In part one of this two-part article, the Texas OSHA defense attorneys at Cotney Construction Law expressed the importance of educating your workforce about the dangers of working around downed power lines. Downed power lines represent a dangerous and oftentimes unpredictable hazard that must be approached with caution. By arming your workers with the necessary knowledge, they can avoid falling victim to an electric shock or electrocution, and you can avoid a visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As we discussed, energy flows in surprising ways, so even the smallest degree of negligence could lead to a severe injury.
What Is Backfeed?
Backfeed occurs when power flows counter to its normal flow or when voltage remains on a conductor or connected equipment even after being disconnected from its power source. This frequently occurs when portable generators are improperly connected to a structure’s electrical system. There’s a good chance that many of your workers have never heard of this term before, as it more commonly presents a hazard for electrical contractors. That said, backfeed is a very real danger for construction professionals who are working around downed power lines or other damaged electrical devices. Basically, when backfeed occurs, electricity flows both inside and outside a structure. Other common sources of backfeed are circuit ties or switch points, lightning, and downstream events. By abiding by the correct lockout/tagout procedures, your workers can avoid connecting more than one electrical source to the same circuit.
OSHA’s “Rules to Live By”
OSHA has published a list of ways workers can avoid coming into contact with downed power lines. Your workers should be familiar with these tips, which include:
- When working in close proximity to a downed power line, never assume that it is safe, even when there appears to be no source of energy.
- Always assume that a downed power line is lethal, regardless of whether or not you think it is a harmless telephone, television, or fiber-optic cable.
- If you spot anything electrical, act as though it is energized to avoid any incidental injuries.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Be wary of the fact that electricity has a tendency to spread outward in a circular formation once contact has been made. As you move away from the point of contact, varying levels of voltage can be created.
- Do not drive over downed power lines.
- If you are driving a vehicle that makes contact with a downed power line that is energized, stay in the vehicle unless there is a fire and call for help.
- If you are forced to leave a vehicle that caught fire after coming in contact with a downed power line, try to jump away from the vehicle so that you do not make contact with the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Once you land, shuffle away to avoid electrical shock.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.