Recently, several construction companies in Washington State were fined by the state’s Department of Labor & Industries for safety violations after a crane made contact with high-voltage power lines. An estimated 14 kilovolts traveled down the crane’s hoist line to the men working below the power lines, seriously injuring two of them. For reference, 14 kilovolts is equal to 14,000 volts. A standard electrical socket in the United States uses 120 volts. Thus, the men who were injured in this case suffered an electrical shock that was roughly 116 times as strong as one would receive from inserting one’s finger in an electrical socket. How did this happen, though? Aren’t there safety precautions in place to protect construction workers from dangerous electrical shocks when working near power lines? The answer is yes, but the sad truth is that many construction companies do not follow these standards.
Safety Code Violations Lead to Injuries
The state of Washington requires that power lines near construction sites using cranes be moved underground for the duration of the construction. The Department of Labor & Industries investigators found that the power lines in this case had been scheduled to be moved underground, but, instead of waiting for that work to be done, the construction companies continued to work under them. Further investigation revealed that the companies’ employees were not trained or aware of the dangers of working under power lines. As a result, the companies were cited for several workplace safety violations, including both “serious” and “willful” violations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation is one in which the state investigators find evidence of plain indifference or an intentional disregard for a hazard or rule. As a result of the severity of the injuries the workers suffered, as well as the egregiousness of the companies’ safety violations, they have been identified as “severe violators” and will be subject to follow-up inspections to ensure that safety regulations are being enforced.
How to Avoid Power Line Injuries
According to the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, certain types of contractors are very likely to come into contact with power lines, including
- Roofers, siding and sheet metal contractors
- Tree trimming contractors
- Water, sewer, pipeline and communication contractors
- Painting contractors
The American Society of Safety Engineers recommends several ways companies can mitigate the risk of electrical shock when using cranes around power lines, including the use of a dedicated spotter, a range of motion limiting device, insulating links, and a range control warning device. OSHA also recommends that all construction workers assume that power lines are energized until notification is provided by the power company and the lines are visibly underground.
Contact an Atlanta Construction Accident Attorney Today for a Free Consultation
If you have been injured on a construction site due to a safety code violation, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Columbus, Fort Benning, and Covington.