Guidance on Avoiding Contact with Power Lines Published

NEW GUIDANCE outlining ways to reduce risks when using Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) in the vicinity of power lines has been published by the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF).

The guidance, launched as part of the IPAF’s ‘High Voltage!’ global safety campaign, aims to help reduce electrocution and electric shock incidents.

The new document Safe Use of MEWPs in the Vicinity of Power Lines was developed by IPAF in collaboration with the IPAF International Safety Committee (ISC) and supporting members. It is currently available to view or download in English. After being launched officially at Conexpo in Las Vegas, and following industry review and consideration of any feedback, the document will be made available in other languages. Print copies of the document are also available, allowing organisations to produce co-branded hard copies as required.

Brian Parker, IPAF’s Head of Safety & Technical

Brian Parker, IPAF’s Head of Safety & Technical, says: “By analysing data from the past ten years of accident reporting via IPAF’s portal, it’s evident that incidents involving electrocutions and electric shocks have notably increased since 2015. One standout statistic is that reported incidents of electrocution are nearly always fatal.

“Working in the vicinity of energised power lines can expose workers to health and safety risks including death by electrocution or electric shock. If a MEWP or its occupants contact energised power lines it can cause instant death, electric shock or other injuries caused directly or indirectly by electricity. Equally serious can be the effect of electricity arcing from the power line to a MEWP and its occupants.

“As with all common causes of accidents involving MEWPs, workplace safety culture and behaviour can play a big part in reducing the number of incidents. Ignorance or lack of awareness of the main underlying risks can lead to complacency and potential exposure to unsafe situations. It was clear that this is another of those all-too-common type of incident that our industry should be doing much more to understand and eradicate, which nearly always result in serious, life-changing injury or death.

“IPAF has prepared a brand new, comprehensive guidance document, which we hope will assist all those planning, operating and supervising the use MEWPs in the vicinity of power lines in identifying and understanding the risks. The guide outlines measures that can reduce or mitigate these and in turn reduce the occurrence of incidents involving contact with or arcing from power lines.”

MEWP Safety Guidance

The new guidance aims to:

provide information for those who plan and manage MEWP operations, and on the main causes of electrocutions with power lines
raise awareness to the hazards and risks in working in close proximity to power lines
provide information on the industry sectors where electrocutions and electric shocks occur
identify risk control measures and Safe System of Work (SSoW) to implement and reduce the number of incidents occurring
provide general global guidance for those who undertake tasks to prevent incidents occurring.

Identifying and Understanding the Risks

The key points of safety guidance included in the new document are:

Plan thoroughly – look out and around for power lines in the work area. Conduct a site survey and risk assessment ensuring an SSoW is completed. Correct machine selection is critical. If power lines are in your work area contact the Energy Supply Authority (ESA) before work commences. Ensure operators are briefed prior to work commencing and that they are made aware of any power lines in the vicinity.

Ensure operators are trained – anyone involved in the safe use of MEWPs must be properly trained on the type of MEWP they are using and must receive machine-specific familiarisation. Managers must ensure MEWP operators, supervisors and spotters are briefed on the SSoW.

Stay outside exclusion zones – an exclusion zone is the prescribed safety envelope around live electric power lines. You must not operate a MEWP where there is potential for any part of it to enter an exclusion zone. Distances for exclusion zones can vary; these must be obtained from the relevant ESA.

Know your rescue plan – if someone has been electrocuted by arcing of electricity or has been in contact with a power line, call the emergency services immediately and call the ESA to have the power turned off and the lines isolated. Observe the Stay, Call, Wait protocol.


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