Understanding clearances and right of way

When members plant or place items in front of our equipment, we have a hard time performing our work.

Posted by Nathan Karels on October 23, 2017

Electric meter blocked by a plant
Electric meter blocked by a tree

Ever since Wright-Hennepin was founded in 1937, safety remains one of our top goals every year. 

As many of us know, working in and around electricity is very dangerous. Our line workers spend countless hours in training to learn how to safely work in all environments and they go over safety items in their weekly meetings.

In addition to the line crew, Wright-Hennepin has other employees that put themselves in dangerous working conditions. Our field engineers are out working with members and contractors on the best way to deliver electricity to our members. They work in and around transformers and electrical meters. Our field services employees and our energy use consultants are also out at members’ homes looking at individual meters. They look at the main service to a member’s home and at Wright-Hennepin’s off-peak meters and control switches. 

Many of us have encountered a meter or transformer that presents a dangerous working condition. We see trees and scrubs planted in front of these items and also find various landscape items trying to hide those ugly green boxes or meters from sight. While this looks appealing to the eye, it can create a hazardous working condition for our employees. WH field employees may need access to the transformer or meter sockets. When members plant or place items in front of our equipment, we have a hard time performing our work. If we make one wrong move due to a tree or shrub in the way, we could be electrocuted.

​ Electric meter blocked by stuff
​ Electric meter blocked by stuff

The National Electric Code states that workers need a safe working space while they perform work. This safe zone is three feet in front of any electrical equipment. That working space is increased when our line crews need to work in front of a transformer.

Our policy reads: “Wright-Hennepin states that our members shall not build, plant or maintain or cause to be built, planted or maintained any structure, tree, shrub or landscaping that would or could obstruct the construction and operation of distribution lines, endanger the Cooperative’s equipment, interfere with the proper and safe operation of its facilities or adversely affect compliance with any applicable codes in effect."

If Wright-Hennepin does come across trees or shrubs that are creating a hazardous situation for us during routine, non-emergency work, we always notify the member of the problem by leaving a door hanger or making a phone call to set up an appointment for a different day. If needed, we can gently remove the objects or plants to perform the work. In the case of an outage, the line crews will do what is necessary to restore power and may cut down trees and shrubs in order to access a blocked meter or transformer.

​ Electric meter blocked by plant​
​ Electric meter blocked by plant

Having our members maintain their trees and shrubs around Wright-Hennepin equipment will aid in the safety of those that need to work on the meters and transformers. It also helps to keep a member’s outage time to a minimum.

Included with this blog are a few of the potential hazardous conditions that our employees have come across while on the job.

For more information about clearances and right of way, call (763) 477-3000.

Nathan Karels

Nathan Karels

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