NIOSH Offers Recommendations for Working With Metal Ladders

ON Oct. 5, NOISH announced the online availability of a publication that offers recommendations to prevent injuries and deaths while working with metal ladders around overhead power lines.

A NIOSH review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data from 1992 to 2005 identified at least 154 electrocution deaths that resulted from contacting overhead power lines with portable metal ladders (excluding truck-mounted and aerial ladders). Of these 154 deaths, 36 involved a person of Hispanic origin. Although Hispanic workers accounted for 23 percent of these electrocution deaths due to ladders contacting power lines, it is estimated that they made up only 11 percent of the workforce during this period.

Employers, workers, general contractors and ladder manufacturers should take the steps outlined in the NIOSH publication to protect workers while working around overhead power lines. Many of these steps are required or suggested by OSHA regulations.

Steps employers can take include:

  • Identify the location of overhead power lines as a routine part of all initial worksite surveys for jobs involving the use of ladders. Always note power line heights and distances from work areas on site diagrams to provide key information for site supervisors and workers.
  • Avoid or limit proximity to power lines whenever possible. Consider ladder length and room for ladder staging (safely raising and lowering ladders).
  • Notify the local electric utility company for assistance if work needs to be done near energized, overhead power lines.

The publication can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2007-155.

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