Why Are Overhead Power Lines So Dangerous?

If a squirrel can run along overhead power lines without harm, why are they dangerous?

This is a physics problem that can be easily explained:

A worker is at risk of electrocution if his equipment makes contact with a power cable while he is touching the ground. Electrical current would then be able to pass through his body and electrocute him. The electricity will only leave a power source if it has direct access to the ground. If a worker grabbed a power line with both feet off the ground, he would not be harmed. This is apparent when you see birds or squirrels sitting safely on power lines, even though they are not insulated. SLATE Explainer

Why Are Overhead Power Lines So Dangerous?

 Why Do We Have Overhead Power Lines?

Overhead power lines are necessary. The entire utility infrastructure in our country was built on elevated power lines. There is a strong argument that an underground plan would be safer. Some communities do have the power lines underground. When storms strike, these communities have a high chance of retaining their power.

Are Overhead Power Lines Insulated?

No. Overhead power lines are not insulated. Slate.com also addresses this common question:

People think power lines are insulated, but that’s not the case, particularly with above ground lines. The majority of thousands of miles of power lines in the USA are made exclusively of metal, which is usually aluminum encasing a steel center. It would be financially infeasible and not necessary due to the fact they are elevated high above the ground.

Ninety percent of outside power lines are not insulated.

90% of outside power lines are not insulated

The vast majority of outside power lines have no insulation. Sometimes there is a thin weather coating but it is not enough to protect from shocks. Since the lines are battered by seasonal conditions, it is uncertain what shape they are in. The safest approach is to never touch power lines.

Can Overhead Power Lines Be Avoided?

Yes. Overhead power lines can be avoided by not going near them. But the reality is that people walk under them everyday. They are high enough to be safely out of reach. The problem comes when people or equipment get close to them, usually in the construction field. Even if your neighborhood has underground lines, there is a whole new set of dangers, like digging. Companies and individuals alike need to take safety measures when they are working near an overhead power line.

The bottom line is that power lines carry a tremendous amount of electricity. Understanding the basic properties of electricity is the best way to protect yourself.

Sigalarm has been protecting people from overhead power lines since the 1960’s. If you have a question, feel free to call and speak with one of our technicians. Together, we can keep your workers safer than ever before!