In wake of tragic deaths, OSHA points to life-saving rules

There are a lot of hazards for arborists, but one of the leading causes of death is electrocution. Photo: Scott Costello/FlickrThere are a lot of hazards for arborists, but one of the leading causes of death is electrocution.
Photo: Scott Costello/Flickr

The accident: A 39-year-old landscape worker is in a tree in the front yard of a Long Island, New York, residence. While working in the tree, he cuts into the power line and is electrocuted at 10:30 a.m. The worker is pronounced dead at the scene.

The bottom-line: Only qualified line-clearance tree trimmers are allowed within 10 feet of energized power lines, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

To be qualified for such work, OSHA says, a person must be “knowledgeable in the construction and operation of electric power generation, transmission, or distribution equipment involved, along with the associated hazards.”

Electrocution can occur by direct or indirect contact, or electrical arcing.

Direct contact is when a person’s body touches two energized conductors at the same time, or touches one energized conductor and a path to the ground.

Indirect contact occurs when equipment, tree branches, or other conductive objects become energized. Electrical arcing can take place when electricity jumps from a power line to a nearby object, such as a pole pruner.

The minimum approach distance for qualified arborists is listed in the ANSI Z133.1 table. Qualified workers are allowed to work within the 10-foot requirement only if the utility company is notified beforehand to discuss de-energizing, grounding or shielding power lines.

Use non-conductive tools to remove limbs that are making contact with a conductor.

Face the conductors when working and always be aware of the weather, as wind can move a limb unexpectedly.

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