Every year many people die from electrical shocks. Some of these deaths are caused by contact with underground power cables. Workers who are involved with trenching, backhoeing, fence post digging, water well drilling, pile driving, pole erecting or excavating are most at risk. To protect yourself follow proper procedures and review the following safety suggestions:
Work safely around power cables:
Call the power authority responsible for your work area to ask for the location and voltage of underground cables and tell them where and when you are working in that area.
Advise co-workers before you start digging and mark on your blueprints, plans or maps the exact location of the cables. Then place warning signs along the route. Usually they will already be posted by the power authority but do a double check.
Protect yourself by working with another person who can be a spotter and signaler, and can call for assistance in an emergency. Always keep equipment, workers and materials well outside the minimum safety distance.
If an underground cable is struck:
Have someone call the power company immediately to shut off the electricity. Stay on the equipment—don’t attempt to jump off unless the machine is on fire and your life is in immediate danger. Move the equipment away from the power source if it is at all possible. Warn others away from the accident, don’t let anyone attempt to attach a winch line or approach the machinery in any way.
First aid for high-voltage electrical injuries:
Call 9-1-1, if it is available in your area, or other emergency response numbers for medical assistance.
Don’t attempt to assist the person until the power is guaranteed to be off. Never touch a victim while he is still in contact with a live power cable or line.
Treat the injuries by priority—get him breathing, stop the bleeding, keep warm and treat for shock, then attempt to stabilize any fractures. Stay with the victim. Don’t leave him unattended as he may stop breathing again.
Remember, with electrical accidents your first accident could be your last. Check before you dig, and work safely around electricity. Remember to avoid underground cables and overhead lines when doing construction and landscaping at home, too.