Power line workers face a range of potential safety hazards, including tripping, falling, and experiencing electric shocks. Taking steps to mitigate these hazards is not only required by regulators, but also the right thing to do. Unfortunately, some of the methods often employed at power line sites don’t always provide sufficient protection.
Understanding the risks and best practices for avoiding hazards is essential to protect power line workers, project stakeholders, and your brand.
Common Mistakes with Power Line Safety
Like any work site, power line projects come with inherent risks, both visible and invisible.
One of the primary concerns at a power line site is the risk of electric shock. An equipotential zone (EPZ) protects workers from electric shock caused by differences in electric potential between objects in the work area caused by induced voltage, line re-energization, or lightning. When standing on an equipotential mat, there is a near-identical state of electrical potential between points on the body, protecting people from electric shock.
Although this concept is well understood, the methods used to create an equipotential zone vary greatly, including homegrown solutions such as laying a chain-link fence on the ground.
Hazards on the Ground
The goal is to maintain a clean worksite that allows workers to move freely without tripping over obstacles. However, homegrown solutions for equipotential zone matting lend themselves to other hazards.
As you can imagine, walking on a chain-link fence presents trip hazards, especially when the ground below is uneven. An uneven work surface is even more hazardous at a worksite where people often look up. Stepping on and off an equipotential zone created with a fence also presents challenges due to uneven edges.
Best Practices for Power Line Safety
No matter how long you need to be on-site, it’s critical to take the time to set up a safe work zone.
Create a Compliant Equipotential Zone
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require employers to establish a program that includes energy control procedures—including temporary protective grounds—training, and inspections. Compliance with the regulations includes:
- Analyzing the hazard using an engineering analysis to determine whether hazardous step and touch voltages will develop.
- Creating equipotential zones, using insulating equipment, and restricting work areas to protect employees from hazardous differences in electrical potential.
- Determining safe body current limits to set voltage limits in an equipotential zone.
These are just a few overarching requirements. Consult the appropriate standards for full details and regulations.
Maintain a Level Work Surface
Tripping hazards are a major issue on power line work sites, especially when people are stepping on or off the equipotential zone. This is why it’s crucial to use grounding grates that seamlessly connect and have a smooth step-on/step-off area. Securely linking the grates together ensures that they don’t slip or shift underfoot or while equipment is being transported.
YAK ACCESS Solutions for Power Line Safety
SAFESTEP™ EPZ Grounding Grates create a level, non-slip equipotential zone that is adequately bonded and grounded to protect crews from hazardous step-potential and Grade 5 fault currents. Our grounding grates are easy to install, simple to remove, and reusable, allowing you to save on labor and operate more efficiently while on site.
In addition to protecting people from electrical hazards, grounding grates provide a stable work surface and smooth step-off area for workers and equipment. The ground below is also protected from heavy equipment and foot traffic, and grates can be cleaned after use to prevent transportation of invasive species between sites.
For more tips about choosing mats for power line site access and creating a safe work site, read more on our SAFESTEP™ EPZ GROUNDING GRATES.