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Staying Safe Around Power Lines Part 1

Power lines are potentially dangerous electrical hazards that construction workers must work around every day. As one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) “Fatal Four,” electrocutions accounted for over 7 percent of deaths in construction in 2017. By staying safe around power lines, you can safeguard your workforce from one of the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry. 

In this two-part article, we discuss safety measures and OSHA regulations that you must keep top of mind while overseeing your workers. For assistance with OSHA compliance, consult one of our OSHA attorneys from Cotney Construction Law. 

Keeping a Safe Distance 

Your workers must always maintain a safe distance from power lines. After all, the best way to mitigate a dangerous hazard is to avoid it. OSHA has specific guidelines for how close equipment, such as a crane, can be to power lines. Per 29 CFR 1926.1408(h), These minimum distances in kV (1kV is equal to 1,000 volts) are: 

  • Up to 50 kV: 10 feet
  • 50-200 kV: 15 feet
  • 200-350 kV: 20 feet
  • 350-500 kV: 25 feet
  • 500-750 kV: 35 feet
  • 750-1,000 kV: 45 feet

As stipulated by OSHA, the minimum clearance distance for power lines over 1,000 kV can only be determined by either the utility operator or a qualified and registered professional engineer. 

High Voltage 

It’s a common misconception that voltage alone is dangerous. It’s the strength of the current (amperage) that the voltage carries that actually causes harm. The higher the voltage, the higher the current that can pass from a powerline to a worker. 50-150 milliamperes can cause excruciating pain, respiratory arrest, and death. Considering that household appliances can carry more amps than that, it can’t be overstated how important it is for your workers to remain vigilant around power lines. 

As we continue in part two, we will further discuss how your workers can remain safe around power lines. It is essential that you follow these regulations to the letter if you wish to avoid a possible OSHA investigation and citation.

If you would like to speak with one of our OSHA lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.