Power Line Hazard Awareness, Planning are Critical for Preventing Deaths

July 26, 2005
NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

Electrocutions from unintentional contact with overhead power lines can be prevented through awareness of the hazard and proper precautions.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers many resources to help employers, employees, volunteers, and others identify potential risks when working under and around power lines, and to help them work safely to avoid touching the lines with poles, ladders, or other objects that can conduct electricity.

Electrocutions from contact with overhead power lines result in 128 work-related fatalities on average per year. On July 25, news outlets reported on the deaths of four adult Boy Scout leaders, and injuries to three other adults, when a tent pole apparently struck an overhead power line at the Boy Scouts’ national gathering, according to the press accounts.

“Power lines are such a common feature of the landscape that any given job may put workers and others in proximity to an uninsulated line,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “It is critical to recognize the potential hazard and prevent tragedy.”

Dr. Howard also noted, “NIOSH offers recommendations to help prevent unintentional deaths in regard to diverse types of equipment that may be used around power lines. The basic precautions – awareness and good planning – can be applied to virtually any type of situation.”

NIOSH resources for preventing electrocutions from contact with overhead power lines include:

  • NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-108 www.cdc.gov/niosh/crane.html.
  • NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Falls and Electrocutions During Tree Trimming, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 92-106 www.cdc.gov/niosh/92-106.html.
  • NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Electrocutions During Work with Scaffolds Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 91-110 www.cdc.gov/niosh/91-110.html.
  • NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Electrocutions of Workers Using Portable Metal Ladders Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 89-110 www.cdc.gov/niosh/89-110.html.
  • NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Electrocutions from Contact Between Cranes and Power Lines DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 85-111 www.cdc.gov/niosh/85-111.html.
  • NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Electrocutions by Undetected Feedback Electrical Energy Present in Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 88-104 www.cdc.gov/niosh/88-104.html.

Additional resources from NIOSH include a web topic page on preventing traumatic occupational deaths and injuries from electrical hazards www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/electrical/ and case reports from occupational electrical fatalities; each report identifies risk factors in the given case, and recommendations for preventing similar fatalities in the future, including deaths from unintentional contact with overhead power lines https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/face/.

For additional information about NIOSH, contact the toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).

Page last reviewed: July 22, 2015