Overhead powerlines are often uninsulated and may be carrying electricity at voltages up to 400kV, if a conductive item such as a scaffold pole, machine arm, ladder etc touches a powerline electricity will be conducted through it to earth. Anyone touching the item is at risk of receiving a serious or even fatal electric shock.
It is not always necessary to actually touch the powerline as in the right circumstances electricity can arc or flashover. Anyone working with long equipment or high vehicles near powerlines is particularly at risk. Where possible work should not be carried out under or close to power lines, however where this can’t be avoided it is important that such work is planned and controlled.
Some particular risks include lorry mounted cranes, tipper lorries, mobile elevated work platforms, cranes and various types of agricultural equipment.
Recently the Energy Networks Association launched their “Look Out, Look Up!” campaign targeted art raising awareness of the risks of overhead powerlines with lorry drivers, this follows a similar campaign last year aimed at the agricultural sector.
They note that on average one person dies or is injured each month from contact with an overhead powerline and lorry drivers made up just over a quarter of the fatalities.
The Look Out, look Up! Campaign includes a number of videos and leaflets that explain the dangers and the precautions that can be taken, these can be accessed on the Energy Networks Association website at: http://www.energynetworks.org/electricity/she/safety/safety-advice/overhead-power-lines-safety-campaign-transport-hauliers.html This includes cab stickers that can be used in tipper and HIAB type vehicles.
Further information can also be found on the HSE website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/information/overhead.htm
The Energy Networks Association represents the transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland