Many occupations may require workers to perform their job tasks near overhead power lines.
Construction workers, truck drivers, tree service workers, mobile equipment operators, agricultural workers, and others find themselves carrying-out their work in the vicinity of energized overhead power transmission lines. They may not be trained to recognize the dangers of electrocution if their bodies, equipment, tools, work materials, or vehicles come near to an overhead line. Electrical utility workers are generally highly trained to recognize and manage electrical hazards – other workers are less so.
Most high voltage electrocutions in Washington State do not involve power line workers. Both national and Washington State data show a high number of fatalities for workers in construction, tree trimming, agriculture, and others who frequently work near overhead power lines. The following information is primarily intended for workers other than electrical utility employees but may benefit anyone working around power lines.
These are brief case descriptions of selected fatalities that happened during work near energized overhead power lines in Washington State during the years 1998-2005:
Case 1: On August 19, 1998, a painter moving a 32-foot aluminum extension ladder received a fatal electric shock when the ladder contacted one phase of a 3-phase system of 13,200 volts.
Case 2: On February 7, 2000, a carpenter was in a scissor lift taking measurements of a roof with a tape measure when the lift contacted a 72 KV power line. He was electrocuted and another worker on the roof suffered severe burns.
Case 3: On April 6, 2005, a cement truck driver was electrocuted when his truck’s boom contacted an overhead power line while transferring concrete from his truck to a pumper truck.
Case 4: On June 29, 2005, a tree trimmer was electrocuted when a tree branch which he had just cut touched a high voltage power line as he was trying to remove it.
Washington State Workers and Power Line Electrocutions
Washington State commonly experiences fatal incidents from power line electrocutions. These events are devastating to the survivors and companies involved. However, high risk activities have been identified and interventions are readily available to prevent future fatalities.
Workers doing construction work and using mobile equipment account for the highest number of fatalities. Agricultural work and pruning or falling trees also resulted in several fatal electrocutions.
How to Prevent Electrocutions When Working Near Overhead Power Lines
Prevention ideas taken in part from Janicak CA (1997), "Occupational Fatalities Caused by Contact With Overhead Power Lines in the Construction Industry," JOEM, 39(4), pp. 329-332.
WISHA Consultation Program Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Everett (Region 1, Northwest Washington): 425-290-1300
Seattle (Region 2, King County): 206-515-2800
Tacoma (Region 3, Pierce, Kitsap, Clallam, and Jefferson Counties): 253-596-3800
Olympia (Region 4, Southwest Washington): 360-902-5799
East Wenatchee (Region 5, Central and Southeastern Washington): 509-886-6500
Spokane (Region 6, Eastern Washington): 509-324-2600
WISHA Policy & Technical Services
Tumwater Central Office – Safety/High Voltage: 360-902-5562
FACE Fatal Facts
Produced by the Washington State Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Program, which is managed by the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program.
The Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is funded in part by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to run the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program in Washington State (Cooperative Agreement No.: 5 U60 OH008336-2). The FACE Program collects information on all work-related fatalities in Washington State, investigates select incidents using a safety systems/root-cause approach, and develops reports and other outreach activities. The FACE Program is not compliance-oriented. Its goal is to reduce the number of work-related acute trauma injuries and deaths.
Publication #: Report # 47-10-2005 |December 27, 2005
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More