HARRISBURG, PA — As part of enhanced statewide safety efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) is urging homeowners and contractors to use extra caution for potential electrical hazards while at home or at work, while also avoiding the possibility of accidents, injuries and service disruptions.
According to data compiled by the PUC’s Safety Division, an average of six Pennsylvania residents are killed and 24 people are seriously injured every year because of accidental contact with utility company power lines. Roofers, crane operators and other construction workers are at the greatest risk, but homeowners working with ladders and poles generate the second-highest number of incidents.
“Spring is a time of year for increased interest in home improvement projects, but safety needs to be at the forefront of any work you may be considering – to help protect yourself and your family, and to avoid further strains on the resources of utilities and first responders,” said PUC Commissioner Andrew Place. “Also, a sharp increase in teleworking and more homebound activities raises additional concerns about home electric safety.”
The PUC stressed that the best way to protect yourself, your families and your co-workers against the possibility of death, injury, service interruptions or costly repairs is to identify hazards and develop proper safety plans before any work begins. Anyone planning work around power lines should check with their local utility for information about making the work area safer.
Also, the Commission encouraged homeowners and businesses to postpone non-essential work near power lines – noting that delaying the start of those projects can help safeguard against accidental damage and prevent unplanned outages during this stressful time, while also allowing utility crews to focus their resources on maintaining essential services.
Electric Safety Tips
The Commission offered the following electric safety tips for working around the home:
- Locate all overhead power lines before starting any project.
- Stay at least 10 feet away from all overhead power lines – and remain at least 35 feet away from any downed lines.
- Carry ladders and equipment horizontally.
- Look all around before moving ladders or other equipment.
- Avoid touching any fallen lines, or anything in contact with power lines – including sagging trees with broken limbs.
- Never try to remove trees or limbs from power lines.
- Stay away from objects or puddles in contact with downed power lines.
- Notify the utility company of any issues.
- Provide utility crews with ample room to complete restoration and maintenance work on their facilities.
“The PUC and Pennsylvania’s utilities are committed to safety, and assistance is available to make work areas near electric utilities safe,” Commissioner Place stated. “For the safety of everyone involved – from contractors and homeowners to utility company workers and bystanders – we urge people to review important safety information on the Electric Safety page of the PUC website and contact the local utility company when planning any project.”
Home Electric Safety Tips
For residents either teleworking or virtually learning from home, the Commission provides the following general electric safety tips:
- Avoid overloading outlets.
- Regularly inspect electrical cords and extension cords for damage.
- Use extension cords only on a temporary basis.
- Never run cords under rugs/carpets, doors, or windows.
- Make sure cords do not become tripping hazards.
- Never plug a space heater or fan into an extension cord or power strip.
- Make sure your home has working smoke alarms.
- Unplug appliances when not in use to save energy and minimize the risk of shock or fire.
Safe Digging & PA One Call
In a separate but related safety effort, the PUC recently joined the Pennsylvania One Call System (PA One Call) in asking homeowners, businesses contractors not to begin any non-essential excavation projects – noting that delaying the start of digging projects during the current pandemic can help safeguard against accidental damage to underground lines that could disrupt utility services and strain utility resources.
The Commission is also reminding homeowners and contractors of their obligation to contact PA One Call at least three days before starting any excavation. PA One Call alerts all utilities within an intended digging area and prompts them to mark where facilities are located on that property. State residents can dial 8-1-1 to connect with the system, while non-Pennsylvania residents can dial 1-800-242-1776.
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