by , on October 17, 2014
High Voltage - Danger of Death Keep Out

It was the last call that I wanted to get

A few years ago I received a phone call from an OSHA inspector asking for one of our training manuals. He sounded upset and demanded that it be sent overnight.  A worker had died in an electrical arc flash only a few weeks after attending one of our training classes.  At first, I wondered if we had some type of major error in our training manuals or that I had missed teaching this employee something critical, which resulted in getting him killed.  I told him that it would be absolutely no problem for me to have the training manual delivered to him overnight.

After a few days of waiting, I started to get worried.  I hadn’t heard anything back on the incident.  I decided to give the OSHA Official a quick call (he had given me his cell when I was forthright in agreeing to help), and I quickly discovered that an employee died because of his night supervisor.

It turns out that several employees were told by their supervisor to fix an issue that was clearly a hazard.  This was during Hurricane Gilbert. In a driving rain, lightning had struck a transformer and “fried” it.  The power was off, and the transformer was visibly bulging and smoking.  The group of employees tried informing their supervisor that what he was asking of them would violate the training they had received just a few days earlier.  The supervisor didn’t care.  He didn’t want HIS supervisors coming in the next day to give him a hard time for not fixing the problem.  He demanded that the Low Voltage qualified employees open a medium voltage piece of equipment.

What went wrong?

As it turns out – that particular night the driving rain made opening the cabinet even more hazardous.  One of the employees that night had worked on medium voltage for another company in the past and was pushed by his supervisor to go ahead and address the issue.  Despite his prior experience, he wasn’t qualified to do the job. In addition, the conditions were nothing he had ever experienced.

The employee brought the supervisor along with him to point out that there was nothing that he could do to the equipment As he reached out with his screwdriver he used to open the cabinet to show his supervisor the problem, the equipment arced to his body (probably due to a continuous stream of water) and killed him.  The supervisor caught his employee’s body as he fell back, lifeless.  It’s the last call that anyone wants to get.

Conclusion

We had informed the company in our proposal that electrical supervisors should attend the full training or a special supervisory course. But the supervisors indicated they were too busy. If this worker’s supervisor had the proper training, he would have known that he was putting the lives of his workers in danger.  Safety never ends.  Remember, you are responsible for your safety.

Electrical safety training improves safety for supervisors and those they are responsible for. As you read through e-Hazard’s list of offered classes, look for General Personnel Electrical Safety Awareness and our Low Voltage Qualified Refresher and High Voltage Qualified Refresher classes. These three are often suggested when electrical supervisors are planning on attending the training. (NOTE: Both the Low Voltage Qualified Refresher and High Voltage Qualified Refresher classes require prerequisite courses to be completed first.)

OSHA 1910.332(c) very clearly states who should be trained.

Type of training. The training required by this section shall be of the classroom or on-the-job type. The degree of training provided shall be determined by the risk to the employee.

  TABLE S-4. -- Typical Occupational Categories of Employees
    Facing a Higher Than Normal Risk of Electrical Accident
_________________________________________________________________________

                      Occupation
_________________________________________________________________________

Blue collar supervisors(1)
Electrical and electronic engineers(1)
Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers(1)
Electrical and electronic technicians(1)
Electricians
Industrial machine operators(1)
Material handling equipment operators(1)
Mechanics and repairers(1)
Painters(1)
Riggers and roustabouts(1)
Stationary engineers(1)
Welders
_________________________________________________________________________
 Footnote(1) Workers in these groups do not need to be trained if their
work or the work of those they supervise does not bring them or the
employees they supervise close enough to exposed parts of electric circuits
operating at 50 volts or more to ground for a hazard to exist.
Article Updated On  10/24/14

 


Hugh Hoagland
About author:
Hugh Hoagland is the foremost tester of clothing and PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Read more about Hugh.

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