‘CUT with Care’ is the message from Northern Ireland Electricity as it launches a new safety campaign this week to raise awareness of the dangers of felling trees and cutting hedges close to the electricity network.
The campaign is part of NIE’s ongoing public safety programme and follows a recent spate of incidents where overhead power lines have been damaged when vegetation was being cut.
Among the incidents was one in the Ballymena where trees being cut down in a garden fell the wrong way and the branches came into contact with the high voltage 11,000 volt overhead line.
Luckily there were no injuries and NIE emergency crews responded, carrying out safety checks and repairing the overhead lines.
With the winter months providing an opportunity for farmers and landowners to cut back hedges and trees before the nesting season begins at the start of March, NIE is encouraging people working near the electricity network to follow some simple safety precautions.
Kevin McDowell, Head of Health, Safety and Environment at NIE, said: “We continually highlight the risks involved when working in the vicinity of the electricity network, but every year people are injured because they do not follow the correct safety guidelines.
“Any contact with live electricity equipment may result in injury, or even death. We ask anyone considering this type of work to consult with NIE prior to work starting.
“This type of damage to the electricity network may also cause local communities to lose their electricity supplies, inconveniencing homes and businesses in the area.”
If you are planning to carry out any tree or hedge cutting, please follow these safety guidelines.
* Do not cut trees or hedges which are directly below live overhead power lines if they are within 5 metres (16ft 4inches) of lines unless you have informed NIE.
* Do not cut down trees which are within two times the length of the tree, or less on either side of live overhead power lines and equipment. Always contact NIE to let them know your plans.
* Plan ahead. If you are unsure about how close your tree or hedge cutting work will come to overhead power lines, contact NIE for advice. NIE may need to switch off the electricity on an overhead circuit to allow you to work safely. NIE need to notify customers in the area and this will take time.
* If you are hedge cutting using a tractor mounted flail cutter or other mechanical means remember to look out for and avoid NIE poles or stay wires which may be positioned in close proximity to the hedge.
* If you are informed of a planned interruption of supply, do not assume that all overhead power lines in the area will be off. Call NIE on 08457 643 643 for more information.
Kevin added: “We know this is a busy time of the year for farmers and agricultural contractors as they tidy up trees and hedgerows in preparation for Spring, but planning your work and identifying the risks before starting work could mean the difference between life and death. Awareness of the correct safety procedures will help prevent every incident of damage.
“Since 2001, 10 people have lost their lives because they made contact with the overhead network. These fatalities should act as a grim warning to every DIY enthusiast, farmer or contractor who fails to take note of the proximity of the electricity network to their work area.
“It’s time for everyone working near electricity equipment to put safety first, every time. Our message is clear - look up, look out and stay away from overhead lines.”
If you are planning work in the vicinity of the electricity network please contact NIE on 08457 643 643. For more safety advice visit www.nie.co.uk