Energy provided by electric and natural gas utilities has become an essential part of our everyday lives. Because of the convenience, we have come to rely on the comforts they provide.
Most people are aware that dangers exist with the use of electricity and natural gas, but often do not understand why accidents occur. They think, "it will never happen to me." It is important to remember that the same power used to make life easier can be dangerous and even deadly.
Several people die each year from contacts with energized power lines. The potential for death or serious injury also exists with the use of natural gas.
Electricity and natural gas are safe, however, when proper precautions are taken by utility companies and their customers.
The PUC's role
The Oregon Public Utility Commission enforces regulations to help ensure that gas and electric utilities operate safely and efficiently. Regulations for electricity safety are based on the National Electric Safety Code. Regulations for natural gas safety are based on the U. S. Department of Transportation Pipeline Safety Regulations. Both codes are update periodically.
Although we are concerned with the safe use of electricity and natural gas inside the home, the Commission's primary responsibility is the safe transmission of energy to customers via electrical power lines and gas pipelines leading up to the customer's meter.
Our primary role in utility safety is to ensure that the utilities develop, implement and maintain good inspection and maintenance procedures.
We have the authority to require utilities to correct safety problems; however, because utility companies are safety-conscious and cooperative, formal actions against are rarely necessary.
Trees and Power Lines Don't Mix
We cannot over emphasize the importance of safe work and play habits around electrical lines, particularly overhead power lines.
In Oregon, tree-related accidents and outages account for several injuries and substantial property damage each year. Children who play in trees near power lines are particularly vulnerable.
As a result, Oregon's electric utilities dedicate substantial money each year to tree trimming around power lines. Only utility company employees who have proper training and equipment should perform tree trimming around power lines.
Natural Gas Pipeline Safety
Natural gas companies practice safety by applying a protective coating and cathodic protection to gas pipelines to -prevent corrosion that could cause leaks and possible explosions.
As a result, natural gas accidents related to pipeline corrosion have decreased steadily since cathodic protection was introduced.
Gas companies regularly inspect their facilities. They will also advise customers on the safe and proper operation of gas appliances.
What you can do
Actions taken by utilities cannon prevent all accidents. Everyone must use electricity and natural gas with caution. Often, simply being aware of what could happen with electricity and gas can help prevent accidents.
Do-it-yourself utility projects can be dangerous. If you have a problem or project that involves power lines or gas pipelines, notify the appropriate utility company. If your utility company does not resolve the matter and it involves utility service outside the home, contact us for assistance.
If you work outdoors around power lines and gas pipelines you should be especially cautious. For example, farmers and house painters should be careful not to let irrigation pipes or metal ladders come in contact with overhead lines.
If you plan to dig, contact the Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC) toll free at 1-800-332-2344. This is an invaluable free service to prevent accidents related to buried utility lines and facilities. The OUNC notifies member utilities operating in the proposed excavation area to locate and mark their underground facilities.
Proper maintenance of electric or gas facilities on the customer's side of the meter is the customer's responsibility. However, it is advisable to contact professionals about electricity and gas installation, or with operating questions.
Additional copies of this factsheet are available from the Oregon Public Utility Commission, 550 Capitol ST. N.E, Salem, Or 97301-1380. Other information on utility rights and responsibilities is contained in a separate publication.
CALL BEFORE YOU DIG--Oregon Utility Notification Center, (800) 332-2344.