Live Wire: Safety Planning for Electrical Hazards

electricalHigh voltage underground and overhead power lines are an ever-present danger in the construction industry. In fact, it counts among OSHA’s “Fatal Four” in construction related deaths and injuries. Planning and managing work near electric overhead and underground power lines requires basic safety measures so that risks from accidental contact or close proximity to the lines are adequately controlled.

Important Facts About Power Lines:

  • Going close to a live overhead line can result in a flashover that may kill. Touching a power line is not necessary for danger;
  • Voltages lower than 230 volts can kill and injure people;
  • Overhead power lines on wooden poles can be mistaken for telephone wires;
  • Electricity can bypass wood, plastic or rubber, if it is damp or dirty, and cause fatal shocks. Gloves or rubber boots are not sufficient protection.

Safety Planning for Electrical Hazards

The first step is to find out whether there is any overhead power lines within or immediately next to the work area, or across any access route. This information will be available from the local electricity supplier. If any overhead lines are found, you should assume that they are live unless proved otherwise by their owners. Also, always allow sufficient time for lines to be diverted or made dead, or for other precautions to be taken.

Basic safety measures also include:

  • Contact utilities for buried power line locations. Live wires should be de-energized when working near them. Other protective measures include guarding or insulating the lines.
  • Post warning signs near overhead power lines and buried power line indicators.
  • Instruct workers to stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines and use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines.

OSHA has helpful information for training site managers on electrocution hazards and as always, contact our offices here at Diversified Safety for more information.


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