In January of 2012, the Safety and Health Department launched several new initiatives designed to "target the deadly dozen hazardous activities that lead to fatalities and disabling injuries." The focus of this article is to highlight some of the hazards and regulatory requirements pertaining to common work activities near power lines. Fatality and incident reports obtained from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the International Association revealed that electrocution from contact with power line sources during crane assembly, rigging operations, and other activities accounted for 198 incidents and 39% of the total reported incidents. Following are some of the regulatory requirements pertaining to common jobsite material handling activities working near or beneath power lines on the job site. As part of the 2012 Zero Fatality Campaign, remember power line contact is one of the deadly dozen hazards, "You See Something-You Say Something."
The information in this article pertaining to power lines and regulatory requirements is not intended to be all-inclusive. The OSHA Subpart CC-Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard deals extensively with power line safety and has been incorporated into the Ironworkers National Training Fund training materials for apprentice and journeyman upgrading training. These training materials and programs contain information, illustrations, and instruction to help prevent equipment from contacting energized power lines. The final OSHA standard delineates systematic, reliable procedures and methods that employers must use to prevent a safe clearance distance from being breached. If maintaining the safe clearance distance is infeasible, additional protections are required, including grounding the equipment, covering the line with an insulating sleeve, and using insulating links and nonconductive tag lines. The International Association encourages all members to take advantage of the National Training Fund courses offered at training facilities throughout the country.
Avoiding Power Line Hazards and Recognizing Minimum Safe Distances - Preventing contact with power lines and electrocutions requires our members to be instructed on the voltage of power lines and the minimum safe distances. Following are some of the OSHA standards that list the "minimum clearance distances" for work activities near power-lines.
(a) Before assembling or disassembling equipment-The employer must determine if any part of the equipment, load line, or load (including rigging and lifting accessories) could get, in the direction or area of assembly/disassembly, closer than 20 feet to a power line during the assembly/disassembly process. If so, the employer must meet the requirements in Option (1), Option (2), or Option (3) of this section, as follows:
Option (1)-De-energize and ground. Confirm from the utility owner/operator that the power line has been deenergized and visibly grounded at the worksite.
Option (2)-20-foot clearance. Ensure that no part of the equipment, load line or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), gets closer than 20 feet to the power line by implementing the measures specified in paragraph (b) of this section.
(3) Option (3)-Table A clearance (See below).
(i) Determine the line's voltage and the minimum clearance distance permitted under Table A (above).
(ii) Determine if any part of the equipment, load line, or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), could get closer than the minimum clearance distance to the power line permitted under Table A (see Sec. 1926.1408). If so, then the employer must follow the requirements in paragraph (b) of this section to ensure that no part of the equipment, load line, or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), gets closer to the line than the minimum clearance distance.
(b) Preventing encroachment/electrocution. Where encroachment precautions are required under Option (2), or Option (3) of this section, all of the following requirements must be met:
(1) Conduct a planning meeting with the assembly/disassembly director (A/D director), operator, assembly/disassembly crew and the other workers who will be in the assembly/disassembly area to review the location of the power line(s) and the steps that will be implemented to prevent encroachment/electrocution.
(2) If tag lines are used, they must be nonconductive.
(3) At least one of the following additional measures must be in place. The measure selected from this list must be effective in preventing encroachment. The additional measures are:
(i) Use a dedicated spotter who is in continuous contact with the equipment operator.
Specific requirements pertaining to a dedicated spotter:
(A) Be equipped with a visual aid to assist in identifying the minimum clearance distance. Examples of a visual aid include, but are not limited to: A clearly visible line painted on the ground; a clearly visible line of stanchions; a set of clearly visible line-of-sight landmarks (such as a fence post behind the dedicated spotter and a building corner ahead of the dedicated spotter).
(B) Be positioned to effectively gauge the clearance distance.
(C) Where necessary, use equipment that enables the dedicated spotter to communicate directly with the operator.
(D) Give timely information to the operator so that the required clearance distance can be maintained.
(ii) A proximity alarm set to give the operator sufficient warning to prevent encroachment.
(iii) A device that automatically warns the operator when to stop movement, such as a range control warning device. Such a device must be set to give the operator sufficient warning to prevent encroachment.
(iv) A device that automatically limits range of movement, set to prevent encroachment.
(v) An elevated warning line, barricade, or line of signs, in view of the operator, equipped with flags or similar high-visibility markings.
(c) Assembly/disassembly below power lines prohibited. No part of a crane/derrick, load line, or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), whether partially or fully assembled, is allowed below a power line unless the employer has confirmed that the utility owner/operator has de-energized and (at the worksite) visibly grounded the power line.
(d) Assembly/disassembly inside Table A clearance prohibited. No part of a crane/derrick, load line, or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), whether partially or fully assembled, is allowed closer than the minimum approach distance under Table A (see Sec. 1926.1408) to a power line unless the employer has confirmed that the utility owner/operator has de-energized and (at the worksite) visibly grounded the power line.
(e) Voltage information. Where Option (3) of this section is used, the utility owner/operator of the power lines must provide the requested voltage information within two working days of the employer's request.
(f) Power lines presumed energized. The employer must assume that all power lines are energized unless the utility owner/operator confirms that the power line has been and continues to be de-energized and visibly grounded at the worksite.
(g) Posting of electrocution warnings. There must be at least one electrocution hazard warning conspicuously posted in the cab so that it is in view of the operator and (except for overhead gantry and tower cranes) at least two on the outside of the equipment.
The "2012 Zero Fatality" campaign will challenge all members to "intervene and prevent unsafe conditions and unsafe acts" in the workplace. The information in this article is not intended to be all-inclusive and our members should contact their nearest local union training facility for more detailed training and instruction on power line safety and regulatory requirements. I will continue to work closely with district councils, local unions, and IMPACT regional advisory boards throughout the United States and Canada to promote the "2012 Zero Fatality" campaign and provide assistance to help prevent fatalities and disabling injuries in the workplace.