How to trim around power lines

Updated Mar 24, 2024

Safety Watch Tlc Magazine

The accident: A 35-year-old landscape maintenance crew member is working by himself at a residential home in California. While trimming a palm tree, one of the fronds he is cutting falls and comes in contact with a 16,000-volt electric line located 6 feet away from the tree. The crew member is electrocuted and pronounced dead at the scene.

The bottom line: If crew members are working within 10 feet of an energized power line, they must follow OSHA’s line-clearance tree trimming requirements. This includes receiving specialized training, having a second employee within normal voice communication range and maintaining the proper minimum-approach distance.

Here are safe practices every worker should use when trimming trees near power lines.

  • Determine the voltage(s) of any lines that may pose a hazard before work begins. All lines must be considered as operating at the voltage of the highest-voltage line.
  • Contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing, grounding or shielding power lines.
  • Perform a hazard assessment of the work area before starting.
  • Do not trim trees in dangerous weather conditions, such as high winds, icing, or thunder and lighting.
  • Only use insulated tools and equipment to remove branches and limbs.
  • Wear approved personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, hard hats, hearing protection, non-conductive clothing and harnesses as needed.
  • Use extreme caution when moving ladders and equipment around downed branches and power lines.
  • Inspect trees and limbs for structural weakness before climbing or cutting.
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