Warning

WHEN YOU NEED TO ESTIMATE THE DISTANCE TO A LINE, EYEBALL IT, DON’T USE A MEASURING INSTRUMENT! If you estimate by eye that the distance is close to the minimum required, never try to measure it more accurately by placing an instrument near the line. NEVER PLACE A TAPE MEASURE OR ANYTHING ELSE WITHIN 3 M OF A MEDIUM-VOLTAGE LINE.

If, after reading this page, YOU STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND THE REQUIREMENTS OR ARE UNSURE ABOUT ANYTHING, CALL HYDRO-QUÉBEC BEFORE STARTING WORK. A REPRESENTATIVE CAN HELP CLARIFY THE SITUATION.

Online form – Safety near power lines

The approach distances specified here apply if the power poles are 60 m or less apart, as they usually are. If the power poles are more than 60 m apart, call Hydro-Québec to find out the approach distances that apply.

Medium-voltage lines

Medium-voltage lines are metallic wires without an insulating sheath. Usually located at the top of poles, there are usually three of them, but there may be only one, or two groups of three. They are mounted on insulators, which look like small porcelain bowls

They may look harmless, but they are extremely dangerous.

Recognizing dangerous lines

HORIZONTAL approach distances for medium-voltage lines: 3 m

There must be a minimum HORIZONTAL distance of 3 m between any part of a building and the closest medium-voltage line.

WARNING: While the work is being done, workers, equipment and materials should be kept at least 3 m away from these lines at all times.
Construction safety rules near distribution lines

Illustrated example: Adding a storey to a building near a distribution line

HORIZONTAL approach distances for medium-voltage lines: minimum 3 m

The HORIZONTAL distance may be less than 3 m under certain conditions

Illustrated example: Adding a storey to a building within 3 m of a distribution line

  1. 1There’s a minimum VERTICAL distance of 4 m between the highest part of the building and the closest medium-voltage line.
  2. 2No part of a medium-voltage line passes over the building.
The HORIZONTAL distance may be less than 3 m if both these conditions are met.

Illustrated example: Adding a garage within 3 m of a distribution line

  1. 1The medium-voltage lines don’t pass over the garage.
  2. 2The VERTICAL distance is at least 4 m.
The HORIZONTAL approach distance for medium-voltage lines is usually 3 m. Here, this distance is shorter. The garage is all right if both these conditions are met.

Low-voltage lines

Low-voltage lines are usually on the top half of poles.

They are thin metal wires. These are the most common configurations:

  • Two wires with a black insulating sheath, twisted around a bare metal wire
  • Separate wires stacked one above the other

Recognizing dangerous lines

HORIZONTAL approach distances for low-voltage lines: 1.6 m

There must be a minimum HORIZONTAL distance of 1.6 m between any part of a building and the closest low-voltage line. This applies to all configurations of low-voltage lines.

Illustrated example: Adding a storey to a building near a distribution line

HORIZONTAL approach distances for low-voltage lines: 1.6 m

The HORIZONTAL distance between the building and the low-voltage line may be less than 1.6 m under certain conditions.

Situation A: The HORIZONTAL distance between the building and the low-voltage line may be less than 1.6 m if both these conditions are met:

Illustrated example: Adding a garage near twisted low-voltage lines

  1. 1The low-voltage lines don’t pass over the building.
  2. 2There’s a minimum VERTICAL distance of 3 m between the highest part of the building and the low-voltage lines.
The HORIZONTAL distance between the building and the low-voltage line may be less than 1.6 m if both these conditions are met.

Situation B: The HORIZONTAL distance between the building and the low-voltage lines may be less than 1.6 m if ALL FOUR of these conditions are met.

Example: Adding a garage with a hard-to-reach roof near twisted low-voltage lines

  1. 1The low-voltage lines are twisted.
  2. 2The lines don’t pass over the building.
  3. 3The part of the building closest to the lines is hard to reach. (For example, it’s a pitched roof that you need a ladder to get to.)
  4. 4There’s a minimum VERTICAL distance of 1.5 m between the highest part of the building and the twisted low-voltage lines.
The HORIZONTAL distance between the building and the low-voltage line may be less than 1.6 m if all four of these conditions are met.

No matter what the situation, if you estimate by eye that the distance is close to the minimum required, never try to measure it more accurately by placing an instrument near the line. In case of doubt, call Hydro-Québec. A representative can safely confirm whether the approach distance has been respected.

Electrical service entrance

The service entrance is all the lines connecting the distribution line to the building’s electricity meter. An overhead service entrance may be right on a wall of the building being supplied or on a pole.

The approach distances for service entrances are the same as for low-voltage lines. But the service entrance lines may pass over a building only if they directly supply that building with power.

Find out more about service entrances and approach distances:

The service entrance is all the lines connecting the distribution line to the building’s electricity meter.

Hazards and inconveniences of failure to respect approach distances

This is what could happen if your installation fails to respect the approach distances for power lines:

  • You might have to change the building’s footprint or other features.
  • Hydro-Québec might have to move the power line—at your expense. Your neighbors could be affected by the move, which could mean conflicts ahead.

Rules to protect you

Maybe no one will notice if you don’t follow the safety rules around power lines. But that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous: Someone could be seriously hurt by touching a line that’s too close and then try to hold you responsible. If you’re the owner, you should also look ahead to when you sell your house. Irregularities will come back to haunt you.

In keeping a safe distance from power lines, you’ll avoid a lot of problems, including wasting time and money.