Blown Away: How Wind Affects Safety on the Line

How Wind Affects Safety on the Line

Do you hear that? The wind can really howl this time of year. It’s common for electric utility linemen to experience windy conditions, which means extra safety measures can often be overlooked or taken for granted. “The safety and fall prevention equipment linemen use doesn’t change from day to day— whether it’s windy or not— but how they approach the line in windy conditions should,” says Todd Carter, MRO Senior Product Specialist at Anixter. “A little extra caution can make a big difference.”

Carter provides a rundown of safety reminders, specifically for those facing wind on the line:

  1. Watch the lanyard position. A heavy wind gust could blow a lanyard or other piece of clothing or fall protection equipment into the line, potentially causing shock or electrocution. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) recent updates on Section 1910.269 for climbing equipment and FR-rated clothing can help keep linemen safer than ever if they do come in contact with energized lines.1 The best protection, however, is prevention. On breezy days, that means being aware of the direction of the wind and what may be in its path.
  2. Be aware of debris in the air. Protective eyewear is particularly important on windy days since small particles like dirt, dust and pollen can be stirred up to cause visibility problems. Larger debris can also be a problem on windy days, which is why shatter-proof eyewear is essential. Also essential is the fit. OSHA cites nearly three out of every five injured workers wore eye protection at the time of their accidents. For those who were wearing eye protection, most were wearing the wrong type. Nearly 95 percent of the injuries to workers wearing eye protection resulted from objects getting around or under the protection.2
  3. Heed the guidelines for positioning. OSHA no longer allows free-climbing on the line. As of April 2015, linemen climbing or changing location on poles, towers or similar structures must use fall protection, unless the employer can demonstrate that climbing or changing location with fall protection is infeasible or would create a greater hazard than climbing or changing location without it.3 Even linemen with years of experience can be caught off guard by a sudden gust of wind.
  4. Be aware of who is in the vicinity. While workers on the ground are required to keep a safe distance from their fellow linemen, windy conditions can make that minimum approach distance surprisingly unpredictable. A hard hat or even a heavy hand tool such as a wrench can travel an extra distance when dropped or pulled away by a wind gust. It’s important, on windy days, to review safety procedures for workers on the ground so that they can remain safe from falling objects.

Falls are a major concern on the line. That danger is amplified in windy conditions, as are other dangers such as the risk of shock or electrocution, eye injuries and injuries from falling objects. When the wind kicks up, be sure extra care on the line kicks in.