Articles Posted in Powerline Injuries

DSC_2035-199x300According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocutions are the third highest cause of construction worker deaths. Many electrical injuries and fatalities occur after a crane comes into contact with a powerline and the electrical current travels through the crane to the operator of the equipment. In order to help prevent these accidents from ever occurring, OSHA created extensive construction workplace safety rules for the operation of cranes and booms operating near powerlines. (29 C.F.R. 1926.1408).

Under the OSHA regulation, before beginning equipment operations an employer must complete a number of steps. First, the employer must identify the work zone. The employer can either mark off the boundaries and prohibit equipment operators from going beyond the marked boundaries, or the employer can define the work zone as 360 degrees around the equipment up to the maximum working radius.

If any part of the construction equipment could get closer than 20 feet to a powerline within the identified work zone, the employer must take additional steps and complete one of the following options:

Powerlines create a serious hazard to aircraft. Approximately 66 aircraft strikes occur annually in the United States and an estimated 30% of these strikes result in fatalities. Strikes occurring at night or in limited visibility are particularly dangerous and have a 60% fatality rate. Helicopters are particularly at risk of striking powerlines, because they operate in the wire environment (below 1,000 feet) 90% of the time.

One of the things that makes powerlines so dangerous is that they can appear invisible to pilots.  In only 40% of the aircraft strikes were pilots aware that the powerline or structure were there. In an effort to prevent these aircraft strikes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created both notice regulations for certain constructions and standards for the marking and lighting of powerlines.

14 C.F.R. Part 77.9 sets forth when developers are required to give notice of construction or alternation to the FAA, including: downed electrical line coming into contact with a building or person can result in electrical shock or fire. In order to protect buildings and the occupants inside them from injury or death, the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) created clearance regulations for electrical lines that hang over or run next to buildings.

The NESC, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is considered the industry standard for electrical safety regulations. Most state regulatory commissions adopt the NESC.

The NESC publishes both vertical clearance requirements for electrical lines running over buildings and horizontal clearance regulations for electrical lines running adjacent to buildings. The vertical clearance regulation is dependent on whether or not the roof is available to pedestrians. If the roof is not accessible to pedestrians, the electrical line must be no less than 12.5 feet from the highest point of the roof. Whereas if a roof is accessible to pedestrians, the electrical lines must be no less than 13.5 feet from the highest point of the roof. The NESC considers a roof to be accessible to pedestrians if it can be casually accessed through a doorway, ramp, window, stairway, or permanently-mounted ladder by a person on foot who does not need to use extreme physical force or any special tools or devices to gain entry. lines over roads can cause serious injury if a person, truck, or extension ladder come into contact with the charged line. Because of the risk of injury posed by overhead electrical lines, the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) publishes strict guidelines for height clearance over roadways. 

The NESC is published every five years by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.  The NESC creates rules and guidelines for electric supply stations, overhead lines, underground lines, and safety-related practices for utility workers. It is considered the industry standard for safety guidelines across the United States. The NESC may be adopted by state regulatory commissions. Although the NESC regulations are the industry standard, transportation departments, cities, and states may require additional clearances.

The required clearance under the NESC is dependent on the activity under or adjacent to the electrical lines and the type of cable or conductor. The minimum required height clearances for electrical lines over roadways subject to truck traffic are below: is common for a storm or car crash to cause overhead powerlines to be downed. Although electrical injuries are not common, the dangers of downed powerlines should not be underestimated. Downed powerlines can carry an electrical current strong enough to cause serious injury or death.

The stronger the electrical current charging throughout a person’s body, the more serious their injuries will be. Electrical injuries range from a slight tingling sensation to respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation. Deep tissue burning is likely to occur wherever the current flows throughout the body. Much of the burning may be internal and not immediately apparent to first responders. Internal burning can be deadly and cause serious injuries to internal organs. The most severe injuries occur when the electrical current passes through the person’s heart and lungs.

Electrical injuries occur when you comes into contact with an electrical source, such as a downed powerline. The electrical current is transferred from the powerline to your body. One way you can come into contact with an electrical source is by directly touching a downed powerline. You may also suffer electrical injuries, if you touch anything in contact with the fallen powerline, such as a fence or car. If a downed powerline has fallen on your car, you should stay inside your vehicle, if possible, and wait for rescue crews to arrive.

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