There are many dangers that you and your team might encounter on a job site, especially when you integrate large machinery such as mobile cranes. Improper lifting, inclement weather, sharp materials and electrical currents can all be deadly forces that have resulted in severe injuries or even death in the past. If the team you are working with is not “safety focused”, everyone working around them is at risk- including you.
Safety First at Can Ridge
If you have dealt with the Can Ridge Industrial Team in the past, you know that we always have safety top of mind. Our team is constantly training and updating our knowledge around the best safety practices, sharing our passion and insights with our customers along the way.
This month we are focusing on the dangers surrounding electrical wires on job sites, especially when operating a mobile crane. To keep your team and coworkers safe, read on and integrate these 3 recommendations in the field.
1. Understand Why High Voltage is Dangerous
In order to safely work around high voltage equipment and devices, you must fully understand why high voltage energy is dangerous and how electrical currents travel. All electricity is constantly seeking a pathway to the ground. This could potentially be achieved through a large tree, commercial sign, the boom of a crane or even the human body. If you are operating or touching a mobile crane that comes into contact with a live wire, the dangerous electrical power will not only pass through the crane, it will also pass through your body.
When electrical current is passing through a simple metal object such as a support beam, you may not see any reaction at all. When high voltage passes through the human body, massive amounts of heat is created which can potentially damage both your internal and external tissues. A severe electrical current also has the ability to instantly stop the human heart.
Due to the fact that electrical currents can travel through multiple mediums, even though you are a great distance away from the source of the high voltage electricity, you still may not be safe if you are connected through an object such as a mobile crane. Electricity can also travel through the ground. Most of us learn not to stand under trees during a thunderstorm as lightning can strike the tree and transfer the force of the strike to the surrounding roots and ground. If the ground on your job site is wet, the danger level is even higher as moisture will increase the conductivity of the earth, allowing the electricity to travel farther.
2. Before Starting a Project, Identify All Electrical Sources
Even before setting foot on the job site, a supervisor or manager should fully inspect the proposed working area to identify potential dangerous sources of electrical current. One of the most obvious signs of high voltage energy you will come across is power lines or wires. As a leader on site, you should know how wires are typically organized in your geographical area. In residential areas of British Columbia, high-voltage wires are usually installed at the very top of utility poles. Below that you might find transformers, low voltage lines and on the very bottom, communications wires such as telephone or cable services. Of course, all wires should be avoided and not touched by any material or individual on the job site but the high voltage wires at the top of poles are the most dangerous to your team. These wires usually contain 4,000 to 25,000 deadly volts.
Outside city areas you might encounter large metal towers or poles that carry electricity from the generating station. Areas surrounding such towers are even more dangerous to construction crews and mobile crane operators. These wires can contain 60,000 to 500,000 volts of electrical energy- extremely lethal in many situations and should be avoided at all costs.
Not all sources of electrical current are as obvious as power lines. Electrical wires can also be buried in the ground or integrated into physical structures. Never move any major structures or dig into the ground without fully consulting your local power authority and the landowner of the job site.
3.Understand Clearances and Utilize a Spotter
There are many crane operators that are fully trained and can safely operate in the vicinity of power wires. They can do this because they have education and experience that guides them on the job site, allowing them to lift and move assets in a controlled manner while keeping the rest of the team safe.
The Can Ridge crane operators are all fully trained and frequently update their knowledge base with additional courses. This is where they learn the rules and regulations of operation which should touch on clearances. WorkSafeBC outlines that when working near any exposed conductors or equipment, all materials, tools and personal should maintain the following minimum distances:
For power sources that are…
over 750 V to 75 kV- minimum 3 metres or 10 feet
over 75 kV to 250 kV- minimum 4.5 metres or 15 feet
over 250 kV to 550 kV- minimum 6 metres or 20 feet
Depending on your area of operation, clearances can vary, the key takeaway is to ensure that you and your team are fully educated on the latest safety recommendations and requirements!
An additional point to keep in mind is that the operator may not be able to accurately judge the distance of his boom from the wires in question due to odd angles, or environmental factors such as rain or wind. When these situations occur, the desired clearances could be broken, so it is incredibly important to always have a qualified spotter working alongside an operator. This spotter can then help the operator judge the distance between the boom, load lines, and load, keeping the proper clearance from electrical sources at all times.
There you have it! 3 recommendations from Can Ridge that will keep your team safe when working around electrical wires. To an experienced operator or construction employee, these 3 rules may seem basic but you would be amazed at how often they are forgotten when stressful situations arise on site. Review these 3 points often, especially when new team members join your ranks.
Looking to partner with an experienced operator that knows who to navigate dangerous sites with electrical wires near by? Reach out to our Team today and we will connect you with our best operators!
Bonus Material ->
You can never learn enough about safety! Add BC Hydro’s 3 Keys of Electrical Safety along with our 3 recommendations from above to your team’s knowledge base!