A water well drilling site is full of potential hazards. Most common among these hazards is electricity, which, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program, was the cause for 21 fatalities among water well drillers between 1992 and 2000. Nineteen of those fatalities occurred while workers were drilling and/or servicing a water pump, or when the rig contacted overhead power lines.

Owners and employees should work together to create jobsite- and task-specific electrical safety guidelines. Drillers and helpers need to recognize electrical hazards as part of their job. The following electrical safety procedures should be part of any jobsite review:

1. Call your state’s one-call center to identify the location of underground public utility power lines, or call 888-258-0808.

2. Verify the location of all buried or embedded electrical circuits, including landowner and third-party lines at the worksite.

3. Check the condition of all equipment before drilling starts. Drillers and helpers should make sure the rig’s electrical systems are working properly. Workers should check the integrity of the grounding system, internal safety mechanisms, operating voltage and the electrical wiring.

4. Locate power lines and take precautions to avoid them when erecting the mast. Accidents involving electrical cables often occur when a drill is being set up, moved or broken down. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for operating heavy equipment near overhead power lines (OSHA Standard B30.5-1994, 5-.4.5) can serve as a guideline for minimum clearance when erecting drilling masts. Drilling industry guidelines recommend before raising the drill rig mast (derrick) on a site in the vicinity of power lines, walk completely around the drill rig. Determine the minimum horizontal distance from any point on the drill rig to the nearest power line when the mast is raised and/or being raised.