Tornadoes have caused damage in multiple states across the country this year. As the Insurance Journal reports, Arkansas saw several possible tornadoes appear on March 13, with thousands of power outages lasting on into the next day. Illinois experienced a possible tornado the same week, and similar storms may have been spotted in Iowa as well. This last storm brought funnel clouds around the Quad Cities, as WQAD8 reported.
With all of this activity, companies are likely considering the implications of sending crews to respond to tornado damage. Power outages in particular can add to worker risk, since they could result from fallen lines that need to be carefully restored. Dealing with the cables safely can force crew members to rely on their protective clothing as well as any training or best practices they have.
The storm may have passed, but workers could still be facing some urgent dangers. Here are three tips to help crew stay safe while they do their job. In some cases, these are not only good pieces of advice but recommended by government agencies.
#1: Choose the right footwear
Before arriving at the site, workers can ask themselves whether or not they are ready to step out on potentially dangerous ground. After a tornado, simply walking from one spot to another can leave a crew member exposed to sharp edges. Foot protection should match the guidelines set out by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which listed foot and leg protection in its Personal Protective Equipment booklet.
Footwear is also important around the electrical source itself. The same booklet examined two types of shoes that can provide protection against electrical current: conductive shoes and electrical hazard, safety toe shoes. The latter “can protect against open circuits of up to 600 volts in dry conditions and should be used in conjunction with other insulating equipment and additional precautions to reduce the risk of a worker becoming a path for hazardous electrical energy.”
#2: Err on the side of caution
A separate fact sheet from OSHA also specifically addresses the dangers of working around fallen cables. The source noted how difficult it is to determine whether or not a cable is “on.” Instead, it recommended that workers should assume all cables they see are energized, which means avoiding any contact, even from inside a vehicle. Anything touching a downed wire is potentially dangerous.
Wearing sufficient hand protection, such as insulating rubber gloves, may let crews stay consistent with the other protective gear they’re wearing. It also helps to be mindful of overhead lines: the OSHA Contact With Power Lines etool advised staying ten feet away from these lines. Warning signs should clearly alert all crew to wires that aren’t very apparent.
#3: Keep a safe distance
A wire lying on the ground could seem harmless enough while the area around it provides the real trap. The same booklet states that some large objects, including buildings and fences, can carry current. The ground itself may also pose a hazard, as “electricity can spread outward through the ground in a circular shape” starting at the edge of the wire.
As an extra precaution, crews need to make sure none of their additional equipment will conduct a charge. Relying on material that doesn’t conduct electricity at all makes this less of a likelihood: One example could be a ladder that isn’t made of metal. Keeping lines grounded or insulated also gives crews possible protection and reduced danger levels at the worksite.
Contact Texas America Safety Company for more information on protective gear. Stay ready for anything in the stormy season and keep your workers safe.