Contractor Electrical Contacts a Major Safety Concern

Newfoundland Power Inc., Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (Hydro), the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Safety Association (NLCSA),Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association (NLCA), Heavy Civil Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (HCANL) and Workplace Health Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) are partnering to address a major safety concern common to all parties, electrical contacts made by contractors working around energized power lines.

This year alone, Newfoundland Power has recorded 10 instances of contractors coming into contact with power lines, and Hydro has recorded over 8 electrical contacts within their service territory.

“Each instance has the potential to be fatal, and there’s no going back once it happens,” emphasized Gary Smith, Vice President, Customer Operations and Engineering, Newfoundland Power. “Working together with these dedicated partners, our objective is to continue to raise awareness among those who work around power lines, reminding them to take precautions to ensure they go home safely to their families at the end of the day.”

Over the last three years, both Utilities recorded more than 121 electrical contacts made by contractors while on-the-job. The majority of these have involved contractors using large equipment such as booms, cranes, tractor, trailers, snow clearing equipment and dump trucks.

“We are alarmed by the number of power line contacts and the incidents we are seeing each year involving heavy equipment operators,” said Rob Henderson, Vice President, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. “We are working diligently with our partners and urging people who work around power lines to understand the risks and take all precautions to work safely.”

“Whether it is avoiding power line contact or preventing any form of accident, safety training and awareness is always on the top of the agenda for our Association members,” added Jim Organ, Executive Director, HCANL.

Specific requirements for maintaining clearances and providing worker training are mandated by the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Special permits are required when working within 5.5 metres of energized power lines. Operators of equipment with the capability of contacting overhead or underground power lines must attend an approved “Power Line Hazards” safety course.

“This training program ensures that equipment operators are fully aware of the hazards when working around power lines and the necessary precautions to take,” notes Jackie Manuel, CEO, NLCSA. “Since its inception, the NLCSA has trained more than 5,000 workers in this mandatory training program, yet despite these efforts, workers are continuing to be injured as a result of power line contacts.”

“At the Commission, we strongly believe that all workplace injuries are preventable,” added Leslie Galway, CEO, WHSCC. “It is important that workers renew their ‘Power Line Hazards’ safety course every three years, and use the skills taught in the course to avoid serious injury or death. It is in everyone’s best interest, the worker, their employer, and their loved ones, to work safely so that everyone goes home safe and sound at the end of each workday.”

“Safety is paramount in our construction industry and electrical safety involves all construction trades. The NLCA is proud to be part of this industry partnership and truly emphasize the importance of both training and awareness of underground and overhead electrical hazards,” added Kirk Saunders, Area Manager, NLCA.

Newfoundland Power, Hydro, the NLCSA, HCANL, and WHSCC want to remind contractors and the general public that working around electricity requires their complete attention. Accidents can be prevented with proper planning, worksite evaluation and adhering to safe distances. For more information on working safely around electrical equipment, visit (1.800.663.2802) or (1.888.764.9376).