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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.

Preventing Falls from Heights: OSHA Standards for Power Linemen

The work of power linemen is incredibly dangerous for several reasons — they are often dealing with high-voltage electrical systems, and they are doing this from elevated heights. This presents a heightened risk of injuries and even fatalities due to falls from heights. Here is what you need to know about these hazards and how OSHA standards are meant to keep workers safe in these conditions.

Power Linemen Working from Heights

Power linemen are responsible for installing and repairing high-voltage power systems. This might require them to climb utility poles as high as 100 feet in the air. A fall from a utility pole or the top of a transfer station could result in serious injuries or even death.

In the early 20th century, there were little to no regulations protecting workers who operated at these dangerous heights. In fact, it was up to the individual worker to figure out how to stay safe and prevent falls. When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1971, this changed for the better.

OSHA Fall Protection Standards for Power Linemen

When OSHA was first established as an organization, one of its first priorities was to address the problem of fall protection. The agency collected data that helped it develop the first fall protection safety regulations.

OSHA’s Subpart M Fall Protection Standard originally required that all employers have compliant fall protection systems when working on surfaces 4-6 feet off the ground. This was the first fall protection standard passed by OSHA in 1994. The requirements were strengthened in 2014.

How Fall Protection Regulations Have Changed

Having OSHA fall protection standards in the workplace is just one part of the equation. Employers know they are required to do certain things to keep workers safe and protect them from dangerous and deadly falls. However, compliance with these guidelines has been an ongoing issue. If no one is following the rules, workplace injuries will continue with catastrophic results.

In 2014, OSHA put additional regulations in place meant to increase workplace compliance and reduce accident rates. These new regulations require additional fall protection training and address issues with fall protection equipment. Specifically, some workers may avoid wearing harnesses because they are uncomfortable or heavy. New ergonomic harnesses should increase compliance and help reduce dangerous falls from height accidents.

The update to the Fall Protection Standard also reduced the height requirement for safeguards. Specifically, every power lineman working at a height of 4 feet or higher must now use fall protection.

Another significant change to the standard was for fall protection exceptions. Under the previous standard, workers could use body belts in certain situations. The new standard requires that power linemen wear body harnesses at all times, no matter what their work surfaces are.

Different Methods of Fall Protection

Fall protection systems can be classified as either active or passive. An active system requires that human workers participate in some way, such as using fall restraint or arrest systems. A passive system doesn’t require any action from workers once it’s in place, such as netting or guard rails. In addition to this, there are four main ways an employer can protect workers from falls or fall-related accidents.

1. Fall Elimination

Fall elimination refers to avoiding work at heights so no one can get injured. For a utility company that employs power linemen, this would not be a practical risk management strategy.

2. Fall Prevention

Since working at heights is unavoidable, the best way to protect power linemen from injuries is to prevent them from falling. OSHA requires workplaces to use both passive and active strategies to prevent falls. These include things like installing toe boards and guardrails and requiring the use of safety harnesses. OSHA also requires that employers minimize dangers by assessing work site hazards, keeping areas clean, and training employees.

3. Fall Arrest

Fall arrest systems are designed to stop an employee from hitting a lower surface once they’ve lost their footing from an elevated location. These generally consist of a safety lanyard, harness, or self-retracting lifeline that is attached to one or multiple anchor points.

4. Fall Restraint

A fall restrain system is similar to a fall arrest system. However, these systems have shorter lines or lanyards with the purpose of stopping a fall from happening in the first place. As soon as a worker gets close to the edge, the system will hold them in place.

Working around electricity is a dangerous job. As a power lineman, it’s important to understand that your occupation is risky and that your employer also has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Often, employees aren’t provided with appropriate fall protection training or safety equipment. Lineman Injury Attorney’s mission is to provide workers in this industry with the information they need to stay safe and assert their rights if they’ve been hurt on the job.