Practice Electrical Safety When Using Aerial Equipment

Let's be honest, being a tree trimmer can be dangerous. We use power equipment to cut through wood quickly. We work in all kinds of extreme weather, both hot and cold. And we work around power lines, both intact and downed.

There are so many factors and moving parts when it comes to dealing with electrical safety in the first place, it's even more complicated when you're dealing with aerial equipment — boom trucks, scissor lifts, and tree cranes — on top of it. Now you're not only watching out for yourself, but you've got some large equipment to take manage as well as people on the ground who are depending on your extra awareness.

Tree-trimmer-high-up-in-boom-truck-Atlanta.jpgSo let's talk about the basic safety practices you need to follow when working around power lines and electrical sources.

First, you need to understand that the human body is an excellent conductor of electricity. That means any part of your body that comes into contact with an electrified object while you're touching a grounded object (like a tree or wet rope) is going to conduct electricity immediately. So, if you're holding a branch that touches a power line while you're also, say, holding on to another part of the tree, you immediately become grounded and could be seriously injured or killed.

Also, you're not any safer just because you're on the ground. Ground personnel are more at risk of shock than the person in an insulated bucket. If the lower part of the boom arm comes into contact with an electric line, the truck can become energized. Anyone who touches or is just near the truck or attached chipper is in danger of being electrocuted. If you're working on the ground, make sure you know where the boom is in relation to any power lines before you go near the truck or chipper.

We also stress these safety practices when conducting our electrical safety briefings with our crew.
  • Always know where the utility lines are in relation to you and all of your equipment, not just the aerial lifts.
  • Never work with your back to the wires or move a bucket into position without looking where you're going.
  • Maintain a safe working distance from wires.
  • Never go between an energized phase and a neutral/static line. Assume the neutral/static line is energized at the primary voltage level. (This is a direct violation of our "5 to Stay Alive" non-negotiable components of our safety program. If you violate one of those, you're subject to immediate termination.)
Finally, it's part of Townsend's safety policy that when an electrical hazard exists, only qualified line clearance tree trimmers — or line clearance tree trimmer trainees working under the direct observation of a qualified line clearance tree trimmer — are allowed to perform line clearance tree trimming. If that's not you, you can't do it. Leave it until the right personnel are available.

If you have any questions about electrical safety, please ask your foreman. Keep an eye out for your fellow crew members and alert each other when you see a potential hazard. Electrocutions can be fatal, so speak up as soon as you see a problem.
Posted: 7/20/2018 1:00:00 PM by Abby Bath