Cranes and Lifts on Construction Sites – Electric Shocks at Heights


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Working at any height can be dangerous. Large commercial projects often require the use of cranes, lifts, scaffolds, etc. There are many risks associated with working at heights. For example, a worker may fall off a piece of equipment or the equipment, such as a crane, may collapse.

A less common but very serious risk is the risk of electric shock or electrocution. For example, a painter who is working on a crane may come into contact with an energized or live power line.

Electric Shock Safety During Crane Operation – OSHA Regulations

The key in preventing electric shock accidents during crane use is proper planning and training those involved in operating the crane. OSHA regulations require that certain steps be followed when a crane or derrick may come into contact with a power line. Crane operating companies must adhere to the 20 feet rule: if any part of the crane/derrick, load line or load itself, may get closer than 20 feet to a power line, the employer must follow specific instructions and choose one of three options to alleviate the risk.

The following OSHA regulations discuss those specific options.

1926.1407(a)(1) Option (1)–Deenergize and ground. Confirm from the utility owner/operator that the power line has been deenergized and visibly grounded at the worksite.

1926.1407(a)(2) Option (2)–20 foot clearance. Ensure that no part of the equipment, load line or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), gets closer than 20 feet to the power line by implementing the measures specified in paragraph (b) of this section.

1926.1407(a)(3) Option (3)–Table A clearance. [determines allowable clearance based on voltage of the power line]

The first and the third options tend to be the most time consuming. Building operations often cannot wait the number of days it takes to coordinate with the appropriate utility company, to get information about whether a line is live or what the voltage of the line is. While OSHA requires that utility companies respond within 2 days of a request to obtain information about a power line, oftentimes when all is said and done, multiple days have passed.

However, option 2 requires adherence to a very specific (and time consuming) list of safety precautions under Section 1926.1407(b), which includes a planning meeting with all those involved in the assembly/disassembly, and additional precautions such as use of a spotter, tag lines, proximity alarms, or warning lines.

Suggested Reading: Electric Shock Hazards in the Use of Cranes and Lifts

These are all time consuming and require manpower diverted from other tasks. The reality is that many contractors will risk workers’ safety and cut corners to save time and money.


Pennsylvania and New Jersey Construction & Crane Accident Lawyers

Jeff Laffey is passionate about workers’ rights and accident safety. Jeff’s law firm proudly represents union and nonunion workers, such as:

  • carpenters,
  • plumbers,
  • electricians,
  • steel workers,
  • iron workers, and
  • laborers.

If you or a loved one was seriously hurt or killed in a crane accident, contact our Pennsylvania and New Jersey construction accident lawyers for a free, confidential consultation. Our lawyers accept cases in other states such as New York or Delaware on a case by case basis and welcome calls from local counsel. (866) 641-0806/Click To Call

Disclaimer: The lawyers at Laffey, Bucci & Kent provide quality legal advice to individuals after accepting their case. No attorney-client relationship is created by this website. Nothing on this site is intended to provide legal advice. Because every case is unique, discussion of prior outcomes and settlements in past cases is no guarantee of a similar outcome in current or future cases.