Ontario Safe Limits of Approach

This question really only applies to Ontario arbs.

For the entirety of my career, if a tree was in contact with a primary power line (>750V), we would get the local utility to clear it away. If we were removing the tree, they would cut everything at least 10 feet away from the wire allowing little chance for any cut branch to enter that 10 ft. radius. If we were pruning a tree, they would perform regular clearing (at least three feet of clearance) and we would prune the rest of the tree careful not to prune any branches that remain inside the 10ft LOA and keeping the worker's body and tools in hand also out of the LOA. Some branches on the tree remain in proximity but not in contact.

Recently the utility has decided to follow the rules precisely as they are written and they are restricting any unauthorized worker to touch a tree that has any tree part inside of the LOA.

This presents a problem for my business (even though we have the training, equipment, certifications etc. to be authorized). For example, a spruce tree that has its trunk growing 6 feet away from a primary we can't touch, even if the limbs are all pruned away from the line. If they were to prune the tree to 10ft from the wire, more than 60% of the tree would have to be removed. There are many other similar examples.

What are other arborists in Ontario doing in these situations? Does the utility restrict access to the tree completely? Do you work with them on a tree by tree basis to find solutions? Does the utility just cut the tree down? Does the utility pay their authorized contractor to do the crown thinning and cable hardware installation for you?




We do a fair bit of work around primary lines in Peterborough and if needed we will get the lines shut down by the local utility company. They are great to work with as they see it as one less tree that will need to be be pruned/removed by their contractor. They used to give us hold offs but stopped doing so about a year ago as they said it was too risky. So anytime we are working within the LOA the line is shut down for however long we need it to be. Sounds like your local utility is a bit more difficult to work with. Does T-Bay have there own utility company or is it through Hydo one?
Thunder Bay Hydro is in charge here. They are very reluctant to cut power for us to access. they have in the past but now it is unusual. If they have to black out 50 or more homes, they usually say no. Also if there is any extraordinary cost, like installing a cutout, they would apply it to me which I would pass on to the client. Needless to say, a client will be reluctant to pay and additional $2500 fee for a $600 pruning job.

Adolan, do they provide an outage if any part of the tree is in proximity or just if the worker or cut branches are in proximity. Can you enter a tree without protection if the top half is 5 feet away but you are only pruning the bottom?



New Member
Relax Nuthin special...

If the tree is winin the LOa just prune it away with dielectric tools ie...pruner or pole saw.. you're not gonna explode by letting a branch within the Loa. If the tree can't be climbed with out cutting the power do so but, don't be afraid of the voltage arcing to the nearest branch tha's within 10ft.
Oh, I'm not afraid of the electricity. (well, I am but shouldn't we all be?) I'm a qualified utility arborist and understand the rules and the hazards extremely well.

The reality is that there are rules out there and if they are not followed then the breaker is subjecting themselves to great risk of punishment in the form of MOL fines.

If one of my staff breaks these rules (ie. climbs a tree that the local authority has deemed only accessible to qualified workers), then my company will be fined. Just as i would expect another company to be fined for breaking the same rules.

I feel that the local authority's new rule is stifling to my business and I'm trying to get some perspective from other Ontario operators.

Is your company "authorized" and if so, was that a difficult process or easy? How many companies does one utility grant "authority" to? One? Five?



New Member
Good point nuthin special..

you do take a risk of being held accountable for your actions if you chose to clear the lines your self instead of following the rules..

It's funny that I used to work for Davey tree which needed permission from hydro one when working around their lines to workin for hydro one. We were denied permission to trim the lines before the rest of tree by hydro I'm guessing because of the union and such..

I'm guessing if you built up a good standing with your local utility you would do alright but, there's also probably some politics involved.


You said that your a qualified utility arborist, is that to the literal term of having adequate knowledge? EUSA? Or do you posses your 444B? Hydro won't thin or cable trees, because their main concern is letting the juice flow. It would be cheaper for them to remove a tree rather than cable it, admit that there is a fault with the tree, assume liability of the hardware that has been installed, and risk a potential failure which could cost them a tree crew and a line crew + pissed off customers. These are private trees, hydro is just protecting their air space, it's just like the guys that hunt hydro cuts thinking is hydro's property when it is privately owned. A line contractor is also in the private tree care business and would most likely muscle in on your business as they have permission by the local power authority to access authorized zones and call hold off's.

They usually have a set of conditions that tree companies need to abide by in order to gain access such has having a 444B on site, additional workers that have adequate training to work underneath that arborist, First Aid, CPR, documentation of aerial rescue training, documentation of all di-electrical equipment, barriers and their testing dates, insurance, etc. Remember people died for those rules to be put in place. I know we all have chanced hydro at one point in time, but we really roll the dice, cause for some dude "it hit the fan pretty quickly."

Your best bet might be to talk to Mike Hunter, he runs the IHSA (formerly EUSA) Electrical Line Clearing Course. He's also a pretty big player in the development of the EUSA rule book and Arborist safe work practices. So he definitely knows his stuff and might be able to point you in the right direction.


Those are the numbers for IHSA, they would probably have some info on how to get ahold of him. Good Luck!


Active Member
A line contractor is also in the private tree care business and would most likely muscle in on your business as they have permission by the local power authority to access authorized zones and call hold off's.

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Just because a utility contractor has hold off privileges, doesn't mean they can use them when not operating on thier contract. Eg. City of Toronto forestry contractor has T.O hydro privileges, can't go around scooping all the private work around hydro and calling hold offs to do it. Fraud, and would put thier contract in jeopardy.
Utility owner is bound to protect you from thier utility. It's just up to them how they protect you, be it training, cover ups, cut back I&G etc. It's all about how/who you approach.
Another wise Hunter told me once " I don't want a cable within a tree length of my lines and if you need me to explain why...