Safety & Health News

BAC Protect Yourself From Electrocution:

Recognize and Avoid the Hazards

Every day BAC members are exposed to potential electrical hazards. Knowing how to identify and avoid these hazards can mean the difference between life and death.

According to the Department of Labor’s National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, electrocutions accounted for 9% of workplace deaths in the construction industry. Job-related electrocutions caused by contact with overhead power lines accounted for roughly half of these deaths.

Don’t be a Statistic—Recognize the Hazards

You are at risk of contact with electrical current when working:

  • on a scaffold below power lines.
  • with electrical equipment that is not properly grounded.
  • around live electric parts.

Avoiding Electrocution

The following are some steps that you can take to avoid electrocution:

  • Use only power equipment with grounded plugs.
  • Never use equipment on a different voltage than it was designed for.
  • Repair or replace frayed or faulty cords before using.
  • Do not unplug cords by pulling on the wire—the wire could pull out of the plug and shock you.
  • Make sure equipment is switched off before plugging it in or unplugging.
  • Do not operate electric tools while standing on, or touching, a wet surface.
  • If your work area is wet, lay wood or rubber on the floor to stand or kneel on.
  • Do not use metal ladders or uninsulated metal tools near electricity.
  • Shut off and lock out power before making repairs or adjustments to electrically powered tools.
  • On winterized jobs, where protective coverings are used, remember that wires that are out of sight should not be out of mind.
  • Make sure the scaffold you are working on is 10 feet or more from power lines, unless you are absolutely certain the power lines are de-energized. (The distance is reduced to three feet if the power lines are less than 300 volt.)

Members working on scaffolds are also advised to watch for any movement of scaffolding, the use of heavy equipment in relation to present power lines, ground slope or floor conditions that could change the elevation and alter the clearance distance between the scaffold and the power lines.

OSHA Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations to help both contractors and their employees work safely on scaffolds and around electrical hazards.

OSHA requires contractors to:

  • Instruct each worker to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions.
  • Provide prompt medical attention in case of serious injury.
  • Advise workers exposed to electrical hazards and protect against electric shock by de-energizing the circuit or by guarding it effectively with insulation or other means.
  • Lock panels (scaffold sections or tiers) together vertically with pins or other equivalent means where uplift (separation of panels) may occur.

For more information on how to protect yourself from electrocution, contact:
IMI at 301/241-5503, or visit OSHA’s website at

620 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: 202.783.3788
Toll free: 1.888.880.8222