you’re using.
  • Call before you dig: About 12% of power lines are underground. Be aware of underground power lines, gas lines and other utilities to stay safe. To find out what’s buried and where not to dig, call 1 800 474 6886 or use the Click to Dig online option.