15 February, 2024

Electricity – Stay alert, stay alive

When working at height with an aerial work platform, power lines are dangerous and potentially deadly. To keep the amount of access incidents involving electrocutions and electric shocks associated with power lines to a minimum, it is important to identify the hazards and risks.

Hazards and risks

If an AWP or its occupants come into contact with power lines the result can be instant death, electric shock, or other injuries caused directly or indirectly by electricity. 

Electric shock can also occur without direct contact with power lines, as arcing or a flashover may result if the machine is too close to the power line. Incorrect identification of overhead power lines is also a risk, as they can be mistaken for telecommunication lines.

Other risk factors include power lines that may be hidden from view by vegetation or trees, a lack of work site supervision and operator complacency.

To reduce the risk of electrocutions and shocks while operating powered access equipment, always: 

1. Be prepared

At the start of a project, look out and around for power lines in the work area. Conduct a site survey and risk assessment. Correct machine selection is critical. If power lines are in your work area, contact the energy supplier before work commences. Give all operators a briefing before they start and ensure they are aware of the presence of power lines in the vicinity. 

2. Train operators

Anyone involved in the safe use of AWPs must be properly trained on the machine they are using and must have received a machine-specific familiarisation. As this is a high risk activity and can have severe consequences, managers must ensure operators, supervisors and spotters are briefed on safety.

3. Stay outside exclusion zones

An exclusion zone is the prescribed safety envelope around live electric power lines. Where there is potential for any part of it to enter an exclusion zone, an aerial work platform should not be operated.

4. Know your rescue plan

Does everyone on site know what to do in case of an emergency? If someone has been electrocuted by arcing of electricity or has been in contact with a power line, immediately call an ambulance and the energy supplier to have the power turned off. Make sure everyone knows and follows the emergency instructions.

Follow the instructions:

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