Frontline construction workers at high risk of overhead powerline contact

Electrical Safety Authority shares powerline safety tips for worksites

Frontline construction workers at high risk of overhead powerline contact

With the warmer months here, plenty of people will be undertaking outdoor work projects.

During this time, the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is asking Ontarians to be aware of the risks: In the past 10 years, 18 Ontarians have died from overhead powerline contact, the leading cause of electrical fatality in Ontario, reported ESA.

And front line construction workers are at an especially high risk, with 70 per cent of powerline contacts over the past 10 years occurring on construction sites, according to the report.

"Whether you're pruning trees or taking on a smaller landscaping project, it's important to locate powerlines before you start any work," said Patrick Falzon, powerline safety specialist, ESA. "Keep you and your tools and equipment at least three metres away from overhead powerlines at all times. A single distraction – no matter how momentary – could cause a life-threatening injury or fatality".

Previously, British Columbia employer Iron Bay Holdings Ltd./Shack Shine was fined $5,000 after one of its workers sustained serious injuries in the workplace. The worker was using a telescoping cleaning pole to clean windows. During this process, the pole contacted an overhead high-voltage power line and the worker sustained serious injuries.

Also, a worker for trucking company Le Groupe Neault was killed in an electrocution accident in Trois-Rivières, QC, on July 23, 2019. In October 2021, a worker died of electrocution while working at Calgary's Southcentre Mall in Alberta.

But there are things that workers and employers alike must be familiar with to ensure powerline safety in worksites, according to ESA, which shared the following tips:

  1. Look up and look out. Identify all powerlines on site and make sure people and high reach equipment stay at least three metres away to prevent an incident. Electricity can jump to you or your equipment if you're too close to a powerline. 
  2. Designate a signaller. A competent designated signaller for all high reach equipment such as a dump truck, boom truck or crane provides a second set of eyes at all times. Incidents often happen at the end of the day when workers are tired or rushing to finish a job.
  3. Drop your box. Ensure that dump trucks on site drop their box after dumping the load before driving away. It is recommended to install an audible and visual raised box indicator to remind the operator the box is in the raised position.
  4. Everyone has a role to play. It is good practice to inform everyone on the jobsite – including sub-contractors – of all electrical hazards. Install warning signs identifying the powerline hazards. Powerline safety is a collective responsibility, which means every member of the crew should be watching for powerlines and looking out for one another.

Canada recently marked Powerline Safety Week, from May 16 to 22.