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NIOSH Alert: Preventing Electrocutions During Work With Scaffolds Near Overhead Power Lines

CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) periodically issues alerts on workplace hazards that have caused death or serious injury to workers. One such alert, Preventing Electrocutions During Work with Scaffolds Near Overhead Power Lines (1), was recently released and is now available to the public. * This alert describes 13 deaths that occurred in six separate incidents when workers erected or moved scaffolds that came into contact with energized, overhead power lines or when they contacted overhead power lines with conductive tools or materials while working on scaffolds.

At least 6500 traumatic work-related deaths occur each year in the United States (2). An estimated 7% of these fatalities are electrocutions. From 1980 through 1986, at least 25 deaths resulted when workers contacted overhead power lines while erecting or moving scaffolds or while using conductive tools on scaffolds. Many occupational groups (e.g., brickmasons, carpenters, painters, construction laborers, and plasterers) are at risk for electrocution because their jobs involve working from scaffolds near overhead power lines (2).

To prevent such electrocutions, NIOSH included recommendations in the alert to be followed by employers, managers, supervisors, and workers where scaffolds and conductive tools or materials are used near overhead power lines. These recommendations include requirements mandated in current and proposed Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations for the construction industry.


  1. NIOSH. NIOSH alert: request for assistance in preventing electrocutions during work with scaffolds near overhead power lines. Cincinnati: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, NIOSH, 1991; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)91-110.

  2. NIOSH. National Traumatic Occupational Fatality (NTOF) database. Morgantown, West Virginia: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, NIOSH, Division of Safety Research, 1991.

    • Single copies of this document are available without charge from the Information Dissemination Section, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, NIOSH, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226; telephone (513) 533-8287.

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