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  • Mike Kanarick
    Manager of Customer Care and Communications
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    Burlington Electric Department
    585 Pine Street
    Burlington, Vt. 05401
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    Vermont Utilities Warn of Increase in Unsafe Digging and Tree Trimming by Contractors and Customers

    Reports of close-calls with live power lines is a big safety concern
    Dig Safe

    Burlington, VT – Green Mountain Power (GMP), Burlington Electric Department, Vermont Electric Co-op and Washington Electric Co-op are joining together in response to an increase in unsafe digging and tree trimming near live power lines. Incidents have prompted the companies to remind Vermonters always to dig safe and never to perform work, even routine yard maintenance, around power lines. Coming into contact with electrical lines—whether they’re buried or above ground—is extremely dangerous and can be lethal.

    GMP is alarmed to report that the company has received a growing number of reports of Vermonters entering unsafe proximity to its power lines.

    “Whether you are working around your home or working in construction, please survey your space before you begin work,” says Mary Powell, GMP CEO and President. “If you’re going to be digging, be sure to call Dig Safe at 811 in advance to identify any underground lines. If you must perform work in close proximity to power lines, call GMP first to be sure it is safe. Our top priority is keeping customers and employees safe,” she added.

    Many people make false assumptions about electrical safety. Some think that power lines are insulated from contact or may even mistake them for phone lines. Work gloves and rubber boots offer no protection against contact with a power line. 

    “At Burlington Electric, safety is our number one value,” stated Neale Lunderville, Burlington Electric Department General Manager. “We work hard every day to ensure the safety of our lineworkers and our customers and to prevent serious injury or fatality as a result of contacting power lines. We urge all Burlingtonians and Vermonters who are cutting trees or digging to assume nothing and to contact their utility to verify safe tree-cutting distances and to call Dig Safe at 811 prior to digging.”

    “Power lines should not be taken for granted. We want everyone to be safe and aware of the dangers that can come from accidental contacts,” said Patty Richards, Washington Electric Co-op General Manager.  “This is no joke and lives can be put at risk.  Call dig safe and let your utility mark underground lines and please pay attention to overhead wires.  It is for your safety and costs nothing to have lines marked.”   

    Vermont Emergency Management Director Erica Bornemann stressed the need for greater public awareness of electric safety, stating: “After storms, Vermonters should heed warnings and stay away from downed power lines. That caution should also be exercised around any power line. Stay clear and don’t touch anything that may come into contact with lines, either, as currents can run through tree branches, tools, and other objects.”

    “Space, and lots of it, is the only protection from live lines,” Powell noted. “Please stay 50 feet away from overhead and underground power lines, as currents can jump or arc through the air. Don’t touch anything that may come into contact with lines, either, as currents can run through objects. Plan your work carefully, stay safe and always call Dig Safe at 811 and your local power company to report downed or damaged lines.”

    Here is some important safety information at the job site:

    • Keep all vehicles and heavy machinery – cranes, bucket and dump trucks, backhoes, front-end loaders and cement pumpers – out of the danger zone around power lines.

    • If a machine's boom or bucket gets into the danger zone, or comes into contact with a power line, anyone touching the machine – or even standing nearby – is at risk.

    • Designate at least one employee to observe and ensure that the minimum danger zone clearance around power lines is maintained, especially when raising dump trucks beds, booms and cranes.

    • Always have a safety meeting at the site before work begins each day. Be sure all subcontractors on the job are aware of safety issues and adhere to site safety rules.

    • Overhead power lines are NOT insulated – if your body, tools, equipment or vehicle come into contact with a power line, the results can be deadly.

    Always call your local electric company before working near overhead power lines. It’s free!