It was just a typical day at work. Gary Norland and his coworkers were discussing weekend plans as they worked near overhead power lines. But when Norland leaned back and came into contact with 12,500 volts of electricity, he suffered life-changing burns that required a 4-month hospital stay and more than 50 surgeries.

Now, 20 years after the accident, Norland has a message: “If you get injured, it's an impact that's going to affect everybody.”

During National Electrical Safety Month this may, Norland and his family are working with Safe Electricity's “Teach Learn Care TLC” campaign to help prevent others from having accidents with overhead power lines and to keep other families from having to go through such a tragic experience.

“Those small shortcuts will add up to that big one, and then everything is going to change," Norland explained. “Take the time, and do it right the first time. Make sure you do everything safe.”

Safe Electricity, a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council (EEC), offers the following six tips for those who may be near overhead power lines when working outside:

  1. Look up and around you. Always be aware of the location of power lines, particularly when using long tools like ladders, pool skimmers, and pruning poles. Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep in mind that wind can blow large objects out of your control.
  2. Keep equipment and your body at least 10 feet from power lines. Even if you do not come in contact with a power line, the electricity can arc to nearby objects and people.
  3. Be careful when working on or around your roof. That includes installing or cleaning gutters, installing rooftop antennas and satellite dishes or doing repair work. Never use water or blower extensions to clean gutters near electric lines. Contact a professional maintenance contractor.
  4. Never climb trees near power lines.
  5. Never trim trees near power lines. Leave that to the professionals.
  6. Always follow safety procedures, no matter how boring and mundane they seem.

“We are grateful that Gary and his family are willing to share their difficult experience to help prevent other tragic accidents," said Molly Hall, executive director of the Safe Electricity program. “We encourage everyone to visit SafeElectricity.org to see the video of Gary's story and learn more about staying safe around overhead power lines.”

To learn more about Electrical Safety Month, read Electrical Safety for All Ages.