Power lines pose a serious danger to anyone working with or around construction equipment such as scaffolds, cranes, hoists, conveyors, and ladders. Accidentally coming into contact with one of these lethally charged lines, or simply touching something made of metal that comes into contact with them, can cause shocks, burns, or even death.
Just last month, a worker in Massachusetts had his ladder accidentally fall against a power line, sending 8,000 volts of electricity through his body and causing cardiac arrest. Fortunately, witnesses at the scene called 911 and were able to perform CPR until medics arrived, saving the worker’s life.
Many others have not been so lucky when their ladders or other equipment have accidentally touched a power line. But who is at fault for these kinds of tragic accidents? Often it is employers, contractors and subcontractors who fail to sufficiently train their workers about the dangers of power lines. Sometimes it is the utilities, who fail to make safer design choices that could easily help prevent deadly accidents.
To help protect yourself from the dangers of power lines, please be aware of the following safety precautions:
· Assume that all overhead wires are energized at lethal voltages. Never assume that a wire is safe to touch even if it is down or appears to be insulated.
· Never touch a fallen overhead power line. Call the electric utility company to report fallen electrical lines.
· Stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from overhead wires during cleanup and other activities. If working at heights or handling long objects, survey the area before starting work for the presence of overhead wires.
· If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle while you are driving, stay inside the vehicle and continue to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call or ask someone to call the local electric utility company and emergency services.
· Never operate electrical equipment while you are standing in water.
· Never repair electrical cords or equipment unless qualified and authorized.
· Have a qualified electrician inspect electrical equipment that has gotten wet before energizing it.
· If working in damp locations, inspect electric cords and equipment to ensure that they are in good condition and free of defects, and use a groundfault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
· Always use caution when working near electricity.