Dangers of Working Close to Overhead Power Lines

The British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warnes about the dangers of
working close to overhead power lines, after a soft fruit farming company and
its owner were prosecuted following the electrocution of a Polish worker. He
died after metal extension poles he was using to construct the steel frame of a
polytunnel came into contact with an 11,000 volt overhead electricity power
line on farm land.

On the day of the fatality, a team of migrant workers, were working in a field,
starting to erect the steel frame of a polytunnel across which ran three
overhead power lines carrying 11,000 volts of electricity. Short metal pieces
measuring approximately 0.5m, were to be attached to each end of the metal
hoops from which the tunnel was being constructed. The topmost extension piece
touched the overhead power lines and the worker was electrocuted.

Following the fatal incident, HSE issued a Prohibition Notice to stop work
being carried out so close to low overhead power lines.

HSE Inspector Lawrence Murray said:

"This tragic death was entirely preventable and arose from clear failures to
assess and manage the risk of working close to or under overhead power lines.
A suitable and sufficient risk assessment would have identified the danger and
the necessary control measures, and a safe system of work would have ensured
the safety of the employees.

"Despite receiving a warning from an electricity linesman who witnessed work
being carried out under the lines just days before, the construction of the
polytunnel's metal frames continued.

"Work which risks contact with overhead power lines should not take place
within nine metres either side of a live power line. If it was not possible
for the line to have been de-energised for the duration of the work, the
polytunnels should not have been erected there.

"On average two people are killed and many more are injured every year when
they come into contact with overhead power lines during agricultural work.
Machinery and equipment does not need to touch power lines for electricity to
be transmitted because electricity can arc or jump across gaps. Farmers should
be reminded that it is not just machinery that conducts electricity, a jet of
water or liquid slurry; a piece of metal or fishing rod may also do the same."

On average in the UK, approximately 60 per cent of electrical fatalities at
work are caused by inadvertent contact with overhead power lines; this equates
to 10-15 deaths per year. These incidents are predominately in the
construction and agriculture sectors and mostly involve contact with high
voltage lines such as the one in this tragic case.

More info - Source: Health and Safety Executive