Toolbox Talks

Presented by Mark Solano, CHST. and the Laborers Training School

May 27, 2024

Toolbox Talk: Working Safely Below Powerlines

Working below power lines poses significant risks due to the potential for electrical hazards. It’s essential to understand and implement safety measures to prevent accidents and injuries. This toolbox talk will cover the key safety practices when working in the vicinity of power lines.

Key Topics

1. Understanding the Risks

• Electrocution: Direct contact or indirect contact with power lines can result in severe injury or death.

• Arc Flash: Electrical arcing can occur when equipment or tools come too close to high-voltage lines.

• Equipment Interaction: Cranes, ladders, scaffolding, and other equipment can come into contact with power lines.

2. Pre-Job Planning

• Site Assessment: Conduct a thorough site assessment to identify the location of power lines.

• Hazard Analysis: Evaluate potential hazards and develop a plan to mitigate risks.

• Permits and Regulations: Ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations regarding work near power lines.

3. Safe Working Distances

• Minimum Approach Distance (MAD): Maintain a safe distance from power lines as recommended by OSHA or relevant regulatory bodies.

• For example, OSHA generally recommends a minimum distance of 10 feet for power lines carrying up to 50kV.

• Awareness Zones: Establish and mark awareness zones around power lines to remind workers of the danger areas.

4. Equipment Safety

• Cranes and Lifting Equipment: Use spotters to guide operators and ensure no equipment comes within the MAD.

• Scaffolding and Ladders: Ensure scaffolding and ladders are positioned away from power lines. Never use metal ladders near power lines.

• Vehicle Operation: Be cautious when operating vehicles with raised beds or booms.

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

• Insulating Gloves and Tools: Use proper insulating gloves and tools when working near power lines.

• Hard Hats: Always wear hard hats to protect from potential falling objects or accidental contact.

• High-Visibility Clothing: Ensure all workers are easily visible to equipment operators and other personnel.

6. Training and Communication

• Worker Training: Provide comprehensive training on electrical hazards and safety practices for all workers.

• Daily Briefings: Conduct daily briefings to review the plan and reinforce safety protocols.

• Emergency Procedures: Ensure everyone knows the emergency procedures in case of contact with power lines.

7. Incident Response

• Emergency Contacts: Have emergency contact numbers readily available and ensure everyone knows how to reach them.

• First Aid: Train workers in basic first aid, including CPR, in case of electrical shock.

• Incident Reporting: Report any incidents or near misses immediately and conduct a thorough investigation to prevent recurrence.


Working below power lines requires vigilance, proper planning, and adherence to safety protocols to prevent serious injuries or fatalities. By understanding the risks, maintaining safe distances, using appropriate equipment, wearing necessary PPE, and ensuring thorough training and communication, we can create a safer work environment for everyone involved.

Thank you for your attention and commitment to safety. Let's work together to ensure a safe and productive day.


Mark Solano, CHST.

Laborers Training School Safety Officer

I entered the construction industry in the summer of 1979, faced with a choice from my father, who was president of Local 652 at the time: go to college or join the Laborers. I chose the Laborers.  

I attended the Laborers Training School in Anza during the summer of 1980. Throughout my career, I worked with several respected companies, including Granite, Silverado, and Full Traffic Maintenance. 

My passion for safety ignited during my time at Granite and I later assumed the role of Safety Manager at Griffith Company. This journey led me to serve on the subcommittee for Laborers Local 652 in Santa Ana in a management capacity.  

It was there that I first learned of the position of Safety Officer at the Laborers Training School. Recognizing it as my calling, I embraced the opportunity to be part of a program that imparts knowledge ,experience, and safety values to young apprentices. It's both an honor and privilege to serve Laborer Local unions and contractors across Southern California.

"The path of safety and service is a rewarding one, built on sharing knowledge, experiences, and shaping a safer tomorrow."