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Electric & Communication Safety

PUC's Responsibility

 

The Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) oversees the investor-owned utilities who are required to maintain safe, reliable, and secure operation of electric power and thousands of miles of telecommunication lines located throughout Oregon. The PUC establishes and enforces regulations and promotes practices so the state’s right-of-ways, both underground and overhead power lines, are constructed, operated, and maintained in a safe and efficient manner. Issues of concern include joint use of utility poles and conduits, reliability of service, security, and incidents involving contact with electrical utility facilities.


The PUC:

  • Conducts scheduled field inspections of utility infrastructure.
  • Assists in resolving consumer electrical complaints requiring field investigations.
  • Participates in dockets that involve significant capital expenditures of the electrical system.
  • Analyzes the effectiveness of utilities’ responses to wide-scale outages
  • Reviews and analyzes incidents where there have been injuries, large outages, excessive property damage, or fatalities. 
  • Reviews the utilities’ Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR)-defined National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) inspection programs (860-024-0000 Safety Standards).
  • Performs electric utility vegetation audits, a practice not done by most commissions across the country.
  • Works in partnership with Oregon Joint Use Association (OJUA) – an industry advisory group established to advise the PUC to address issues relating to utility poles. The OJUA is a resource that builds trust, cooperation and organization between the pole owners, users, and government entities to ensure safety.

The Oregon Administrative Rules and National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) provides the standards for the construction, operation, and maintenance of electric supply, telecommunication lines and associated equipment. Utilities must design to meet or exceed these standards. The NESC applies to the utility infrastructure all the way to the point of service or meter on a home or building. (Lines or devices from the meter into the building must comply with the National Electric Code. which is not enforced by the PUC. Every operator subject to compliance with these regulations must have a program to identify and correct facilities in violation of these regulations. The PUC inspects operator facilities across the state and documents observed probable violations. This is done to help ensure the utility is accurately identifying and correcting areas of concern based on NESC standards. 

For electric utilities, management of vegetation around power lines, utility poles, and substations is a critical part of system maintenance. A successful vegetation management program can help ensure reliability and mitigate risk. The PUC annually evaluates the vegetation management programs for investor-owned electric utilities in Oregon for compliance with PUC regulations. Although the scheduled vegetation audits focus on the IOUs, all electric utilities in Oregon are subject to PUC vegetation management rules and any probable violations are documented and reported to the utility. ​

​The PUC partners with other agencies and organization to remind Oregonians to stay safe around utility lines.

  1. Call Before You Dig – Call 811

Whether a professional or a homeowner doing a do-it-yourself project, call 811 to have underground utilities located prior to beginning any digging project.


The Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC), who operates the free 811 one-call center, will notify the affected local utility companies that serve the area of your planned project. Utility personnel will visit your project site to mark the approximate location of the underground lines, pipes and cables in your planned digging area.

 
Statistics show that a majority of line strikes occur June through September at a time when more yard work is being done. In 2017 an estimated 439,000 line strikes occurred nationwide, 25 percent of which were due to insufficient notice to the 811 service.

  1. Agricultural Community – Reminded to stay SAFE

Serious injury or fatal electrocution can occur if farm equipment, including irrigation pipes, get too close or accidentally touches a live power line. Overhead distribution lines carry up to 22,000 volts of electricity in agricultural settings. The agricultural community is reminded to:

  • Scan the area – always look around and look up to check for power lines and other potential hazards before starting work.
  • Avoid extending farm equipment, including irrigation pipes, within 10 feet of overhead power lines. Keep in mind that overhead lines can be as low as 18 feet off the ground, so always carry irrigation pipes, which are 30-40 feet long, horizontally.  If required to tip up to discharge water or dirt build-up, scan for power lines overhead.
  • Frequently re-evaluate the area for changing safety hazards.
  • Educate fellow employees to ensure safety throughout the agricultural community.​

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