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Overhead power lines: Are your employees in danger?

SafetyClicks™ Idea of the Week

Overhead and buried power lines at your construction jobsites are especially hazardous because they carry extremely high voltage. Fatal electrocution is the main risk, but burns and falls from elevation are also hazards. Using tools and equipment that can come in contact with power lines increases the risk.

Examples of equipment that can contact overhead power lines

  • Aluminum paint rollers
  • Backhoes
  • Concrete pumpers
  • Cranes
  • Long-handled concrete finishing floats
  • Metal building materials
  • Metal ladders
  • Raised dump truck beds
  • Scaffolds

How do your employees avoid overhead power line hazards?

  • Look for overhead power lines and buried power line indicators. Post warning signs.
  • Contact utilities for buried power line locations.
  • Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. Know the OSHA requirements.
  • Unless you know otherwise, assume that overhead lines are energized.
  • De-energize and ground lines when working near them. Other protective measures include guarding or insulating the lines.
  • Use nonconductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines.

What can happen if an employee doesn’t recognize the hazard?

Seven employees of a masonry company were erecting a brick wall while standing on a tubular, welded-frame scaffold approximately 24 feet high. The scaffold had been constructed only 21 horizontal inches across from a 7,620-volt power line.

A laborer carried a piece of wire reinforcement (10 feet long by 8 inches wide) along the top section of the scaffold and contacted the power line with it. The laborer, who was wearing leather gloves, received an electric shock and dropped the wire reinforcement, which fell across the power line and simultaneously contacted the metal rail of the scaffold, energizing the entire scaffold. A 20-year-old bricklayer standing on the work platform in contact with the main scaffold was electrocuted.

The above incident is just one of many that happen each year. Approximately 350 electrical-related fatalities occur annually. Don’t allow your employees to be added to the statistics. Train them to recognize and avoid the hazards of overhead power lines and ensure they follow the rules.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA)