Toolbox Talk: Overhead Power Lines

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CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training

Summary Statement

The CPWR Toolbox Talk on Overhead Power Lines addresses the risks associated with operating equipment such as cranes, cherry pickers, and high lifts. The resource includes a ‘real-life’ case example, steps to prevent a related injury or illness, and questions for discussion. It includes an image (page 2) that illustrates the hazard, which can be posted in a central location as a reminder of steps to work safely.   Click on the following links to access the English version and Spanish version.

CPWR Toolbox Talk logoOverhead power lines at construction sites can be particularly dangerous for construction workers, especially when equipment such as cranes, cherry pickers, and high lifts are used at the site.


Here is an Example

Lawrence was part of a crew that was installing steel roof beams on a school building using a boom crane. He was standing by the joists, waiting to hook the beams to the chain slings, when the crane operator swung the slings toward him. The slings touched the power line, became energized, and sent electricity through Lawrence. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

  1. Do you know anyone who was injured or electrocuted when a crane contacted an overhead power line? If so, what happened?
  2. Could an electrocution involving a crane and power line happen at your worksite?

Preventing Electrocutions from Overhead Power Lines

  • Request the power company to shut off the energy to overhead power lines, if possible, where equipment will be used nearby.
  • Keep cranes and loads 20 feet from power lines.
  • Use only non-conductive tag lines.
  • Operate machines at a slower-than-normal rate when close to power lines. Use a spotter to keep safe distance.
  • Be careful when around spans of overhead power lines, since wind can cause the power lines to sway sideways and reduce the clearance between the crane and the power line.
  • Mark safe routes where machines must repeatedly travel beneath power lines.
  • Exercise caution when traveling over uneven ground that could cause the machine to weave or bob into power lines.
  • Keep all personnel well away from the machine whenever it is close to power lines.

What Are We Going to Do Today?

What will we do here at the worksite today to prevent electrocutions from overhead power lines?








Graphic of workers properly moving airborne equipment within the vicinty of power lines. One worker is using a tag line to stabilize the equipment.

  • Use only non-conductive tag lines.
  • Equipment must be at least 20 feet from the wires.