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All About High Voltage Crane Work

All About High Voltage Crane Work

Construction sites are inherently dangerous places to work; when you add in power lines and cranes, that danger only increases. Of the hundreds of on-site fatalities every year, according to OSHA, nearly a third are from electrocution. 


The safe operation of cranes in ordinary lifting situations requires skill and training. Anytime you operate a crane near a power line, treat the situation as hazardous.

All About High Voltage Crane Work

If electricity to a line can be powered off, you are required to do so. While it is safer for lines to be unpowered on construction or maintenance sites, this is often difficult or impossible due to the length of time work will take place and the needs of residences and businesses in the area.

Below we go over several guidelines for operating cranes safely around high voltage power lines. It is crucial to remember that at no point should crane equipment or personnel be closer than the appropriate line clearance. It is always better to treat every power line as if it is fully powered and uninsulated.

Clearance Distance to Power Lines

It is important to note all of the dangers which are present on a worksite, and high-voltage lines are no exception. Since they are present throughout cities or residential areas and often found around telecommunication towers, power lines are likely to be some of the most common on-site hazards your crew will need to workaround.

Management should perform daily risk and site hazard analyses to make sure that cranes are being operated within OSHA regulations. The minimum clearance for any power line is ten feet, but the higher the voltage, the greater the clearance required. 

When dealing with transmission lines outside of residential areas, a minimum distance of anywhere up to forty-five feet may be necessary.

You can use these minimum clearance guidelines to determine your safe operating distance. When possible, it is best to set cranes where they have no possibility, even when fully extended, of coming into contact with the power line. 

For most construction sites, that ideal may be impossible. Safe operation then relies on your operating personnel.

Personnel Training for Lifts

As important as proper site prep and hazard analysis is, no amount of it will substitute for properly trained personnel. All members of the lift crew, from operators, signalers, and riggers, need to be qualified for their position and know safety protocols. Whether you are renting the equipment or own it, your team should include NCCCO certified operators and OSHA-qualified personnel. 

Communication is key for anyone on a worksite. Take steps to train workers who will be nearby the crane site in standard OSHA hand signals for crane operation. 

Knowing this essential communication tool reduces confusion when machinery is being operated, a time when hearing may be difficult or view lines are blocked. Any time you improve communication, you also improve safety.

When operating near a power line, designate a spotter. Their sole purpose will be to observe the clearance of crane equipment and loads and giving warnings when the boom lift crosses any safety boundaries.

Additional Preventative Safety Guidelines

You can find more information on personnel training requirements and crane safety around power lines in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's guidelines for equipment operation around power lines up to 350kV. 

The complete list is extensive. Whether you are providing the crane yourself or relying on a rental company, operators must be qualified, personnel are familiar with standard hand signals, danger zones are clearly marked, and that equipment is properly maintained and implemented.

Safety Procedures in the Event of Contact

In the event any portion of a crane comes in contact with a power line, high voltage or otherwise, the crane operator should swing the boom into a clear space as quickly as possible. There may be certain conditions where this isn’t possible, such as if the line becomes tangled or may snap if the boom moves. 

Unless a fire breaks out, the safest place for the operator is to stay within the equipment. If the operator needs to exit the crane, they should jump clear of the unit and land with both feet touching the ground simultaneously.

When the crane contacts a powered line, it grounds a substantial amount of electricity. That power flows through the ground and can create very stark differences in electric potential from spot to spot. Keeping feet as close together as possible lessens the chance of electrical shock. 

This holds for anyone around the crane as well. Site personnel should avoid significant steps and shuffle quickly clear of the area.

While many power companies have detection devices that will automatically cut power if lines are overly grounded, you should only return to the equipment once the power line has been properly grounded, unpowered, and declared safe by an electric utility. Do not resume use of the crane until it has undergone a complete safety inspection by a mechanic.

Crane Rental In the Carolinas

At Parker’s Crane Service, we pride ourselves on safety and implement a Zero Accident Philosophy on every site we work. Our standard safety preplanning includes on-site hazard analysis, pre-lift, and daily risk assessments, and we perform routine maintenance and management audits.

With over forty years in the business, we go the extra mile for our customers throughout North and South Carolina. Whether you are dealing with high voltage lines onsite or not, renting through us, you can rest easy knowing our OSHA and MSHA compliant safety programs, risk management, maintenance, and trained personnel will get the job done. Our services include:

  • CCO Operators, Riggers, and Signal Persons
  • Daily Lift Plans
  • 24 Hour Emergency Service
  • Crane Erection and Dismantling Crews

Contact us today for a free on-site quote and evaluation to discuss your job's needed services and equipment. We look forward to helping you complete your project safely.