Overhead as well as buried power lines at a building site are particularly dangerous because an extremely high voltage runs through them. Burns and even death can result from contact with live power lines and when combined with tools and equipment coming into with lines, the risk is increased.
Crane operators need to be particularly careful that they do not make contact with overhead power lines while operating equipment because the consequences can be deadly.
A recent incident which took place in in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada shows exactly why workers and operators need to exercise such caution when it comes to working near power lines. A self-erecting tower crane working on a construction site caught fire after it contacted overhead power lines.
Crane on fire in Vancouver, Canada
The following excerpt from an article on CraneAccidents.com explains further:
The operator on the ground slewed the crane, an Italian built FM Gru owned by Mega Cranes, without releasing that the chain slings on the hook could catch on the overhead power lines.
They did and the electricity flowed down the crane to earth sending sparks into a stack of wood pallets stored near the base of the crane, which then caught fire.
Fire fighters were called and managed to put the fire out relatively easily, and a BC Hydro team quickly moved in to repair the damaged power lines and reconnect power for around 2,600 buildings in the area. Thankfully no one was hurt in the incident.
According to health and safety experts the crane in question was too close to the power lines and therefore needed special care and possibly protection. Operators need to be more aware of their surroundings before making these kinds of manoeuvres in order to avoid incidents of this nature.
Those involved in the accident above are actually extremely lucky to be alive, but every year a number of workers die due to electrocution. This accident could have been avoided by simply looking for and identifying overhead power lines beforehand and being more careful to avoid them.
It is also important the employees always assume that over-head power lines are energized until it is clearly determined that it is not.
Crane operators aren’t the only ones at risk of making contact with overhead power lines, workers should use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines rather than metal ladders.
In order to avoid incidents such as this one, employers need to plan and manage work near electric overhead power lines so that risks from accidental contact or close proximity to the lines are adequately controlled especially when tower cranes and other heavy machinery are involved.
Safety precautions will depend on the nature of the work and are essential even when work near the power line is of short duration. Employers need to ensure a combination of measures including proper planning and preparation, eliminating the danger, controlling the access and controlling the work.
Picture shows crane’s lifting slings caught on the overhead power lines