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Electrical Hazards
Because they may be built in proximity to overhead power lines, and because they are often made of metal, scaffolds can put workers at risk of electrocution. This risk can be removed through proper clearance and maintenance. Note: Except where indicated, these requirements also apply to manually propelled, pump jack, ladder jack, tube and coupler, and pole scaffolds, as well as the specialty scaffolds described in the Supported Scaffolds module.

Overhead Power Lines
  • Scaffolds must not be close enough to overhead power lines that they, or any conductive materials (e.g. building materials, paint roller extensions, scaffold components) that may be handled on them, come closer than 10 feet to the power line (Figures 2 & 3).

    • Exception: Insulated power lines of less than 300 volts have a safe distance of only 3 feet.

TIP: Because it may be difficult to determine if a power line is insulated, or what its exact voltage is, the 10 foot rule should always be applied.

  • Scaffolds may be closer to overhead power lines than specified above if such proximity is necessary for the type of work being done, and if the power company or electrical system operator has been notified and has either:

    • De-energized the lines (Figure 1);

    • Relocated the lines;

    • Installed protective coverings to prevent accidental contact with the lines. [1926.451(f)(6)]
Figure 1. Example of powerlines that have been grounded.

Figure 1. Example of powerlines that have been grounded.

Figures 2 and 3. Example of scaffold being built dangerously close to power lines.
Figures 2 and 3. Example of scaffold being built dangerously close to power lines.

Figures 2 and 3. Example of scaffold being built dangerously close to power lines.

See Additional Images.




Portable Electric Tools
  • Because metal frame scaffolds are conductive, power tools, cords, etc., that suffer insulation failure can electrify the entire scaffold. This poses a risk of electrocution not just to the worker holding the tool, but to everyone who contacts the scaffold. Therefore, all portable electric equipment must be protected by:

TIP: Often, a worker who is shocked survives the current, only to lose balance and be killed in a fall. This is one more reason for always using fall protection.

 
 
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