Outdoor Safety Tips

Outdoor Tips for Residents and Do-It-Yourselfers

Of all the outdoor projects you do, many involve using electricity or even working near power lines.

Any electrical work you do must comply with electrical codes. Not sure you can complete the job correctly? Consider hiring an electrician to do the job to keep your family safe.

The following tips offer great ways to stay aware of electricity and avoid potentially tragic accidents at home.

Power Cords and Plugs

  • Use cords approved by the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL)
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on all outdoor plugs whenever you're working on an outdoor project. A GFCI monitors electric current; if there's an imbalance, it stops the current
  • Don't place a power cord under a carpet, through a doorway, or anywhere someone could step on it
  • Keep cords and electrical objects away from heat and water
  • When unplugging an electrical object from its outlet, pull the plug, not the power cord
  • Compare the amp rating on an extension cord (indicated as "A" or "amps" on the cord) with that of the tool to make sure it can handle the tool
  • Use a heavy-duty, grounded three-wire cord for power tools
  • Throw away damaged cords

Power Tools

  • Use power tools only on circuits that can support their electrical requirements
  • Don't use a tool or appliance that shocks, smokes, emits strange odors, sparks, or operates suspiciously in any way
  • Repair or replace a tool or appliance if the insulation is cracked or missing or if the plug is loose
  • Unplug tools when you're not using them
  • Check that your power tools are double insulated and that their plugs are grounded
  • Keep your tools in good repair. Frayed cords, cords with cracked insulation and loose plugs can shock you
  • Clean your tools. Dirt and grime buildup can cause tools to overheat

Landscaping - Plan first

  • Consider where to place trees and shrubs. Select low-growing trees or shrubs that will not touch overhead power lines when it grows
  • If you have to dig, trench, or till, call 811 first and get someone to mark your lines for you. Coming in contact with an underground line can mean a tragic outcome
  • When planting near a transformer, maintain a distance of 10 feet from any side with an opening and three feet from other sides. Electrical workers need space to safely open the transformer when working on underground power lines. Use only UL-approved lights

Safe Distances

  • Keep ladders and tools at least 10 feet from the power line. Understand safe distances around all overhead voltages
  • Use a clean, dry wooden or fiberglass ladder anywhere near electric lines. Never use a metal ladder
  • If you're installing or removing an antenna, make sure it is at least 1.5 times its total height away from power lines. If an antenna starts to fall, let it go and stay clear of it
  • Overhead lines are not insulated. What may look like insulation is weatherproofing material. Never touch a wire!
  • If you're planning a house addition, envision where the roof will be in relation to the power line. Talk with the power company about moving the line before you begin


  • Keep anything that could burn away from a hot light bulb. A 100-watt bulb can get up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Use the correct lights for the job. For example, when using holiday lights, use only indoor lights indoors. Outdoor holiday lights burn hotter and can cause accidents
  • If a strand of holiday lights is frayed, discard the string
  • Use only UL-approved lights
  • Connect lights to power strips that have several outlets and a built-in circuit breaker
  • Tell children never to touch lights or plugs, especially with wet hands
  • Unplug indoor holiday lights before going to bed each night

Pet Safety For Meter Readers

  • Make sure you secure your pet on days when your meter is being read. A territorial pet can injure a meter reader