Oklahoma City Crane Operator Electrocuted

An Oklahoma City construction crane operator was killed this week when the steel beams he was moving came into contact with overhead power lines.

Mark Tiger was operating the crane in a muddy, soggy field at a construction site in Oklahoma City when the incident occurred. Nearby workers were not injured.

Paul O'Leary, an Emergency Medical Services Authority spokesman, said Tiger was in full cardiac arrest when emergency responders reached him. They managed to get his heart beating, but he was pronounced dead at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.

"When you're hit with that kind of current, it often burns internal organs, and even though you can get a heartbeat, the damage inside is severe," said O'Leary.

OSHA standards 1926.550 (a)(15) and 1910.180 (j) requires that the minimum clearance between electrical lines rated 50 kV or below and any part of a crane or load shall be 10 feet, unless the electrical lines have been "de-energized and visibly grounded" at the point of work, or physical contact between the lines, equipment or machines is "prevented" by the erection of insulating barriers which cannot be part of the crane. In addition, 29 CFR 1926.550 (a)(15)(iv) requires that a person be designated to observe clearance of the equipment and to give timely warning for "all" operations where it is difficult for the operator to maintain desired clearances by visual means.

The issue of crane safety around powerlines has been addressed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which has issued alerts for preventing the electrocution of crane operators and crew members working near overhead power lines. According to NIOSH, a large percentage of construction site electrocutions in recent years can be attributed to cranes or their loads coming into contact with power lines.

To prevent crane-related electrocutions, NIOSH suggests employers:

  • Notify power line owners before work begins near electrical lines, and provide them with all pertinent information: type of equipment (including length of boom) and date, time, and type of work involved. Request the cooperation of the owner to de-energize and ground the lines or to help provide insulated barriers.
  • Develop and implement written safety programs to help workers recognize and control the hazards of crane contact with overhead power lines.
  • Evaluate jobsites before beginning work to determine the safest areas for material storage, the best placement for machinery during operations, and the size and type of machinery to be used.
  • Know the location and voltage of all overhead power lines at the jobsite before operating or working with any crane.
  • Evaluate alternative work methods that do not require the use of cranes. For example, it may be possible to use concrete pumping trucks instead of crane-suspended buckets for placing concrete near overhead power lines. Alternative methods should be carefully evaluated to ensure that they do not introduce new hazards into the workplace.
  • Ensure that workers assigned to operate cranes and other boomed vehicles are specifically trained in safe operating procedures. Also ensure that workers are trained to understand the limitations of such devices as boom guards, insulated lines, ground rods, nonconductive links, and proximity warning devices; and to recognize that these devices are not substitutes for de-energizing and grounding lines or maintaining safe clearance. Workers should also be trained to recognize the hazards and use proper techniques when rescuing coworkers or recovering equipment in contact with electrical energy. All employers and workers should be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Ensure that workers are provided with a quick means of summoning assistance when an emergency occurs.
  • Encourage the manufacturers of cranes and other boomed vehicles to consider developing truck-mounted cranes with electrically isolated crane control systems, such as those that use fiber optic conductors to transmit control signals.
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