New Law Adds Protection for Utility Line Workers

(Cumming, GA; April 25, 2016) — Sawnee EMC is one of over forty (40) Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs) in Georgia that brought the important issue of increasing line worker safety before the 2016 Georgia General Assembly via House Bill 767. Now, thanks to these efforts and the support of every state legislator in our area, including Rep. Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega) who sponsored the bill in the Senate, utility linemen will join the ranks of law enforcement, public safety, and transportation personnel who will be better protected under a new law signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

House Bill 767, the “Move Over for Linemen” legislation, requires any motorist approaching utility linemen at an active work site, as indicated by traffic cones or flashing beacons, to change lanes or reduce their speed to a reasonable and proper speed below the posted speed limit. Any motorist who does not change lanes or drop their speed to avoid the utility workers can be fined up to $250 per incident. Chet Blackstock, VP of Operations at Sawnee EMC states, “On April 19th, we celebrated Sawnee EMC Lineman Appreciation Day, and now is the perfect time to announce this new law that will protect our employees which are frequently working in heavy traffic areas throughout our service area.” The new bill, which becomes effective July 1st, applies to all types of utility workers, including electric, natural gas, cable and telecommunications workers, right-of-way crews or utility contractors.

During the legislative session, the EMC’s statewide trade association, Georgia EMC, led a coalition of utilities and businesses consisting of the 41 EMCs, Georgia Power and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) systems in support of HB 767.

The new law, and added protections, are critical to safeguard first responders of all kinds. According to the Georgia Department of Highway Safety, emergency vehicles parked beside a highway are vulnerable to crashes, even with emergency lights flashing. Consequently, the original law (passed in 2003) was created to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities to police officers, paramedics, firefighters, wrecker operators, and highway maintenance workers by maintaining an open buffer lane between passing highway traffic and authorized roadside emergency vehicles.

Gov. Deal signed the bill during a statewide event to recognize Lineman Appreciation Month in April. The EMCs, Georgia Power, municipal systems, Electric Cities of Georgia, MEAG Power and other utilities gathered at the State Capitol as Gov. Deal, members of the legislature and the public said “Thank You” for the work and sacrifice of linemen and keeping the lights on 365 days a year.

The final bill can be viewed at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20152016/159592.pdf.

About Sawnee EMC
Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation is an electric distribution cooperative headquartered in Cumming, Georgia. Sawnee serves electricity to approximately 161,500 accounts in seven (7) counties of greater north Georgia. Sawnee’s assets exceed $524 million, with energy sales of 3.6 billion kWh and annual revenue of $354 million. With a team of approximately 305 dedicated professionals and over 10,150 miles of distribution line, Sawnee stands ready at all times to meet the needs of its members/owners. SEMC strives daily to live up to their motto…

“At Sawnee EMC, We’re More Than Electricity, We’re Service”.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer.