September 2016 - Working Safely Around Power Lines

Alert of the Month

On February 26th, 2016, a worker was fatally injured when a super snorkel that was being moved on a lowbed came into contact with a power line. The worker was electrocuted when he approached and touched the lowbed, which provided the electricity a path to ground. The incident occurred near Port McNeill.

In July 2013, there were three close call incidents involving power lines that potentially could have been very serious:

Recommended Preventative Actions:

Remember the safe limits of approach. Electricity can arc or “jump” from the wire to a conducting object like a piece of equipment or a truck. When working around powerlines, follow the Minimum Approach Distances from the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations:

Care must also be taken when moving equipment parallel to a powerline. An arc can occur when equipment is moving parallel to the line and goes within the limits of approach. If your operations are only moving equipment underneath the powerlines and not doing any work near the powerlines, the following table can be used.

The following diagram provides a visual guide for estimating powerline voltage.

Look up and live. Before you start work, look up and around the site and make sure you and your crew are aware of all overhead lines. Ladders, cranes and pipes are all good conductors of electricity, and remember, it doesn’t need to be touching a power line to become energized.

Parking Near Powerlines. Equipment and vehicles with rubber tires can become energized when parked near high voltage powerlines even if they are not in contact with the lines. If someone touches the energized vehicle, this creates a path to ground for the electricity and a shock will result. Usually these shocks are minor, but the severity of the shock depends on the voltage of the lines, how close the vehicle is to the lines and other factors. Avoid this hazard by not parking vehicles or equipment near powerline right of ways.

Smoke and Weather Conditions. Particles from heavy smoke can act as a conductor which can result in electricity from powerlines arcing greater distances. Increase the approach distances when there is heavy smoke in the air or postpone the job until the conditions clear.

Highly humid weather conditions can also create greater arcing distances.

A downed power line is deadly. If you spot a fallen wire, keep at least 10 meters away, even if it doesn't appear to be live. If a wire falls across your vehicle, don't get out—you could become a path for electricity if you touch the ground. If you must get out, hop out clear and land on both feet, then hop or shuffle until you are 10 meters clear of the vehicle.

Be aware of safety hazards below. Call before you dig, phone the local power company to avoid coming into contact with underground cables and service lines. The call is free, and it could save your life.

You hold their lives in your hands. Safety training is critical and as a supervisor or foreman, you hold your workers' lives in your hands. Don't put them at risk. Ensure that they have the critical safety training they need to go home safely to their families.


To learn more, check out the following resources:


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