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For contractors, working with electricity is a daily routine. But injuries and fatalities can occur even to the most experienced contractors when proper precaution is not taken. Even momentary lapses in attention can result in casualties. Here are some facts and tips for preventing potential accidents when working with power.

 


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electrical safety at work

​Electrical safety goes hand in hand with proper job planning. As a part of your evaluation of the work to be performed be sure to:

  1. Analyze the job, looking for locations where you cannot work safely (by maintaining the required minimum approach distance) around overhead or underground utilities, using your equipment and work methods.
  2. Determine whether your crews can maintain the necessary separation between cranes and derricks, personnel, materials and other equipment. If not, contact the APS Public Safety Department.
  3. Plan ahead. It is often possible to temporarily re-route electrical lines. However, it could take from two days (for minor adjustments) to many weeks (for a major relocation). You will be charged for the cost of the work, and APS will provide cost estimates.
  4. Never assume that an overhead power line is insulated. Most are not insulated.
  5. Remember, you are required by law to contact the Arizona Blue Stake center at least two working days prior to the start of any digging. 
      
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excavation & arizona blue stake laws

​Arizona Blue Stake laws require all entities to notify the Arizona Blue Stake center two working days prior to opening an excavation or otherwise digging so that all underground public utilities can be properly located and marked. Do not wait until work is underway. Call well in advance to obtain the information you need to do the job safely.

In the Phoenix area, call the Blue Stake Center at 602-263-1100. In other areas call 1-800-STAKE-IT.

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  • ​Never dig closer than two feet from pad-mounted utility equipment or power poles. Doing so will endanger your life.
  • Dig carefully by hand in the area immediately surrounding buried cables. Some cables may be located in conduit, and some may simply be directly buried.
  • Arizona Blue Stake laws require that the exact location of buried facilities must be determined by exposing them with hand tools in a careful and prudent manner when the excavation is less than or equal to 24 inches from a marked underground facility and the uncovered facility must be supported and protected prior to and during excavation.
  • Do not touch conductors and never use conduit or exposed cables as a step or as a means of crossing a trench.
  • Do not leave cables exposed and do not leave any unsafe conditions unguarded.
  • Make sure all underground equipment is properly protected during all excavation work.
  • If the underground cable is cut, nicked or strained in any way, call APS immediately. Damage is not always obvious and repairs may sometimes be made to avoid the cost of removing and replacing damaged equipment.

The overhead and underground separation from power lines requirements are law. Additionally, it’s the law to call Arizona Blue Stake at 811 two working days before you dig! Arizona Revised Statutes allow the Arizona Corporation Commission to assess civil penalties up to $5,000 per violation to persons or businesses that do not comply. Additionally, criminal damages can be pursued by APS for illegally tampering with or damaging its property or facilities.

The sources for the regulatory requirements listed above may be found in Federal and State OSHA standards and Arizona Revised Statutes.

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excavation & boring
  1. Follow state law and call the Arizona Blue Stake center at least two working days before you dig.
  2. If your job is not marked (the underground facilities located and marked by the facility owner or operator), do not dig.
  3. Excavate in a careful, prudent manner, and manually expose with hand tools the exact location of the underground facilities once within 24 inches of the location marks.
  4. Immediately notify the facility owner of any obvious damage. Do not attempt any inspection, repair or manipulation of the electric cable(s) you believe may have been damaged. Let the utility make that determination for you. 
  1. Do not assume that when you have uncovered one cable you have uncovered all of them.
  2. Do not assume that all facilities are at a specific and consistent depth, and that the grade has not changed since installation.
  3. Do not assume a cable is abandoned and not energized.
  4. Do not concentrate your efforts solely on digging activities and risk forgetting that overhead power lines may be in the area that require separation at the minimum approach distances.
  5. Do not assume a false sense of security simply because previous contacts with electrical utilities did not result in injury. 
  6. Do not assume that you know where underground utilities are located because you worked in the area before.
  7. Do not assume there are no underground utilities simply because the work area is largely remote.
  8. Use manual digging methods when digging closer than two feet of any electric utility pad-mounted equipment or power pole.

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overhead separation distances

​The safe working distances, also known as minimum approach distances, for overhead electrical lines and equipment are somewhat complex.

Please refer to the regulating authority if you have any questions or confusion. You may also contact the APS Public Safety Department at 602-250-3418 or contact publicsafety@apsc.com for clarification. 

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Generally, the type of work being performed dictates the rules governing the safe distance to an overhead power line or electrical equipment. The two specific types are:
 
  • work involving non-qualified electrical workers, people, materials and non-crane equipment
  • work involving cranes and derricks.

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construction industry & heavy/aerial equipment operation
  1. ​Ensure that the structure to be constructed meets the National Electric Safety Code clearance requirements pertaining to overhead lines.
  2. If ladders, scaffolds or hydraulic lifts are to be utilized, ensure that the minimum separation of people, materials and equipment specified in Table B is maintained.
  1. If cranes or derricks are used, ensure that the minimum separation as required by OSHA is maintained.
  2. All equipment should have the buckets/forks lowered while in transit rather than risk snagging an overhead line.
  3. ​Scaffolding should be dismantled prior to relocation to prevent contact with overhead lines.
  4. Workers should avoid positioning themselves or hand-held objects too close to overhead lines.
  5. Never place construction materials or spoils near power poles or underneath overhead power lines.
  6. Ensure that dump trucks, graders, earth-moving and other mechanical equipment lower their buckets or hydraulic beds prior to transit to avoid contact with overhead lines.
  7. Ensure that the electrical system is not compromised. Work in compliance with OSHA working clearances and underground facilities laws.
  8. Ensure that APS is notified well in advance of any planned blasting operations near electrical facilities by calling the APS Public Safety Department.

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minimum approach distances for non-qualified electrical workers, people, materials & non-crane & derrick equipment

​The following minimum clearance separation must be maintained between all lift equipment excluding cranes or derricks, non-qualified electrical workers, people, materials that are in close proximity to energized electrical circuits.

energized line voltage minimum approach distance (table b)
up to 50,000 volts​
10 ft​
50,000 - 690,00 volts​
11 feet​
69,001 - 115,000 volts​
13 feet​
115,001 - 161,000 volts​
14 feet​
161,001 - 230,000 volts​
16 feet​
230,001 - 345,000 volts​
20 feet​
345,001 - 500,000 volts​
25 feet​

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requirements for operating cranes & derricks near power lines

When operating cranes and derricks, it is the employer’s responsibility to:

  1. identify the work area
  2. determine if any part of the equipment, load line or load, if operated up to the equipment’s maximum working radius, could pass within 20 feet of the power line (if the line is less than 350,000 volts) or within 50 feet of the power line (if the line is more than 350,000 volts)
  3. if any part of the equipment could pass within the required minimum distance, then you must either confirm with the utility company that the power line has been de-energized and visually confirm the line has been grounded at the worksite or ensure that no part of the equipment, load line or load approaches closer than the required minimum distance, by implementing the required encroachment prevention provisions. 
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required minimum approach distance for cranes & derricks
  • ​20 feet for lines up to 350,000 volts
  • 50 feet for lines over 350,000 volts

If the specific voltage is clarified with the utility company, then the required minimum approach distances are: 

energized line voltage minimum approach distance (table a)
​up to 50,000 volts
10 feet
50,000 - 200,000 volts​
15 feet​
200,001 - 350,000 volts​
20 feet​
350,001 - 500,000 volts​
25 feet​

required encroachment prevention provisions for cranes & derricks

The employer must:

  • conduct a planning meeting with the operator and the other workers who will be in the area of the equipment or load to review the location of the power line(s) and the steps that will be implemented to prevent encroachment.
  • ensure tag lines are non-conductive
  • erect and maintain an elevated warning line, barricade, or line of signs in view of the operator at the required minimum approach distance (see detailed OSHA regulations)
  • Implement at least one of the following:
    • proximity alarm set to give the operator sufficient warning to prevent encroachment
    • a dedicated spotter who is in continuous contact with the operator (see detailed requirements in OSHA regulation)
    • a device that automatically warns the operator when to stop movement (see detailed requirements in OSHA regulation)
    • a device that automatically limits range of movement, set to prevent encroachment
    • an insulating link/device (see detailed requirements in OSHA regulation).
  • presume that power lines are energized
    The employer must assume that all power lines are energized unless the utility company confirms that the power line has been and continues to be de-energized and visibly grounded at the worksite.
     
    required training
    The employer must train each operator and crew member assigned to work with the equipment (see detailed requirements in OSHA regulation).

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lift rental companies

​Mobile lifts (man lifts, scissor lifts, etc.) are capable of extending into and/or reaching overhead power lines and, therefore, become a path to ground for electricity.

​It is important, prior to raising or extending the boom or device, that the operator look up and ensure that no overhead power line exists.

It is important that proper separation between the mobile lift and overhead power lines be maintained and that operators do not encroach upon the minimum approach distances for people, materials and equipment as outlined in table b.

If the work to be performed cannot be safely completed due to the need to bring people, materials or equipment closer than prescribed in table b, contact the APS Public Safety department to investigate alternative approaches. In no situation should you operate the equipment closer than allowed by table b.

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sign installation & maintenance

​The primary electrical hazards involved with sign installation and maintenance is exposure to overhead and underground electric conductors and equipment.

Before the installation of a new sign, or maintenance of an existing sign, ensure that you maintain the necessary minimum approach distances as specified by OSHA for crane and derrick work, and as specified in table b for people, materials and non-crane equipment.

Before digging for new foundations or to set a pole, ensure that you call the Arizona Blue Stake center at least two working days before the work begins.

Ensure that the electrical supply to your sign, if equipped, is provided by a licensed electrical contractor.

If you cannot maintain the proper minimum approach distances or the separation of structures from energized lines, contact the APS Public Safety Department.

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farming
  • ​Take every precaution to avoid damaging overhead power lines and poles during the operation of farm equipment.
  • Farm equipment and machinery used in cultivating fields should be no more than 14 feet in height to safely clear overhead power lines.
  • When installing an irrigation system, pipes should be moved in a horizontal manner when near overhead lines to avoid accidental contact.
  • Keep ladders away from all overhead electrical equipment.
oversized loads
contact us at least 5 business days before travel for loads
  
  • exceeding 18' in height that are to be transported on highways
  • exceeding 16" in height that are to be transported on secondary roads, streets or county roads
contact us
Requests can be made by phone or email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Messages will be returned within 2 business days.
phone: 602-250-3418
include: 
  • your name and contact phone number
  • proposed route - attach route map, if available
  • date of planned load move
  • overall height of the load
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1602 Criminal Damage; states tampering with the property of a utility is punishable by felony class charges.
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safety tips
  • Treat all wires with respect and caution, regardless of size. Always assume any wire is energized.
  • Never enter an electric substation. If you see suspicious activity inside or near a substation, call 911 immediately.
  • If your vehicle comes to rest touching a downed power line, stay inside the vehicle, remain calm, and call 911 and APS. Warn others to stay away from the vehicle and wait for rescue workers to arrive. Ensure the area has been made safe by the utility company prior to exiting the vehicle. If you must get out of the vehicle due to a life threatening situation, jump out of the vehicle without touching both the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Shuffle away in very small steps, or hop away with both feet together, until you are at least 50 feet away from the danger area. Once you have evacuated the vehicle, do not return or touch the vehicle until the utility makes the area safe.
  • Electricity travels at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second.
  • Electricity seeks all paths to ground. Never put yourself in a position to become part of the path to ground by touching (or stepping on) energized wires with your hands or clothing, or indirectly using tools, materials, or equipment.
  • Don’t climb trees near power lines, tree branches can conduct electricity.
  • Do not use water on an electrical fire. Call 911. If possible, and if safe to do so, unplug the device that is on fire or turn the power off at the main breaker switch in the service entrance breaker panel. Evacuate to a safe area outside and away from the fire.
  • Call 911 if you see a downed power line or exposed electrical equipment. Keep yourself safe by staying 100 feet away.