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Clearance Requirements in Overhead Utility Construction

trees not meeting clearance for utility construction
Proper utility construction must adhere to the requirements for overhead clearances.

Overhead utility lines are a vital part of our daily lives. They bring us electricity, connect our phones and internet, and keep our communities running smoothly. But working with these overhead lines also comes with inherent risks.

Clearance requirements minimize the dangers of accidental contact with energized conductors or other hazards. These are the minimum distances that overhead utility lines must maintain from buildings, trees, roads, other utility lines, and the ground itself. The absolute minimum clearance is between 10 and 15 feet depending on the structure. This minimum clearance increases as the voltage increases.

TechServ offers experienced professionals who can provide on-site oversight during overhead utility construction or maintenance projects. We help ensure compliance with clearance requirements, industry best practices, and safety regulations, safeguarding both crews and valuable utility assets. Contact us to discuss your utility construction project needs.

Types of Clearances

There are two main types of clearance requirements: vertical and horizontal. 

Vertical clearances focus on the distance between utility lines and the ground or other surfaces below. These rules establish safe distances over roads, sidewalks, water, and around buildings. Horizontal clearances dictate how far apart utility lines must be from each other, trees, and potential obstructions.

The primary standard governing all these clearances is the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC). NESC Section 23 provides comprehensive guidelines for the safe installation, operation, and maintenance of overhead supply and communication lines. This includes specific criteria for methods and materials used for:

  • Crossarm & braces
  • Poles
  • Distribution grounding
  • Vegetation management

Purpose of these Requirements

Clearance requirements are vital for several reasons. First and foremost, they protect the public.  Proper clearances prevent people from accidentally touching live wires and minimize the risk of electrical fires.  

Secondly, clearances keep workers safe. They provide enough space for construction and maintenance crews to operate without coming dangerously close to energized lines. 

Finally, clearances ensure our utilities work reliably. They help prevent outages caused by lines coming into contact with trees or structures.

Regular Inspections and Maintenance are Key

Overhead utility environments are constantly changing. Trees grow, buildings expand, and over time, clearances can become compromised. That’s why we emphasize regular inspections and proactive maintenance. For example, trimming vegetation before it becomes a problem is key to preventing outages and accidents.  

We understand that local codes and regulations can vary from place to place. Our experience across the U.S. means we’re familiar with these differences. We work closely with utility companies to ensure projects always adhere to the specific standards of their area.

Partner with TechServ for experienced utility construction oversight and management. Our goal is to ensure that your projects run smoothly, costly outages are avoided, and most importantly, workers and the public stay safe. Contact us for more information about our services.

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