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The power of overhead lines

Safety & Codes | August 1, 2008 | By:

This spring’s unfortunate news of tent installers killed in Charleston, S.C., drove home the point that installers and their supervisors must be diligent about the potential hazards of a jobsite.

The Tent Rental Division’s latest campaign, “Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around,” reinforces the need for site surveys. A good site survey alerts your team to potential hassles that can be time-suckers or money-drainers. More importantly, thoroughly surveying the installation site can help save workers from injury or even death. Visit for more information.

OSHA’s guidelines on overhead power lines basically require that workers maintain a safe distance from the power line and from anything that could potentially conduct electricity. The person and the longest conductive object he or she may contact (i.e. a tent pole) must be a good distance away from overhead power lines, as follows:

  • For voltages to ground 50kV or less, 10 feet.
  • For voltages to ground over 50kV, 10 feet plus 4 inches for every 10kV over 50kV.

The same rules apply to vehicles and equipment that could act as conductors. The rules do allow for a shorter distance if the equipment is insulated for that particular voltage, or if the worker is wearing personal protective equipment designed to insulate against the voltage. Guidelines on this requirement are covered in OSHA Standard No. 1910.333, “Selection and Use of Work Practices.” For more information, visit

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