Danger of Death for Anglers

17 April 2007

Anglers, fishery owners and landowners are being reminded about the dangers of overhead power lines by the electricity network industry national representative body. The Energy Networks Association is re-launching its campaign to hammer home the risks that there can be to life and limb.

Every year cases are reported of angling equipment contacting overhead electric power lines. Some of these have resulted in horrific burn injuries, some in death. The main cause of these incidents is a lack of awareness on behalf of the angler.

Findings from inspections suggest that there are considerably more minor incidents or ‘near miss’ incidents that are occurring that should but never get reported.

Although angling is generally regarded as a safe sport, there have been a number of instances where anglers have suffered serious and fatal injuries due to contacting overhead electric power lines whilst fishing. The increasing length of carbon fibre fishing poles has often been a factor in these unfortunate incidents.

Examples of the type of incidents that have been reported are:

  • Whilst returning from fishing across fields to parked car, fishing rods came into contact with an overhead electric power line - sustained major injuries. Boy aged 13 made contact with 11,000 volt wood pole overhead electric power line with carbon fibre fishing rod. Suffered burns. Angler made contact with 33,000 volt overhead electric power line with 13 metre long carbon fibre pole from peg on side of lake - fatal injuries sustained. Fishing line became entangled with overhead electric power line - line cut clear from rod - no injuries sustained.
  • In recent years the number of incidents has been reduced, mainly as a result of campaigns supported by the electricity industry, angling groups, landowners and the tackle trade. But every year throughout the country, fishing line is found hanging from overhead electric power lines with no report of incident or injury.
  • At the higher voltages, electricity can jump short distances through the air. This means it may not be necessary to touch an overhead electric power line with a fishing rod or pole to suffer an electric shock and severe burns that could lead to death.

Energy Networks Association head of safety, health and environment Peter Coyle said, "Electricity is a vital form of energy in today’s high technology world. Distribution of this energy requires an extensive network of overhead electric power lines which cross all parts of the UK. Electricity is also carried along overhead lines for specific uses such as transport.

"Overhead electric power lines are often difficult to see, particularly at night and against a dark or very bright background. They are normally bare (not insulated) and can be mistaken for telephone wires, with disastrous consequences.

"Currently the higher voltage lines normally have yellow ‘Danger of Death’ warning notices fitted to the poles or towers but lower voltage lines may not be marked. At higher voltages electricity may mjump short distances through the air. This means it is not necessary to touch an overhead electric power line to suffer an electric shock and burns which could result in death.

"Fishing rods and poles made from carbon fibre and similar materials will conduct electricity. Many other materials will allow electricity to flow along them when they are wet.

"Detailed advice is available at the Energy Networks Association website, at www.energynetworks.org and, for landowners and fishery managers, from local electricity companies."