While operating mobile cranes near overhead power lines should be avoided when possible, there will be some situations where its unavoidable and crane operators will need to proceed with extra caution.
For example, crane operators may be required to move loads to and from a building located beneath transmission lines. They may be required to replace billboards on roadways with power lines running parallel to them. They may need to place concrete traffic barriers during highway construction and maintenance, and in the process, might have to engage with nearby crossing power lines.
Regardless of the situation, it is imperative that crane operators must operate cautiously near overhead power lines because even a small mistake on their part may lead to a fatal accident.
What are the things in particular that crane operators should be aware of?
Maintaining a safe distance
It’s crucial to maintain a safe distance from the crane hoist lines and boom when you’re operating a mobile crane near power lines.
OSHA recommends maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet for lines rated 50 kilovolts (kV) or below. If the lines carry a higher voltage, the distance needs to be even greater; 4 inches for every 10kV over 50 kV to be precise.
Maintaining a slow speed
Keep the speed slower than what you usually operate your mobile crane at. This will give you greater control over your crane operations and help you avoid any collisions with nearby power lines.
Making sure there is a signal person on the site to observe the clearance and give timely warnings
As a crane operator, there is only so much you can do. You have a load to lift, obstacles to avoid, load stress to monitor as well as the wind speed to keep in check. As such, you can’t be observing the clearances by yourself. Make sure there’s a designated signal person for that who guides you and be your eyes on the site.
What if there is contact with the power lines?
In case you do end up making a contact with the power lines, the very first thing you should do is swing the crane boom into the clear. If it is necessary to leave the equipment, position your jump such that both your feet stay close together and hit the ground at the same time. Once on the ground, walk clear of the unit; make sure to use small steps. Stay away from the crane until the power lines have been de-energized.