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April 2017

Ask Technical

My employees do remodeling work and frequently encounter live 240-volt electrical service lines going into residential homes. I have been told that we can work up to these lines as long as we don't touch them. Is this true?

 

Your question comes up frequently, especially for siders, painters, chimney maintenance, and telecommunications installers. Residential service drops operating at less than 300 volts that are properly installed, maintained, and insulated are designed to be safe to contact – at the time they are installed.

However, over time, the lines may have been damaged, the insulating cover may have become degraded, or the lines may even carry voltages greater than 300 volts. Only the power company that owns the lines can determine if they are safe to touch, but the power company may be reluctant to do an evaluation. The employer is generally not qualified to determine the condition of the lines, and so must maintain a safe distance or request the electrical system owner to install protective barriers or de-energize the lines.

Also, when your workers are on scaffolding, they must stay at least three feet away from lines that are 300 volts or less, and at least 10 feet away from lines that are between 300 and 50,000 volts.

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