Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

By: Jason Contant

An Alberta worker was injured when he tried to remove an article from an overhead power line and received an electrical shock.

Just before 5 pm on January 4, 2008 the ATCO Electric Ltd. employee was working alone in the village of Wanham, Alberta. Attempting to remove a pair of shoes that had been slung over the power line, an electrical contact resulted in the worker suffering burn injuries, says Barrie Harrison, a spokesperson for Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry (AEII). The worker, 28, was airlifted to Grand Prairie, 90 kilometres away, and then transferred to a hospital in Edmonton for treatment. AEII officers issued one order against ATCO Electric requiring the company to investigate and determine the cause of the accident, Harrison says. Having to deal with articles tossed onto power lines is hardly uncommon, says ATCO Electric spokesperson Kris Sakowsky. “It’s certainly something we observe on a regular basis and something our workers have to contend with,” Sakowsky says. “It’s amazing what you see hooked up into the power lines these days.”

In general, for those who are working near power lines, ATCO Electric recommends the following precautions be taken:

– workers stay back at least 10 metres from any downed power line or exposed underground cable;
– workers who operate machinery or equipment look up and check for overhead power lines before beginning work;
– if machinery contacts an energized line, move it away from the line to break contact or remain in the machine; and,
– if there is a fire, jump off of the machine, keeping both feet together. Once clear of the machine, shuffle away, never allowing the heel of one foot to move beyond the toe of the other, or hop with both feet together to a minimum distance of 10 metres.

My opinion

The ‘Electrical Code’ would cover something like this. My only problem is that this type of injury could have been prevented if there were a set of safe work instructions to deal with such an issue. The ‘Electrical Code’ as well as common sense could have governed the creation of proper safe work practices and it would be up to the companies to properly implement them. Since the accident happened in Alberta, I would not be surprised that any such issues would get the attention required. (NOT!!!)

Safety is just a word but occupational health and safety is a frame of mind. If everyone gets involved, from government to employers to workers, then we can begin to cut down the number of accidents, especially those that cause lost time injuries. The humour in all this is the false notion that safety has to cost. It does not have to be an extreme cost but NOT implementing safe practices CAN! The savings far outweigh the expenditures so please attempt to implement safe work practices at your company.

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Electrical Safety Awareness’ and ‘Lockout and Tagout’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at info@hrsgroup.com

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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