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Posted: June 11, 2022

Trades workers most at risk of electrical contact incidents

A new BC Hydro report finds a lack of awareness has contributed to trades workers being at highest risk of serious injury from making contact with electrical equipment.

The report titled, “Overhead, out of mind: lack of awareness contributing to on-the-job electrical contact incidents in the trades,” finds one in five trades workers has made contact or had a close call with power lines and/or equipment while working. Most incidents occur in the spring and summer, and those working in outdoor trades face the greatest risk because they often work at or near the level of overhead power lines.

“BC Hydro data shows over the past three years 61% of reported electrical contact incidents resulting in serious injury involved trades workers,” said Susie Rieder, BC Hydro spokesperson. “When temperatures increase, those working jobs such as construction, tree trimming, house painting or window washing typically see their workload and risk of injury rise.”

Most trades workers (60%) said they often work near overhead power lines or equipment, and 19% have found themselves closer than expected to overhead power lines. Alarmingly, 43% said they have witnessed unsafe work being performed near power lines or equipment. Of these, half reported the unsafe work (53%), but almost as many (42%) did not.

This concerning trend can be attributed in part to a knowledge gap – 71% were unable to identify the correct distance they should keep themselves and tools away from overhead power lines, and 52% said they could benefit from more on-the-job electrical safety training. This knowledge gap exists even though more than one quarter have worked on a site where there has been a downed power line, and 60% have received some type of electrical safety training.

BC Hydro’s system is safe, but electricity can be dangerous. BC Hydro wants everyone to get home safely at the end of their workday and is urging those who work around power lines and other electrical infrastructure to make safety a priority. When working around overhead power lines or equipment, remember these tips:

Look up and down – Observe the site beforehand and plan work to avoid contact with power lines.

Stay back – Tools and people should stay at least three metres away from an overhead power line.

Call for help – Fallen power lines should be reported immediately by calling 911. Those planning work closer than three metres to a power line at a worksite, should call BC Hydro in advance.

Learn about the risks: BC Hydro offers in-person and online electrical awareness training for anyone who works near electricity, including trade workers, first responders and any member of the public working near high voltage lines.

Visit BC Hydro’s online electrical safety awareness courses to learn more.

BC Hydro 

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