NIOSH: Power Lines, Metal Ladders Make Fatal Combo

Workers risk electrocution when using metal ladders around energized, overhead power lines. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed recommendations to prevent injuries and deaths while working with metal ladders.

A NIOSH review of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data from 1992–2005 identified at least 154 electrocution deaths that resulted from contacting overhead power lines with portable metal ladders (excluding truck-mounted and aerial ladders). Further, a review of NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation cases between 1987 and 2007 identified 11 investigations involving the deaths of 12 workers that occurred while working around overhead power lines and using metal ladders. Ladder contacts with power lines usually occurred during erection, lowering, or relocation of the ladder.

The surveillance data indicate a disproportionate rate of deaths among Hispanic workers involved in incidents related to metal ladders making contact with overhead power lines. Recent investigations of Hispanic worker deaths have also highlighted the need for worksite surveys and hazard controls and identified additional safety measures for workers whose primary language is not English.

To read the safety recommendations (NIOSH publication no. 2007-155), go to www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2007-155/.

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