Overhead Power Line Safety

Electric utilities have a tremendous responsibility to keep the public safe, both by providing them with reliable power and by maintaining power lines.


Overhead power lines are generally the lowest-cost method of transmission for electric power, but they present certain risks. Trees can contact lines due to unmanaged growth or storm damage. Power lines can sag during times of high electrical demand, increasing the risk they will contact another object. Snow and ice can weigh them down, while high winds can bring down entire utility poles. Finally, electricity can travel from a line to another object even in the absence of direct contact. 

Yet, even with all of these risks, an alternative like moving power lines underground is cost prohibitive and introduces its own issues. So, maintaining overhead power lines is crucial.


Power Line Maintenance

Power lines are built to last — as long as 100 years. In fact, the MIT School of Engineering says that the insulators and supports are likely to fail before the lines. They are typically fabricated using all aluminum, aluminum alloys or aluminum wire/steel wire core constructions.


Today’s overhead lines operate in excess of 765,000 volts between conductors. Power lines are categorized as low, medium, high, extra high or ultra high voltage, but even lines classified as "low voltage" present serious hazards. Direct contact with an energized conductor can cause electrocution. 


A critical factor in overhead power line construction is adequate clearance between energized conductors and the ground so as to prevent dangerous contact with the line. Transmission lines and distribution lines have different clearance requirements. Other components of the electrical grid carry different requirements, based on risk level. 


A utility company is obligated to regularly inspect the lines themselves for wear and tear and to keep trees and other vegetation clear of the lines.Electric utility companies must exercise proper care and maintenance on their power lines and related equipment to keep it in safe operating condition.

Vegetation Management and Overhead Power Lines

One of the most important ways to keep overhead power lines as safe as possible is through well planned and ongoing integrated vegetation management. In most states, electric utilities are required by the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) to properly maintain trees and related vegetation in proximity to power lines.


A qualified vegetation management company will assess trees before they infringe on the required clearance, estimating how quickly and in what direction a tree will grow. They can also spot evidence of rot or disease that would elevate the risk of breakage or a tree falling.

Professional arborists can monitor for potential problems, identify hazard or danger trees, perform preventative pruning and trimming, and manage vegetation using herbicides. In addition to the safety risks, failure to maintain trees around transmission lines can incur sanctions and fines up to $1 million dollars per day. NERC has mandated that utilities operate with a zero outage policy on their bulk transmission systems.

California has started to levy massive fines against electrical utilities and contractors for failing to conduct adequate maintenance that resulted in fires that destroyed hundreds of homes. Utilities in all states should be aware of such trends.

Our Approach to Power Line Safety

The importance of safety cannot be overstated when it comes to maintaining and working near utility lines. NG Gilbert prioritizes safety above all else. We care about the well-being of our employees as well as that of our clients and their customers. Safety is essential to maintaining good client relations, for business survival and financial success.


We strive for a culture of safety by utilizing: 

  • Daily and weekly safety briefings with employees
  • Weekly management safety conferences 
  • Incentives and awards that reinforce safe employee behavior
  • Zero tolerance for drug abuse
  • Dedicated safety training professionals supporting ongoing education for new and current employees
  • Regular meetings with clients to review performance, issues and performance metrics

NG Gilbert is committed to improving safety when working on or around your power lines. This commitment originates with the highest levels of corporate management and resounds throughout the entire organization.