March and April 2006



High Voltage Alert

Important safety information about Highline Logging and
Highline Power

By Kurt Glaeseman

It happens all too often. An innocentlooking overhead wire melts into a benign landscape. A moment of inattention or carelessness is followed by a frantic call and screaming sirens.

We’ve all followed the stories: four scout leaders erecting a tent at a Boy Scout Jamboree; an irrigation worker moving aluminum pipe in an alfalfa field; a rescue squad sifting through wet debris left by a hurricane. It’s not hard to generalize the scenario to a logging operator harvesting under a power line or near a powerline corridor. Taller machines, longer booms, obscured vision, inadequate cautionary directives all can put an operator, machinery, transmission lines and power supply at risk. One utility company is ahead of the curve: Bonneville Power Administration in the Pacific Northwest has embarked on an aggressive proactive safety program designed especially for workers located under or near overhead power lines.

Electrical Lines at the Goshen, Oregon, BPA Substation


Serious Losses

The BPA Logger Safety booth at the 2005 and 2006 Oregon Logging Conference in Eugene drew a steady and enthusiastic crowd. Journeyman Maintenance Lineman Bruce Bashor and Natural Resource Specialist Ben Tilley, both from the Goshen, Ore. substation, handed out brochures, monitored a VCR tape, and fielded hundreds of questions about logging safety and electrical line dangers. Some operators requested a second viewing of the"Stay Alive” and “Danger Trees” tape…and then requested a copy for their crew’s safety meeting.

Bashor reports that outages from logging or heavy equipment activity are all too common, so the focus of the booth was to simultaneously improve communication between the industries and to promote safety. “When we lose a line,” says Bashor, “it’s a huge deal with a lot of consequences. Thousands of customers may be without power. An operator can be maimed or killed. Equipment can suffer major damage. Bonneville Power can come back and demand financial restitution.”


Heavy Timber & Miles of Line

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is a major utility, supplying power to parts of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and California. Coincidentally these are heavy timber- producing states, and BPAmaintains 15,000 miles of lines within them. Traditionally loggers and the utility companies have gotten along well, with minor conflicts over the destruction of access roads and culverts. But both industries are becoming more aware of increased hazards as loggers secure harvest plans and related jobs on or near easements.

Tilley and Bashor hear the horror stories firsthand. They relate the incident of the operator who walked a yarder into a line and blew every tire off, and of the logger who dropped a tree on a line and then himself became a path for 4200 amps…and immediate ventricular fibrillation. The process of electricity going through a body often appears in an autopsy report as a sober warning: Cause of Death: Electrocution.


Basic Guidelines

The orderly processes outlined in BPA’s tapes and brochures are easily absorbed and incorporated into safety meetings. Following are some general guidelines.

General Background Knowledge

• Electricity seeks a path to ground. This can be metal, trees, humans, and the ground itself.

• Voltage, heat, smoke, wind, dust, humidity and mist in the air can all affect an electrical field.

• Power lines are not insulated. Never touch a downed line. Keep your distance.

• Under the right circumstances, the amount of current needed to light a 10-watt bulb is more than enough to kill you. Metal objects located near transmission towers or power lines can be trouble.

• High voltage power lines often sag into a danger zone during hot weather or high usage periods.


Reasonable Preventative Measures:

• Contact BPA or the utility involved if you plan to log in or near their easement or beneath their power lines. They may want to de-energize the
line or notify customers of work.

• Identify any pole or structure numbers in the immediate area.

• Describe the type of logging activity and the machinery involved. Include heights of machinery.

• Give the name and contact number of the person in charge of the operation.

• Offer to meet with utility representatives about dangerous trees or
questionable situations.

• Review basic First Aid procedures with operators and crew.


On-the-Job Attention to Details:

• Look before you log!

• Do not refuel vehicles or generators near a transmission tower or powerline corridor. Sparks can ignite fuel vapors.

• Nothing under a power line should be higher than 14’ from the ground.

• Maintain a minimum of 20’ from any line—that’s with equipment, machinery and downed trees.

• Do not use an electronic detonator within 1000’ of a transmission line.

• Do not work alone.


Basic Disaster Plan:

• If contact is made with a power line, try to swing the piece of equipment out of the power line without tearing it up.

• Stay in the vehicle. There could be a second shock when the line tries to re-energize.

• If an operator needs to evacuate from a piece of equipment, don’t step onto the ground. Jump as far as possible to get maximum distance from the equipment. Don’t let hands lag behind. Never touch the ground and the equipment at the same time.

• Secure the area. Keep all others at a safe distance.

• Don’t do anything in terms of moving power lines or electrical structures.

• Call 9-1-1 if medical help is needed.

• If a person is down, you may need to check vitals, airways, circulation, breathing. CPR may be necessary.

• If the victim is connected and can’t release, try to knock him loose with a stick. Don’t grab him—you’ll be the next victim.

• Call the power company to de-energize the line and to send trained personnel to the site. Include exact location and the sign numbers from poles or towers.

• Remember: The biggest First Aid measure is to make sure the situation doesn’t happen in the first place!

Natural Resource Officer Ben Tilley (long-sleeved shirt) and Journeyman Maintenance Lineman Bruce Bashor from Bonneville Power Administration's Goshen, Oregon, Substation


Don’t Cover Up

No one likes to make a bad mistake. But Bashor points out that it is counterproductive to try to cover up a tree that dropped into a line. High tech routing and spotting isolates the exact point of such an infraction, and helicopters may be on the scene immediately. The best course of action is to call the power company and report the incident.

“We’ve gone on the road and spent hours educating and explaining,” says Bashor. “The degree of our success is hard to measure. There’s no way to know when our proactive approach has prevented an accident or saved someone’s life.” Again, aggressive education is the key. There’s no getting
around it in a high-voltage world: Safety Is No Accident.

Equipment “fried” by electrical current.


Company Safety Program

How can this highline safety angle be worked into your company’s existing program? BPA is more than willing to help. They’ll supply the VHS tape containing “Stay Alive” and “Danger Trees” and also pertinent brochures. The vivid description given by a paramedic on the tape may be a bit graphic, but it reinforces BPA’s position that highline awareness is of vital importance.

Contact persons are Bonneville Power Administration’s Jared Goddard, Safety Officer, and Ralph Fair, Safety Manager, at (541) 465-6996 or (541) 465- 6565. Ben Tilley can be reached at (541) 465-6553.



This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 19, 2006