Electric Lines and Well Drilling – A Dangerous Combination

July 26, 2010

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Intensified local drilling of water wells has led to an increase in potentially fatal activity around power lines in the Klamath Basin.

“Due to the local water shortage, more farmers are hiring well drillers to set new wells or to deepen existing ones,” said Jay Neil, Pacific Power distribution manager in Klamath Falls. “When power lines or other electrical equipment are nearby, however, special precautions must be taken to avoid accidental electrical contact. Careless actions can have disastrous consequences.”

State and federal laws require a 10-foot circle of safety around power lines, the minimum clearance that must be kept when working in the area. This applies to drilling equipment, cranes and other heavy equipment as well as to ladders and irrigation pipes.

The best way to comply with the law and ensure the safety of workers is to completely avoid drilling wells near power lines. If that is not an option, drillers must contact Pacific Power well in advance of setting up drilling equipment.

“For safety, the best method is to de-energize the line while drilling work is going on,” said Neil. “That takes time, so plan a few weeks in advance when possible.” The work is billed to the requesting customer; other customers don’t pay for these costs.

For more information or to schedule the line work, please call Pacific Power toll-free, 24/7 at 888-221-7070.

About Pacific Power

In 2010, Pacific Power celebrates 100 years serving customers and communities. From our beginnings -- serving 7,000 customers in four Northwest communities -- Pacific Power now provides electric service to more than 733,000 customers in Oregon, Washington and California. Our goal is to provide our customers with value for their energy dollar, and safe, reliable electricity, for another 100 years. Pacific Power is part of PacifiCorp, one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States, with 1.7 million customers in six western states.

Editor’s note: Following are useful safety precautions for those working around electricity in agricultural, construction and other settings.

  • Look up. Always be aware of the location of nearby overhead power lines while lifting long items, operating crane booms or raising truck beds.
  • Most overhead power lines are not insulated. Even if a protective blanket is installed, it is only intended as a visible reminder; the line under it is most likely energized and extremely dangerous.
  • Follow the 10-foot rule. Keep everything – yourself, the tools and materials you are handling and the equipment you are operating – at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. Any contact with wires by equipment, pipe or even branches can be fatal.
  • Call before you dig. Call 811 to have your local underground utility locator service mark all utility lines for free before you dig.
  • Point out the location of power lines at daily briefings. Assume all overhead lines are energized and potentially dangerous.
  • Use a safety spotter. No equipment operator working alone can safely judge the distance for the equipment to overhead power lines. The spotter’s only job should be to keep personnel and equipment a safe distance from overhead power lines and other hazards.
  • Never stack or store irrigation pipe, hay and hay bales, or other materials directly underneath or adjacent to power lines. Never stand an irrigation pipe on end near a power line.
  • Always lower grain augers and other crop handling and tilling equipment before moving them anywhere near power lines. Have someone spot for you.
  • Irrigate with care. Do not spray water on power lines, equipment or structures.
  • Use caution when moving equipment near power poles. Beware of hooking guy wires (non-energized wires used to tether end-poles to the ground) when operating vehicles or moving tools and equipment.

Follow these guidelines if a power line falls onto the vehicle, combine or heavy equipment you are operating:

  • If you can do so safely, drive the vehicle or equipment away from the line.
  • Stay seated until professional rescue workers say it’s safe to get off.
  • Warn others to stay away. Anyone who touches the vehicle or equipment, or even the ground nearby, may be injured or killed.
  • Have someone immediately call both 911 and Pacific Power at 888-221-7070.
  • If fire or other immediate danger forces you to leave the vehicle or equipment, jump clear, keeping both feet together. Do not touch the ground and the vehicle/equipment at the same time. Shuffle away with small steps, keeping your feet together and on the ground, or hop away keeping both feet together.
  • Call 911 if someone makes contact with electricity and needs medical attention. Never touch a person or object in contact with electricity, since you could also become part of the electrical current’s path to the ground and be seriously injured or killed.
  • If a line has fallen on the ground or on some other object or piece of equipment, always assume it’s energized. Stay clear, keep others away and call 911 and Pacific Power at 888-221-7070.

For safety materials, including Pacific Power’s Electrical safety on your farm or ranch brochure, Alerta! Fuera de Casa brochure in Spanish, and Look Up and Live irrigation safety stickers in English and Spanish – or to schedule a free safety presentation – call Pacific Power toll free at 800-375-7085 or visit www.pacificpower.net/safety. For all other information, including safety assistance around power lines, call toll free at 888-221-7070.

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