Power Line Safety and Trees

Dangers of Working Near High Voltage Power Lines

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Pruning trees next to power lines can be dangerous to you and others. Unqualified tree workers put their lives in jeopardy without specialized training or the proper insulated tools required to work near high voltage power lines. Hiring an unqualified tree contractor could put the contractor and yourself at a significant liability risk, should a worker be injured or killed while performing work.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) requires that persons working within certain distances of overhead power lines be qualified and trained properly. For details see Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, Articles 37 and 38, “Electrical Safety Orders.”

PG&E may be able to assist with your tree pruning needs by creating a safe distance between the tree and the power lines so that you can hire your own contractor to perform additional work needed. PG&E does not prune for service drops. These wires are low voltage and insulated and do not require the same distance requirements as high voltage power lines. If you feel there is significant strain on your home service drop, you can call 1-800-743-5000 to request a temporary service disconnect. This way, you or your contractor can perform the necessary tree work in a safe unobstructed environment.

Tree Worker Safety - free safety materials

PG&E cares about your safety and pruning trees near power lines is dangerous. Tree workers put their lives in jeopardy if they don’t have specialized training or the proper insulated tools required to work near high-voltage power lines. Learn about how PG&E can assist with pruning trees around power lines and how to order FREE Tree Worker Safety materials.

Pruning Trees near Power Lines

PG&E is working every day to prune the trees growing too close to our facilities to reduce fire hazards, ensure public safety and provide uninterrupted electrical service. If there is ever a question of your trees being too close to power lines, please call 1-800-743-5000 (1-800-PGE-5000) or contact us for assistance. We can arrange to check the trees growing near power lines.

Planting Trees near Utility Easements

When preparing to plant vegetation near utilities there are a few things that need to be considered. Trees need space to grow both above and below ground. Proper selection and placement of trees under or near power lines reduces fire hazards, limits the need for frequent pruning, increases property value and can add beauty to your community.

Before choosing a tree to plant near the power lines, please visit the Urban Forest Ecosystem Institute’s SelecTree Utility Precautions page. It will help facilitate your tree selection by providing a comprehensive list of appropriate tree species to plant near utility lines. For a full search of the database containing of over 1400 different tree species, please visit Selectree’s Tree Selection Guide. This site provides detailed growing information about a number of trees and shrubs that are suitable to grow in your area.

Care should be taken to plant trees at least six feet to the side of underground facilities. Underground utility cables and equipment need to be accessible for maintenance and repair. To find out where underground facilities are located before you plant, call "USA" Underground Service Alert at 1-800-227-2600. To learn more about USA, visit their Web site at www.usanorth.org.

Tree Houses near Power Lines

Tree-house Photograph

Tree houses near PG&E facilities are especially dangerous because children are encouraged to climb near power lines. Injury or death can result if:

  • The tree becomes electrified when branches contact high voltage lines.
  • Children climb from the tree house into the high or low voltage lines.
  • Children put sticks or “flagpoles” into the high or low voltage lines.

When a PG&E representative has identified a tree-house near the high voltage power lines, the hazard will be marked with flagging. You will be contacted either by phone or letter to alert you to the danger.

PG&E is willing to assist in eliminating this safety hazard. We can either prune the tree a safe distance from power lines, allowing the property owner to remove the tree house, or we can remove the tree, leaving the tree house material for the property owner to relocate away from the power lines.

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For additional power line safety for children, please visit PG&E Electrical Safety World.

Defensible Space around Your Home

You can help protect your property by creating a defensible space around your house. Defensible space is a perimeter, surrounding your home and other structures, which will prevent the spread of fire.

A few tips for creating a defensible space and preventing the spread of fire to your home are:

  • Keep a clearing of at least 100 feet around your house to reduce fire hazards.
  • Leave space between the vegetation you plant to eliminate a continuous path.
  • Create “fuel break” such as driveways, gravel walkways or lawn.
  • Dispose of cuttings and debris promptly, according to local regulations.
Brush Fire Near Homes Photograph

You can find more of these Fire-wise tips at www.firewise.org The Firesafe Council also provides a Homeowners Checklist for how to make your home fire-safe.

Want to know more about managing the vegetation on your property, check out this Natural Resource Guide put together with the Nevada County Resource Conservation District.

Storm and Outage Safety

Our Vegetation Management Program helps to minimize storm damage and power outages. You can also help by reporting these signs of trouble:

  • Trees that show signs of uprooting or are leaning toward power lines.
  • Tree branches that have come into previous contact with power lines.
  • Trees that have blown over by strong winds and are near power lines.
  • Downed power lines – Call 911.

During emergency efforts to restore power, trees and/or branches may be removed from the power lines by PG&E crews and/or their tree pruning contractors. Once the vegetation has been cleared from the lines, the final clean-up of storm damaged trees is the responsibility of the tree owner. When outages occur, PG&E is only responsible for restoring the electric service. The homeowner is responsible for contacting the phone and/or cable companies if work is needed to restore those services.

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