Every May, workers around the globe participate in Electrical Safety Month. This safety awareness program is led by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), which is an international non-profit organization that promotes electrical safety at home and at the workplace. ESFI’s comprehensive messages and initiatives for the workplace include fire prevention, surge protection, ground fault indicators, and arc-fault circuit interrupters. These safety topics are vital for people around the world to understand in order to remain safe while working with or around electrical equipment. An additional topic that PLH Group reminds its workers about this Electrical Safety Month is one that is not unique to electrical work, but common in completing electrical tasks—working from an aerial lift.
PLH Group, Inc.’s 11 entities perform energy construction work, ranging from elevated utility work to underground pipeline work. Throughout all entities, though, is the need and understanding of a strong electrical safety program.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’, electrical injuries are most common in the utility and construction industries.
A common way to perform electrical work in these industries is with an aerial lift. Thus, the importance of aerial lift safety is vital to safe utility and construction electrical work performed throughout the 11 PLH Group entities.
Aerial lifts are mechanical devices that provide workers access to areas that are otherwise difficult to reach, such as working at height. They are often preferred to ladders and scaffolding due to their mobility and flexibility. However, this does not mean that they do not come without their significant associated risks.
While performing electrical work, there are many electrical considerations that workers must remember, such as electric shock and fire ignition. However, if the worker will be performing work from an aerial lift or assisting someone who will, the worker must also be mindful of additional safety issues. Further safety considerations include:
Adequate lift operation and safety inspection. Prior to operating an aerial lift, ensure that the operator has completed all necessary training and retraining, if applicable. Additionally, ensure that the lift is in proper working condition by performing a comprehensive pre-job inspection of both the vehicle and lift components. Be sure to check all functional measures, including fluid levels, part integrity, gauge levels, and tire conditions. Stop work if any red flags arise.
Secure the area surrounding the lift. The lift itself is not the only aspect of electrical work from an aerial lift that poses a risk. The area surrounding the lift must also be inspected for safety hazards. Be sure to examine the surrounding environment for potential obstructions. These obstructions may range from ground divots and unstable surfaces to overhead objects and the threat of severe weather. Cone off the area surrounding the lift when necessary.
Tie-off while working in an aerial lift. Worker falls and tool drops are common hazards associated with working from heights, along with the lift tipping over. Therefore, the worker should always tie-off prior to ascending in a lift. This past February, a horrific incident was caught on a driver’s dash camera of an aerial lift struck by a passing truck while a worker was aboard. Thankfully, the worker was wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and was tied-off. Aside from obvious shock, the worker was not harmed. This video only needs to be viewed once for workers to forever be reminded of the importance of proper PPE and tying off.
Always wear proper PPE. As previously mentioned, wearing proper PPE cannot be underestimated. Had the worker in the video above not appropriately protected his body, the results of that incident would have most likely resulted in severe injury or death. Though the reminder to wear proper PPE may seem routine throughout the workday, the importance of it should never be ignored. Always analyze the task to be performed to determine which PPE is best for the job at hand. If unsure, check with a supervisor prior to commencing work.
This Electrical Safety Month be mindful of the safety considerations mentioned above, as well as common electrical safety hazards. What other direct and indirect electrical safety risks do you encounter throughout your workday? Identify additional hazards and discuss them with your supervisor and team. After all, these discussions could save a life.