Traffic Safety for Utility Workers

Traffic safety for lineman
Photo credit: PowerTel

Protecting linemen from roadside disasters

BY MIKE DOHERTY, PowerTel Utilities Contractors Limited

By the very nature of the work tasks power linemen perform on electrical distribution systems, the inherent hazards of vehicle traffic must be considered a critical hazard. Utility workers perform routine tasks such as replacing old wooden poles or changing over existing conductors and insulators that require traffic control. Workers often find themselves at risk when exposed to vehicle traffic that could enter their safe work zones. For this reason, traffic safety for utility workers must be considered.

In their quality tailboard, a job planning document, line supervisors/foremen are expected to identify all hazards related to the job. This, of course, would include the electrical hazards at or near the voltage distribution equipment being worked on. These quality tailboards also outline what personal protective equipment (PPE), such as rubber insulating gloves, fall arrest equipment, arc rated garments, safety boots and helmets, are required for specific tasks.

One of the highest risk hazards comes from vehicle traffic that passes by a lineman’s work area. Sometimes line crews don’t use the appropriate traffic control measures and this can seriously compromise their safety.

In recent years, the number of vehicles on the road has increased, so work planning procedures must be adjusted accordingly to protect linemen and to prevent traffic hazards.

Increased traffic is not the only concern to electric utilities. Cell phone use and other distractions that take the driver’s attention away from the road have increased hazards and risks to line crews at work. Aggressive drivers and those blinded by the sun or frosted up windows in the winter increase the safety risks to workers even further.

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