Virginia's Overhead High Voltage Line Safety Act
Virginia's Overhead High Voltage Line Safety Act, which went into effect July 1, 2003, increases the protective work zone around overhead high-voltage lines and places greater responsibility on contractors who work near overhead power lines to be particularly mindful of their surroundings.
Contractors must call the appropriate utility (call Southside Electric Cooperative at 1-800-552-2118 before working near these lines and allow the proper safety arrangements to be put in place before commencing their work.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What does the law say?
- The law prohibits work within 10 feet of an overhead line carrying 600 or more volts. If anyone wants to work within the 10-foot limit, the law requires that mutually acceptable safety arrangements be made between the person performing the work and the utility that owns the line. The law provides an added incentive for compliance. If someone does not follow the law's requirements and an accident occurs, the burden and liability will lie with the party performing the work - not the line owner.
- Why was this law needed?
- Virginia enacted its Overhead High Voltage Line Safety Act in 1989. Unfortunately, there were numerous injuries and accidents caused by contact with overhead lines. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry found 47 known violations of the law during the federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2002. The latest law's clearly defined responsibilities provide contractors with the incentive to call and with utilities the opportunity to make job sites safe.
- What are the significant changes to the law?
An expanded safety zone.
The newest law expands the safety zone around high voltage lines (600 volts or greater) by prohibiting work within 10 feet of the facilities unless mutually agreeable safety arrangements have been completed.
Clarification of the duties of line owners and businesses.
The amendments clarify the duties of both the line owners and businesses that want to perform work within the ten-foot limit. The proposal requires persons responsible for such work to notify the utility promptly to request safety arrangements. To avoid confusion, the amendments eliminate the current provisions imposing a 48-hour waiting period between notification and the planned beginning of the work. Instead, the line owner is given five working days (from the date of the request) to initiate the agreed-upon safety measures. Finally, the amendments make clear that the work cannot begin until all of the temporary safety arrangements are completed. The amendments also eliminate high voltage line owner or operator liability in cases where workers have not provided the utility notice as required by law.
Incentives for compliance.
Finally, the amendments incorporate the principle that most high voltage line accidents would be prevented if businesses had a more powerful incentive to call the utility before starting work. Contractors have an increased responsibility under the newly revised law to contact utilities' before working near overhead high-voltage lines. The changes are intended to prompt contractors to become more conscious of the need to call the utility prior to beginning work. With such notification, many injuries and accidents could be prevented.
- Is this law in effect in other states?
- Yes. The indemnity provision is similar to those found in 19 of the 30 states with high voltage safety acts. The provisions are widely viewed as a significant incentive for businesses to comply with the requirements of the law. The indemnification language is intended to prompt contractors to become more conscious of the need to call the utility prior to beginning work thereby avoiding injuries or accidents.
- Does this law also apply to underground lines?
- No, this only applies to overhead power lines. Another Virginia state law addresses underground line safety and damage prevention.