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May is National Electrical Safety Month

By Sally Murdoch

electrical safety signs and LOTO

Out of the list of top ten OSHA violations, electrical safety violations are a consistent member. Not too surprising as anyone who pays attention to OSHA's list will notice lockout/tagout (LO/TO) violations, electrical wiring methods, and electrical general requirements continually appear on this list, year after year.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recognizes May to be National Electrical Safety Month in order to devote an entire month to educating each other on steps we can all take to reduce the number of electrical-related fatalities, injuries, fires, and property loss.

Know What’s Up with Electrical Safety

Even with electrical safety best practices in effect, knowing the clearances between yourself, utility vehicles, and high-voltage power lines is an important facet of electrical safety. In regulation 1926, OSHA requires a 20-foot clearance, and workers “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.”  Further, for power lines with a voltage measuring between 350 and 1,000 kilovolts, the minimum distance is presumed to be 50 feet.

The simple act of cleaning out a gutter can be dangerous enough to kill a person. In Danville, Indiana in April 2017, a well-known member of the community was cleaning a gutter at the Danville Christian Church when his lift vehicle came into contact with a high-voltage power line. Because emergency responders had to get the local utility provider to shut off power to an entire area to get to him, they couldn’t immediately get to him. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Height Clearance Considerations Are Critical

Adjusting to height clearances is one way to avoid tragic electrical fatalities like the event described above. Graphic Products offers a number of premade signs to alert workers of overhead high voltage power lines in its online store.

Caution High Voltage Clearance sign

For crane operators, OSHA has a number of regulations reminding workers to be vigilant about overhead power lines, as they pose a significant risk to crane operators and workers in the crane’s vicinity. Graphic Products offers a free downloadable guide for more info on labeling as it pertains to crane safety.

Get Down with Floor Marking

Clearance and electrical safety are not limited to what’s above you, however; OSHA’s standard for general electrical requirements (29 CFR 1910.303) includes a compelling section for establishing and maintaining space around electrical panels and other systems requiring servicing, adjustments, or maintenance while energized. Sufficient access and working space must be provided around an electrical panel, and floor marking around electrical panels is one way to achieve a safe distance around it.

Pathfinder Tape around electrical panel

You can learn more about floor marking applications and regulations with our Guide to Floor Marking, as well as learn common uses for various types of PathFinder floor marking tape with our Floor Marking Color Chart.

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