IPAF Urges Safe Distance from Power Lines When Operating AWPs

March 21, 2014

The International Powered Access Federation called on aerial work platform operators and managers to always be aware of and keep safe distances when working near power lines. IPAF highlighted this safety message with a display at the Lift Safety Zone at ConExpo in Las Vegas earlier this month, illustrating safe and minimum approach distances.

IPAF demonstrated that a fully extended boom should always be at least 50 feet from electrical pylons, and 30 feet from cables on wooden poles. These recommended safe distances meet or exceed those specified in ANSI standards and OSHA requirements.

IPAF reiterated that electrocutions are one of the largest causes of AWP-related fatalities in the United States.

“Operators or supervisors are often not in a position to know the voltage in the power source,” said Tony Groat, IPAF North America manager. “Knowing the voltage is essential to determine the minimum approach distance, which is the safest distance a person who has not had specific training in avoiding electrical hazards should approach ‘live’ overhead cables. The IPAF recommendations are safe distances until the voltage is determined. It is possible to work closer to power lines than the IPAF-recommended safe distances, but this should only be undertaken after seeking expert advice from the power supplier and implementing extra safety precautions.”

IPAF also shared findings from its accident reporting project and Powered Access Rental Market Reports.

“In 2013, all seven reported cases of electrocution worldwide occurred in the U.S., where the AWP rental fleet is estimated at 510,000, which is 54 percent of the world rental fleet,” said IPAF technical officer Chris Wraith. “AWPs are probably the safest way of doing temporary work at height, so the onus is on managers and operators to stay safe when working near to power lines/conductors. Electrocutions can be prevented through proper planning, risk assessment and management of work at height, including thorough operator training and familiarization.