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by Share Brandt

Safety First—No Shortcuts

Call before you dig! This nice warm weather makes gardeners’ fingers tingle with anticipation of taking a spade to the ground to plant a tree or shrub. Remember there can be underground cable where you least expect it. Make plans ahead for the project. Don’t take shortcuts; call 8-1-1, the national “Call Before You Dig” number three days before you dig.

May is Electrical Safety Month, and to highlight the observance, is telling the true story of a worker who momentarily failed to follow prescribed procdures around electrical facilities. The shortcut nearly cost Tom Dickey his life.

In a Split Second

It was almost time to leave the construction site that afternoon in 2002. Tom’s safety gear had already been sent back to the shop, when a small job was added to the end of the project. He chose to be efficient and save time instead of safety to go ahead and dig a 40-foot section for conduit.

As an experienced professional he knew all the correct procedures, but in a split second, while kneeling on the ground, he made a small slip as he used the shovel to adjust the conduit’s path. As a result, he came into contact with 7,200 volts from underground power lines. This kind of electric contact inflicts burns on a person—from the inside out—that can continue to burn for days after contact. He survived, but he spent months in the hospital and still lives with pain every day.

Electricity is just there; so integral to everything we do that it’s invisible. After awhile the poles and wires blend into the landscape and go unnoticed in the bustle of daily life. In the house wall, switches and outlets are taken for granted, unless there aren’t enough or not in the right spot. Don’t be lulled into complacency; always respect the power of electrical equipment, always assume it is too many volts to touch.

Be especially careful when working near overhead power lines attached to your house or out buildings. Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet from lines. Never go up on the roof in windy or bad weather. Be extra careful of your surroundings if you go on the roof to install a rooftop antenna or satellite dish, install or clean gutters, or do repair work. Do not use water or blower extensions to clean gutters near electric lines. Be mindful of how high your ladder reaches and where that overhead line is located.

Tree Travails

Trees and power lines don’t mix. Please look up to avoid planting a tree directly under the power line. If you have old-growth trees interfering with the power line do not try to trim them yourself. Leave that to the professionals; call your utility if you think a tree branch may cause a problem.

Kids love to climb trees. If there is a tree in your yard that is near a power line be sure your kids cannot climb in it. Even if the power lines are not touching the tree, they could come in contact when more weight is added to a branch. In that instant touch the spark could be fatal.

To learn more about electrical safety and to see videos about power line safety, visit This site also has links to Electric Universe and E-Smart Kids with fun games and videos about electricity and safety. Learn what to do if your car comes in contact with a power line. Let’s have a wonderful spring and summer with no electrical contact accidents.

No Shortcuts—Safety First!