Three Electrical Hazards Faced By Linemen And How To Avoid Them
Any type of work involving electrical equipment can be dangerous. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that in 2019 alone, electrical hazards caused over 160 fatalities, and marked a four percent increase compared to previous years. Below are some of the most common electrical hazards faced by linemen and how to avoid them.
When electricity comes into contact with human skin, serious burns can result. These injuries fall under three categories, which are:
- Contact burns: These types of burns will often damage the internal tissues, but will only cause minimal damage to the external skin layer
- Flame burns: These burns result from nearby materials which combust due to ignition or heat from electrical currents and arc flash
- Thermal burns: These burns come from heat which is primarily caused by electrical arcs.
Burn injuries may appear suddenly, especially during replacement battery installation near substations if the battery cable falls into the terminals because this can lead to an electric fault.
While not directly related to electrical hazards, falls are a real threat to linemen that work on scaffolds, aerial buckets and ladders. The average utility pole is approximately thirty feet tall and a fall from this height can lead to horrific injuries such as fractured ribs, internal injuries, fractured pelvis and broken legs.
Linemen routinely have to work with both buried and overhead power lines, which pose a potential threat because of the higher voltages they carry. If they aren’t careful, these workers can be electrocuted. These injuries typically result from coming into direct contact with energized conductors that are exposed as well as circuit components, which will disrupt the standard electrical signals which exist between the muscles and brain. The consequences of being electrocuted include disrupted breathing, muscle spasms and the inability of the heart to beat properly.
How These Hazards Can Be Avoided
Given the inherent dangers that come with this type of work, linemen must exercise caution at all times and utilize the following practices:
Thoroughly Assess Every Job Site
While job sites share certain similarities, no two are exactly alike. Never rush into a job and always take the time to thoroughly assess the area, identifying possible hazards in advance so that you can come up with a plan which will allow these risks to be mitigated.
Employ Cover-up Tools
Cover-up tools is a type of equipment that stops workers from making inadvertent contact with electrical components which are energized. They will also stop accidental ground contact with energized conductors. The likelihood of an injury occurring is much higher when cover-up tools are not used.
Don’t Assume that Grounded Systems are Secure
Assuming that grounded systems are secure without taking the time to actually verify it is extremely dangerous. This is because induction or current within the conductor created by nearby electromagnetic fields are always a threat. Even a system that is properly grounded can rapidly shift to dangerous either because of rough handling or extreme environmental conditions. Visually inspect all equipment and use tools which are double insulated.
Utilize Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn at all times to provide protection against safety hazards, and the attire a lineman wears should fit correctly and be comfortable to wear even in adverse weather conditions.