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Window-washing pole contacted power line, electrocuting worker

Date of incident: July 2016
Notice of incident number: 2016120030012
Employer: Window-cleaning company

Incident summary
A worker was preparing to wash the uppermost windows of a four-storey commercial-residential building. He was carrying a window-washing pole in the vertical position and extended to about 41 feet. He stepped out onto the roadway near the curb to get around obstructions on the sidewalk, and the pole made contact with high-voltage overhead electrical conductors. The worker sustained serious injuries.

Investigation conclusions


  • Window-washing pole held at vertical angle contacted high-voltage conductor. While moving from one location to another holding a window-washing pole, the worker did not lower the pole. Due to obstructions on the sidewalk (awnings, trees, and shrubbery), the worker walked along or off the curb in the parallel-parking area, and under the overhead conductor. Because the pole was being held in a vertical position, the top of the pole contacted the overhead conductor.

    The pole was made of a conductive material and was wet, allowing it to readily conduct electrical energy to the worker’s hands. This occurred despite the fact that the manufacturer had coated the lower section of the pole with a non-conductive fibreglass coating.

Contributing factors

  • Insufficient supervision. The supervisor on the day of the incident said he had not discussed the window-washing work on the building face in close proximity to the overhead conductors. The previous day’s supervisor said he had discussed working near the conductors, but had no notes regarding a job hazard analysis or a pre-job meeting to discuss site safety.

    The worker said he did not recollect any discussion regarding work in proximity to overhead electrical conductors.

  • No effective work procedures available. Although the previous day’s supervisor said he had talked to the worker about work procedures and the location of the overhead conductors, there were no written notes of a pre-job meeting, job hazard analysis, or safe work procedures. The incident-day supervisor said he had not discussed the location of the overhead conductors with the worker, or any specific work procedures for working near the overhead conductors.

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Publication Date: Mar 2019 Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2016120030012