Safety Risk Management for Electrical Transmission and Distribution Line Construction

Prior research has established that electrical contractors involved in the construction and maintenance of electrical transmission and distribution (T&D) lines are at extremely high risk of electrocution. The result of inadvertent contact with T&D lines often is death or severe injury that involves damage to internal organs, musculoskeletal disorders, neurological damages and severe burns. The International Electrical Safety Foundation has demonstrated that contact with overhead power lines has been the single largest cause of electrical fatalities over the last decade. To reduce this disproportionate injury rate, electrical contractors implement many strategies such as the use of rubber insulating equipment, and locking devices. Unfortunately, these strategies are often cost-prohibitive in certain construction and maintenance scenarios. Therefore, electrical contractors are faced with complex decisions that involve comparing the cost of injury prevention with the expected safety benefit. This paper presents research that objectively evaluated the risk associated with common T&D construction tasks and the effectiveness of specific injury prevention techniques. The research team then developed a decision support framework that provides electrical contractors with objective safety and cost feedback given specific project characteristics. The results indicate that many of the effective strategies implemented to reduce T&D electrical injuries are very costly (e.g., de-energizing lines). Consequently, under most conditions, the costs of injury prevention far outweigh the cost savings associated with the reduction of injury rates. The implication of these findings is that T&D electrical contractors must highly value the non-monetary benefits of injury prevention in order to improve safety in their sector.



Alex Albert
Matthew R. Hallowell


University of Colorado

Publication Date:

February 2012

Format & Size:

Soft cover; vii and 28 pages

Index Number:


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