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Power lines and workplace safety

In New Jersey and across the country, workers depend on safety training and equipment to keep them from harm. In light of a mining accident that could have resulted in serious or fatal injuries, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a close call alert.

The accident occurred when a tractor-trailer, failing to maintain the recommendation of keeping a 10-foot clearance from power lines, contacted an overhead ground wire after it unloaded gravel. The accident caused the wire to pull and snap an adjacent power pole's ground wire, which then caused the energized 13,800-volt wires to arc and trip the power. While the accident led to a large amount of property damage, there were no injuries. The MSHA stated that the accident could have caused an electrocution.

The agency recommends several best practices. One important occupational safety practice for miners to follow is to be aware of nearby high-voltage lines that are within 10 feet from where equipment will be used and make sure the lines are de-energized prior to using equipment. To avoid possible electrocution risks, miners should conduct the work in areas where equipment will not be in danger of coming in contact with the lines.

If an accident should occur, the nearby power company should be immediately notified, and employees should stay in the truck. If the accident causes a fire, employees are advised to exit their tractors and go to an area that is free of the danger of electrocution. While exiting, employees should try not to touch their equipment and the ground simultaneously, which could cause them to be electrocuted.

Most employees who are injured on the job have a right to file for workers' compensation benefits that can provide a percentage of lost wages during the recovery period. An attorney can often be of assistance in preparing the required claim documentation.

Source: National Law Review, "Mine Safety Agency Issues 'Close Call Alert' Related to Surface Power Lines", Tressi Cordaro, May 11, 2017

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