worker in a bucket truck checking tree branches around power lines

Climbing up to a utility line to perform electrical work is a dangerous job, even under the best of circumstances. If vegetation is obstructing access and hindering visibility, the possibility of severe burns from live wires becomes even more imminent. Additionally, the FreeState Electric Cooperative says tree-related issues are also the cause of 15% of power outages. This is why right-of-way clearing has been put in place, maintaining pathways and property around where power lines are located. Utilities buy the right-of-way, which allows them to make sure access to power lines is always safe and clear.

Below are examples of how right-of-way clearing works to protect linemen as they perform their duties:

# 1: Trimming and Pruning

Branches touching transmission lines can lead to power cuts. Pruning and trimming trees on a planned schedule mitigates this problem. It also saves linemen from making unnecessary trips to fix power line issues, just because a tree branch is overgrown.

However, the solution isn’t hacking branches off irresponsibly either. There are proper standards to be followed, set by industry experts like the American National Standards Institute and International Society of Arboriculture. The job should also be done by specialized line clearance companies. Improper trimming and pruning could make matters worse for linemen trying to access the, often live, power lines.

# 2: Removing Vegetation

It’s not only trees that can cause issues in accessing transmission lines. Vegetation like grass can cause problems, too. Tall grass and weeds make access difficult for workers and equipment. Therefore, regular monitoring of the right-of-way area, managing overgrowth by mowing or using permitted herbicides, is necessary. Many utility companies also conduct consistent patrols to make sure vegetation does not grow too high. This enables them to take care of the problem before it gets out of hand.

# 3: `Danger’ Trees

We all appreciate trees. They provide greenery and oxygen for us to breathe. But there are so-called `danger’ trees that are dead or diseased. These could topple over at any moment, bringing power lines down with them.  They need to be removed immediately, before possible disaster strikes. Utility companies typically conduct regular patrols to check which trees are on their last limbs. Then they can take action, bringing the trees down so linemen do their jobs without any worry.

Exercising right-of-way maintenance responsibly not only keeps our linemen safe, it ensures we have uninterrupted power to go on with our lives as well!