In part one, we discussed the minimum clearance distances that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires contractors to abide by when working in the vicinity of power lines. Below, we further discuss measures that you can employ to ensure worker safety around these electrical hazards. Remember, power lines present a very real danger that can result in a worker being electrocuted on your jobsite. For assistance determining if your jobsite is safe and OSHA compliant, consult the team of OSHA defense attorneys from Cotney Construction Law.
Operating Equipment Near Power Lines
Per 29 CFR 196.1408(a)(2), “Determine if any part of the equipment, load line or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), if operated up to the equipment’s maximum working radius in the work zone, could get closer than 20 feet to a power line.” If your equipment, such as a crane, could get closer than 20 feet, OSHA leaves you with the following three options:
- De-energize: Confirm with the utility owner that the power line has been de-energized. The power line must be visibly grounded.
- 20 feet: Take measures to ensure that equipment does not get within 20 feet of the power line.
- Minimum Clearance: Follow the minimum distances mentioned in part one.
Ensuring a Safe Distance of 20 Feet
For options two and three, OSHA has specific regulations in place for when equipment is within 20 feet of a live power line. To begin, you must conduct a planning meeting with everyone that will be working in the area to review power line locations and safety measures. Next, a highly visible barricade, warning line, or line of signs must be erected 20 feet from the power lines. A dedicated spotter can be used if the equipment operator is unable to see the warnings. In addition, you must use any one of the following measures:
- Proximity alarm
- Dedicated spotter
- Range control warning device
- Device limiting range of movement
- Insulating link/device
With few exceptions, no equipment is allowed beneath power lines. If your workforce commonly violates safety rules, consult one of our OSHA defense lawyers for a comprehensive third-party site audit to help develop a strategy for securing your project sites.
Always Assume Power Lines Are Live
You must always assume power lines are energized and uninsulated until the utility owner or a registered engineer confirms otherwise. Power lines will always present a potential hazard, and all of your workers, including equipment operators, spotters, and laborers, must be properly trained on how to work around them.
As mentioned throughout this article, contact with a power line can be lethal for workers that fail to take this risk seriously. Just as gun safety teaches that all guns are loaded, you must teach your workforce that all power lines are dangerous. Failure to provide your workers with a jobsite free from recognized hazards that could cause injury or death could result in an OSHA investigation — or worse, a worker being electrocuted. For an ally that can assist you with OSHA compliance and defense, partner with the OSHA defense attorneys from Cotney Construction Law.
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.