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New worker seriously injured while washing windows near power line

Date of incident: May 2021
Notice of incident number: 2021166970008
Employer: Window cleaning company

Incident summary
A new worker was operating a telescopic water-fed pole to clean windows at a multiple-tenant retirement residence. The fully extended pole made contact with a high-voltage power line, producing an electric shock that seriously injured the worker.

Investigation conclusions


  • Work breached limits of approach and pole contacted power line. The new worker unknowingly encroached on the limits of approach to a high-voltage power line with a fully extended water-fed pole. The pole made contact with the power line.

Contributing factors

  • Failure to communicate hazards and put controls in place. Prior to the day of the incident, the employer had prepared a quote for the work to be done at the site. The quote noted the electrical hazards on the west and north sides of the building. The day before the incident, a crew carried out a hazard analysis for the workplace. The hazard analysis identified the hazard of the power line. However, the new worker was not present on the day of the hazard analysis, and the firm did not put control measures in place to reduce the risk of work around the power line. When the new worker reported for work on the incident day, no one made the worker aware of the identified hazard of working near the power line.
  • Safe work procedures not followed and not adequate. As part of the employer’s safe work practices (SWPs), its Safety Playbook stated that a hazard analysis must be completed before work began at any jobsite and that all employees must participate in it. The Safety Playbook noted the limits of approach for electrical hazards in the context of ladder use but did not directly refer to the use of tools such as a water-fed pole in close proximity to power lines. The employer did not adhere to the SWPs when the new worker was not included in the formal hazard analysis on the day before the incident and when they did not discuss the identified hazards with that worker before work started on the day of the incident.
  • Inadequate training and instruction. The new worker was not provided with adequate new worker orientation, training, and instruction prior to engaging in work for the employer. None of the workers who were on site on the day of the incident were provided with adequate training that related to electrical safety and the limits of approach, nor had of them received formal supervisory training. The new worker, who was not at the workplace on the day the hazard analysis took place, was not advised or instructed that hazards had been identified and documented. When the incident occurred, the new worker was performing a task without supervision near the electrical hazard that had been observed and documented in the hazard analysis.
  • Inadequate supervision. The employer failed to provide adequate supervision to ensure the health and safety of the workers at the workplace. The new worker was without adequate supervision at the site.

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Publication Date: Oct 2023 Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2021166970008