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Look Out, Look Up!

Look Out, Look Up! for overhead power lines. Always assume lines are live, do not touch or get close to them.

A still from the Look Out, Look Up! safety video

There are overhead power lines criss-crossing the country. Often unnoticed, they are essential to provide electricity to cities, towns, villages and rural communities.

They carry voltages ranging from 230 volts (domestic voltage) up to 400,000 volts. Even domestic voltage can be fatal and high voltage electricity can jump large gaps.

Did you know?

The energy network is designed to keep you safe, but on average two people are killed while others endure life-changing injuries every year in the UK when equipment or machinery comes into contact or close proximity to overhead power lines. The lives of their families also suffering as a result.

Stay away and stay safe

You must keep five metres away from fallen or damaged overhead power lines.

Damaged lines can stay live or be re-energised automatically or remotely without warning if the electricity network operator is not aware of an incident.

At high voltage electricity can jump gaps, so even getting too close to overhead power lines can be dangerous.

Before you start

  • Plan ahead, always note the location of overhead power lines, and do not carry out lifting or loading within 5 meters of power lines
  • If you are felling trees and there are lines within two tree heights, or you are cutting back within two branch lengths of an overhead power line, you must contact your local electricity network operator for advice before starting work
  • You must also give the electricity network operator at least two weeks’ notice of any minor works close to overhead power lines, and at least a month’s notice for major works
  • If you are working at night, or in conditions of poor visibility, you must use spotlights or a torch to carefully check that there are no overhead power lines within your reach
  • If you are doing any work or moving anything and there is a risk that contact could be made with overhead power lines, you must contact your local electricity network operator for advice before starting. Always follow the advice given by the electricity network operator
  • Never touch overhead power lines, always assume lines are live unless the electricity network operator has told you they are dead

What to do if…

If you inadvertently come into contact with an overhead power line and the machine is not operable or cannot be driven clear of the line:

  • Stay in the cab
  • Phone the electricity network operator using the 105 number
  • Instruct everyone outside the vehicle not to approach it
  • Do not exit the cab until given confirmation by the electricity network operator that it is safe to do so

If the machine is inoperable or cannot be driven free and there is risk of fire or other immediate hazard:

  • If you must get off then you must jump clear making leaping strides so that one foot is off the ground at all times until you are at least 5 metres away
  • Do not return to the vehicle unless told by the electricity network operator it is safe
  • Keep others away from the vehicle. Touching it or even getting too close could kill them

In an emergency

  • If you are in a life-threatening situation or have serious injuries please dial 999 immediately and tell them electricity is involved.
  • Call 105 if you have come into contact with an overhead power line or have a safety concern related to the electricity network that could put you, or someone else, in danger.
  • Follow the advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in their Avoiding danger from overhead power lines guidance note and carry out a risk assessment.

The Accident ‘Look Out, Look Up!’

ENA’s Public Safety Committee, which brings together experts from each member company, communicates the safety message to those people working in transport and construction whose activities could bring them close to overhead lines and underground cables.

Report damage

Please report any damage or contact no matter how minor they may seem.

While the damage may not cause a serious problem at the time of contact it could fail later, causing danger to members of the public, disruption to customer supplies, and if your local electricity network operator traces the damage back to you, a larger repair bill.

Further information

This page has been produced for anyone who uses mobile plant, (such as Hiabs, MEWPs, Tipper Lorries and Trailers, Grab Lorries, Concrete Conveyors and Excavators) for short duration work and provides general guidance on how to avoid becoming part of these statistics.

More detailed general information on this subject is available free to download on the HSE website.