The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the governmental agency tasked with enforcing safety regulations in the workplace, recently fined three New York contractors a total of $465,410 for operating a crane near a 13,200 volt power line at a worksite in Valley Stream. The contractors, Vordonia Contracting and Supplies, Masonry Services, Inc., and North Eastern Precast, were each cited with serious violations that placed workers at great risk of suffering from fatal injuries or serious physical harm. OSHA cited the three firms with failure to mark power lines with warning signs, failure to de-energize high voltage lines, failure to train workers about electrocution hazards, and failure to have the crane inspected after it was erected. OSHA officials stated that the contractors willfully ignored regulations meant to protect workers from dangerous safety hazards.
Commenting on the violations and fines, Anthony Ciuffo, Long Island’s OSHA director, stated, “OSHA standards prohibit working in close proximity to live power lines. These employers allowed workers to be exposed to electrocution hazards despite repeated cease and desist notices from the Long Island Power Authority. Their workers should never have been placed in harm’s way. They were fortunate not to be electrocuted.”
According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2,300 injuries occur each year as a result of cranes operating too closely to high voltage power lines. Of the 2,300 injuries that occurred, 115 injuries resulted in death, and 200 of the injuries resulted in permanent disabilities. The report pointed out that electrocutions are the most common type of crane accident and account for 1.5 percent of overall workplace fatalities.
The CDC’s report referred to several case studies involving crane accidents that resulted in electrocutions. In one case, a 28-year-old construction worker was holding on to a steel ladder being moved by a crane. When the crane came into contact with a 7,200 volt power line, the worker was electrocuted. In another case, three workers were moving steel with a crane. When the crane came into contact with a 23,000 volt power line, two of the workers were electrocuted, and one worker suffered from severe electrical burns. Finally, one case involved a worker attaching a load to a crane. When the crane touched a 7,200 volt power line, the worker was injured and electrocuted. In all cases, the companies were not adhering to OSHA regulations pertaining to the operations of cranes near power lines.
When operating near power lines, crane companies should adhere to several key regulations and guidelines. First, they should move, insulate or de-energize high power lines at the construction site. If this is not possible, the company should adhere to OSHA clearance levels to maintain a safe distance from power lines. Third, a company should use non-conductive lines to guide and direction crane loads. In addition, a company should assign a signal person to help direct a crane operator around power lines. Moreover, workers should wear insulated boots and gloves while working around high voltage lines, and all combustible materials should be moved away to a safe distance.