Electrical Hazards: How Power Linemen Face Dangers on the Job

Being a power lineman is not a job for the faint of heart. It is a dangerous occupation that requires workers to brave inclement weather, heights, and other hazards so ordinary citizens and businesses can maintain access to the power grid. One of the main dangers of this job is being exposed to live electrical currents. Here is what you need to know about the electrical hazards power linemen face each day.

Power Linemen and Electrical Hazards — A Dangerous Occupation

While being a power lineman is an important job, it’s also a dangerous one. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrical power installers and repairers are among the deadliest occupations in the United States.

Linemen are tasked with working on electrically energized power lines, often at great heights and in extreme conditions. These are serious hazards that can cause severe injuries or even death. Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers identify and address these risks to keep workers safe.

Electrical Hazards Power Linemen Face

Here are the four most common electrical safety hazards power linemen face on the job:

1. Electrocution

Working with overhead and buried power lines creates a serious safety hazard for workers. These lines can carry up to 138 kV of electricity, which can be deadly when a person comes into direct contact with them. Even contact with a low-voltage line can send current through the body, cause burns, and have devastating consequences.


An electrocution injury is the most serious type of injury a power lineman can suffer. When direct contact is made with electrical currents, it interrupts the signals going to the brain. The heart can stop beating, leading to instant death.

2. Electric Shock

An electric shock is a non-fatal electrical injury. When a power lineman accidentally comes into contact with low to medium-voltage electrical currents, it can cause muscles to seize or twinge. A severe shock can make it difficult to let go of the source.

If an electric shock is strong enough, It can damage internal organs and even lead to broken or fractured bones. The effects of an electric shock can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the accident.

3. Falls

Many power line workers climb utility poles or work from bucket trucks to get close to equipment for installation or repair. When electricity arcs, it can create small or large “explosions,” which can easily result in a worker falling from a height. This can lead to catastrophic injuries such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and internal injuries.

4. Burns

When electricity comes in contact with the body, it can result in severe burns. Three types of burns are possible:

  • Contact burns — These happen when an electrical shock injures the outer layer of the skin or internal tissues.
  • Thermal burns — These burns result from heat generated by an electric arc.
  • Flame burns — These are burns resulting from an electric arc flash or resulting fire.

Burn injuries can happen at any time and place when doing electrical work, so workers need proper preparation and safeguards to prevent electrical accidents.

Staying Safe from Electrical Hazards

Here are several power lineman safety tips to reduce or eliminate electrical hazards.

1. Carefully Assess Job Sites

While a power lineman might perform similar tasks day after day, each job site will have different hazards. A qualified person should carefully assess a job site before work can start each day. If any hazards are present, those risks should be identified and addressed properly.

2. Use Personal Protective Equipment

Workers must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working around electricity. PPE, such as rubber gloves, hard hats, boots, and harnesses, should fit properly and be made from durable materials.

3. Use Cover-Up Equipment

Cover-up equipment is essential when working with electricity. This equipment prevents a worker from accidentally making contact with an energized line or prevents an energized line from accidentally contacting another structure.

4. Always Assume Power Lines Are Charged

Even when there are reports of power outages, workers should always assume that power lines are energized or that systems are unsafe. Using proper work procedures, wearing PPE, and using the correct safety equipment, such as double-insulated tools, can prevent serious accidents.

If you are a power lineman who has been injured on the job, it’s important to understand that your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace free from electrical hazards. Lineman Injury Attorney is dedicated to offering workers up-to-date and helpful information regarding OSHA guidelines. This information can help workers avoid serious accidents or assist injured workers in asserting their rights after a workplace injury.

Common Causes of Power Lineman Injuries and OSHA Compliance

Every year, thousands of power linemen get hurt, and hundreds lose their lives from on-the-job accidents. What’s tragic and frustrating about this is that nearly all of these accidents are preventable. This is an incredibly dangerous industry, which is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created compliance measures to keep workers safe. Here are some of the most common causes of power lineman injuries and how OSHA compliance could prevent these tragedies.


Working around live electricity is one of the most serious dangers power linemen face. Electrocution dangers can come from a variety of sources, such as overhead and underground power lines, generators, extension cords, and electrical equipment used on the job.

  • Power Lines — These lines can carry thousands of volts of electricity, and making direct contact with them can be deadly. OSHA recommends that workers know where all lines are located, always assume lines are energized, remain at least 10 feet away from overhead lines, and de-energize lines properly before working on them.
  • Generators — Workers should ensure the circuit breaker is off and locked out prior to starting to prevent electrocution.
  • Equipment — Use only undamaged and approved equipment and use GFCIs to prevent short circuits and electrocution.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 700 workers died in falls to lower levels in 2022, accounting for roughly 80% of all fatal workplace injuries for the entire year. Power linemen are particularly exposed to these types of accidents because they are tasked with installing and repairing systems at significant heights.

OSHA recommends that employers prioritize fall protection to safeguard workers from serious injury or death. Specifically, employers offer adequate training, provide personal protective equipment, and ensure working conditions are free of known dangers. For example, guardrails and toeboards should be provided if there is a danger that a worker could fall from an elevated platform. Workers should wear harnesses when working from heights, even while inside bucket trucks.

Confined Spaces

It might seem like power linemen work in confined spaces, but they definitely do. A confined space is any area with limited access and exit, which may also have poor ventilation or other hazards. Confined spaces can include places like turbines, boilers, cooling towers, vaults, and transformers. Working with electricity in confined spaces can be particularly hazardous for workers, who may be harmed by electrocution, fires, or asphyxiation.

Workers must be trained on how to safely operate in confined spaces to avoid serious injury. Before entering a confined space, a qualified individual should assess the situation to identify and address any hazards. Finally, workers should wear proper safety equipment while working in these environments.

Fires and Explosions

Working with high-voltage electricity creates a significant risk of explosions and fires, which can cause a wide variety of workplace injuries and even death. Additionally, many power linemen are called out to work during wildfires, which creates another serious risk of injury from fires.

Severe burns can take place from an electrical current as well as from fires. Powerlines can cause fires due to equipment failure, contact with vegetation, and downed lines. Any public or private utility company should have procedures and strategies in place to keep linemen safe from fires and explosions.

Workers should be given regular job briefings to ensure they understand the hazards present at a job site and the protective measures they should use. Power linemen should be provided with rubber protective equipment to keep them safe from electrical hazards.

Environmental Stress

Power linemen face multiple environmental hazards on the job. They are often asked to perform work in the harshest conditions, such as in the middle of snow, ice, or rainstorms or in extreme cold or heat. This can make regular tasks, such as working from heights, even more dangerous and stressful.

Employers must ensure that there is enough coverage so that workers are asked to perform dangerous work while exhausted. Workers should also be provided with adequate safety gear and protective clothing to protect against exposure to extreme temperatures, precipitation, and wind. Adequate hydration and breaks are essential when working under these conditions. Finally, safety equipment like harnesses can provide stability on slippery surfaces when working from heights.

If you are a power lineman who has been hurt on the job, it’s important to understand that your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Lineman Injury Attorney’s mission is to offer knowledgeable and authoritative information to workers regarding OSHA’s guidelines. We want to help workers to understand their rights before and after a workplace injury.