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MD: More on “Smart Meter” Electric Fires

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Baltimore, MD:  The move­ment gath­ers out­side the Schae­fer Build­ing on August 28.  Hold­ing a sign decry­ing smart meters—the new “advanced” elec­tri­cal coun­ters util­i­ties around the coun­try are installing on people’s homes—is the last place George Karadi­mas expected to be dur­ing his retirement.  “I never knew any­thing about these things until March, April of this year,” the for­mer elec­tri­cal engi­neer and Elli­cott City res­i­dent says. “Then I hap­pened to get on an inter­net radio show about prob­lems peo­ple were hav­ing down in Texas, peo­ple who I hap­pened to per­son­ally know. So I lis­tened and I said ‘you’re off the wall.’ Then I stud­ied it and I started freak­ing out myself.”

Karadi­mas was among about two dozen anti-smart meter activists who packed a hastily-convened meet­ing of the Mary­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion August 28. The com­mis­sion, hav­ing read about smart meter electrical fires in Penn­syl­va­nia and PEPCO Energy Group’s deci­sion to sus­pend instal­la­tion of them, asked Mary­land util­i­ties for infor­ma­tion on their smart meter programs.  “This is a pre­lim­i­nary gath­er­ing,” PSC Chair­man Dou­glas Nazar­ian told the crowd in the 16th floor hear­ing room. “We’re not going to hear from other par­ties today.”

That dis­pleased the activists, one of whom, Har­ford County State Del­e­gate Glen Glass, issued a press release after­ward express­ing his dis­ap­point­ment. “The tes­ti­mony from BG&E and PEPCO con­firms that Smart Meters are dan­ger­ous, intru­sive, and have a ten­dency to break and over­heat,” Glass’s email said. “I call for a mora­to­rium to be placed on Smart Meter instal­la­tion due to these facts as well as reports that fires have been a result of these devices.”

The anti-smart-meter move­ment has been build­ing for sev­eral years, made up of peo­ple wor­ried about microwave radi­a­tion (“I’m chem­i­cally and electro-mechanically sen­si­tive,” one activist says) and the loss of pri­vacy inher­ent in the hourly read­ings the new meters will broad­cast back to the util­ity. The meters are meant to pave the way for per-hour changes in elec­tric­ity pric­ing and goad cus­tomers into reduc­ing their usage dur­ing higher-priced times of the day. That ele­ment of the plan—and the fact that it would shift the risk of higher energy prices from the util­ity (which was con­ceived in part to mit­i­gate that risk) to the cus­tomer base (which pays the util­ity to man­age that risk)—has been sel­dom crit­i­cized by the move­ment. The fires are a new thing.

Util­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tives told the com­mis­sion they had not expe­ri­enced any fires from the smart meter instal­la­tions yet, although BGE has installed 65,000 of the binder-sized devices, PEPCO about 186,000.  BGE has replaced five meters that sig­naled high tem­per­a­tures (just under the boil­ing point of water), but has had no fires and no fail­ures, says Michael Butts, BGE’s direc­tor of busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion. Three of the hot meters had “loose jaws,” he said—the con­nec­tors where the new meters meet the elec­tri­cal box on the house.

Nei­ther com­pany uses the brand of meters—Sensus—that burned in Penn­syl­va­nia and which are sub­ject to a whistle­blower law suit in Alabama.

PEPCO had 15 over­heaters, and no fires, Karen Lefkowitz, PEPCO’s vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion said. Most of the prob­lems there were at the con­nec­tion to the house. “It’s the exchange process that intro­duces some risk,” she told the commissioners.

The old meters are taken out “hot”—with the power still run­ning. Then the new meters are plugged in. The sock­ets in the houses, some of which may be decades old, do not always take kindly to such tam­per­ing. If the power going through them at the time of the swap is high, it may arc, pit­ting the wires and caus­ing a hot spot. If the arc­ing continues—or starts up later because of a loose connection—the new meters, which are mostly plas­tic, can burst into flames.

It’s rare, but it happens.

“I have an unbi­ased opin­ion. I’m for tech­nol­ogy. But the way this tech­nol­ogy has been imple­mented has caused a dis­as­ter,” Karadi­mas says.

Story via citypaper.com

 

OMAN: 2 Workers Electrocuted

September 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Muscat, Oman: The Muscat Electricity Distribution Company (MEDC) has blamed civil contractors for the electrocution of two workers, who fell on overhead power lines in Mabella area recently.  “The two workers were electrocuted when the scaffolding they were moving fell on an overhead line in Mabella,” according to a press release issued by the MEDC.  Following this incident, the MEDC has advised civil contractors, especially those working near overhead lines, to adhere strictly to safety measures.

According to the preliminary reports, the incident occurred when the scaffolding that was being moved by the workers fell on the 11KV lines, causing a direct contact to ground.

ttp://gulfnews.advertserve.com/servlet/click/zone?zid=998&pid=0&custom5=Gulf&custom6=Oman&lookup=true&position=1″ target=”_top”>< IMG src=”http://gulfnews.advertserve.com/servlet/view/banner/image/zone?zid=998&pid=0&custom5=Gulf&custom6=Oman&position=1&#8243; height=”” width=”” hspace=”0″ vspace=”0″ border=”0″ alt=”Click Here!”>< /A>“Lack of proper safety training led to the labourers’ ignorance of the dangers of a high scaffolding toppling onto overhead lines,” Majid Al Rahbi, electrical safety engineer at MEDC, said in the press release.“It was extremely dangerous to try to move scaffolding of that height when it is erected closed to overhead lines without partly dismantling it into manageable sections,” he explained.

Sultan Al Hinai, Health and Safety Awareness-in-charge at the MEDC, lashed out at the contractors for their ‘negligence’. “The two workers were not following basic safety procedures. Every worker has a responsibility to work safely and as an employer, the company has to bear responsibility to look after the safety of its workers on site,” he said.

The MEDC, meanwhile, is also considering a proposal to make it mandatory for any scaffolding and construction work near MEDC overhead lines to be first authorised by MEDC.

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CANADA: Waterloo North Hydro fined $110K for Arc Flash Incident

Ontario, Canada: Waterloo North Hydro fined $110,000 under Ontario workplace safety law after worker burned from arc flash. The Ontario Ministry of Labour announced Wednesday that electricity distributor Waterloo North Hydro Inc. was fined $110,000 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to an incident in which a worker was badly burned due to an arc flash.

The charges relate to an incident at a mall construction project in 2010 in Waterloo.  “Workers from Waterloo North Hydro Inc. had installed transformers on site and were attempting to send power from a transformer in one location to a transformer in another location,” the ministry stated in a press release Wednesday. “As power was sent to the second transformer, a worker for an electrical contractor was in the area routing a metal tape through a duct. The tape came into contact with a newly energized electrical conductor and caused an arc flash. The worker was badly burned.”

The utility pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice in Kitchener to failing to establish and implement an adequate job plan prior to installing and energizing the transformers.  “A job plan would have identified all known hazards and implemented controls for each hazard to protect workers from injury,” the Ministry of Labour stated.

One relevant section of provincial law is Section 181(1) of Ontario Regulation 213/91, which states: “Except where otherwise required by this Regulation, electrical work performed on or near electrical transmission or distribution systems shall be performed in accordance with the document entitled ‘Electrical Utility Safety Rules’ published by the Electrical and Utilities Safety Association of Ontario Incorporated and revised January, 2009.”

The other relevant section was Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 23(1)(a).  The fine was imposed Monday by Justice of the Peace Ruth Legate Exon. The court also imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge to be credited to a government fund intended to help victims of crime.

Story via Daily Commercial News

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CT: Arc Flash burns Electrician

Norwalk, CT: An electrician was severely burned Wednesday morning when an electric arc flash off a switch he was installing in a commerical building in West Norwalk. The man appeared to have second-degree burns over 40 percent of his body, said Deputy Fire Chief Ed Prescott, who responded to the call at 770 Connecticut Ave.

The arc flash filled the building with smoke, which activated the building’s fire alarm system at 8:40 a.m. Fire companies were en route to the location responding to the automatic alarm when they were informed there was a victim with electrical burns. Prescott said the electrician was walking around when he arrived, but had blistering burn wounds on his face, chest and arms. He was transported by ambulance to Bridgeport Hospital’s burn unit.

Prescott said the man, who appeared to be in his 60s, worked for a New York electrical contractor. He did not have the man’s name or the name of his employer. He said the man was installing a main switch in an electrical panel when the arc flash occurred.  Two fuses on a utility pole outside the building blew because of the arc flash. Linemen from Connecticut Light and Power disconnected electric service to the building.

The main tenant in the building is a Crunch Fitness athletic facility. A Children’s Corner Learning Center and an A-1 Carpet and Floors store are in the process of moving into the building.  City tax assessment records show the building is owned by Alyssa Holdings LLC of the Bronx, NY. The company purchased the building in January 2008 for $6.93 million.

Although the city shows the company is in the Bronx, the company’s phone number is listed to the 770 Connecticut Ave. address. No one answered a call to that number Wednesday afternoon.

The building and fire inspectors investigating the incident could not be reached for comment.

Story via Norwalk Patch

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MN Boom Lift Operator Electrocuted

Bemidji, MN:  On May 17th at 11:00 AM, Bemidji Police Officers, along with Bemidji Fire and Bemidji Ambulance personnel, responded to a medical emergency at Acme Tools, located in the 2000 block of 30th St NW in Bemidji. A 49 year old Bemidji man was operating a boom lift when he came in contact with a power line and was electrocuted. Delwin Grage JR was transported to Sanford Medical Center in Bemidji where he was pronounced dead.

Story via Park Rapids Enterprise

VT: Utility Worker Electrocuted

MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS, Vt.  — State police say a utility worker has been killed on the job in Middletown Springs.

They say 53-year-old Russell Callahan was installing high speed internet service Wednesday afternoon when part of the bucket truck he was operating hit a power line. Authorities say he was electrocuted and then fell backward and hit his head.

Callahan, of North Palm Beach, Fla., was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities say because of the electrocution and head injury, it’s unclear exactly how he died. An autopsy will be performed.

State police say he worked for Adirondack Utility Construction, which was being subcontracted by VTEL.

Story via newstimes.com

 

FL Electrical Worker Hospitalized

Mayo, FL — A Suwannee County man was seriously injured after making contact with a primary electrical line on Monday, Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Community Relations Manager Tom Tuckey confirmed.

According to Tuckey, 51-year-old Roger Alford was changing a transformer in the Mayo area when the accident occurred and was immediately rushed to Shands UF, where he remains.

“He came in contact with energized equipment while changing the transformer,” Tuckey explained.

As a result, Alford suffered burns, but is expected to make a full recovery and was even able to eat on his own Tuesday evening, Tuckey stated.

“We are just thankful that it is no worse than it is and we are keeping him and his family in our prayers,” Tuckey added.

Alford’s sister, Elizabeth Starling, is relieved that her brother is improving. According to Starling, Alford did talk a little Tuesday evening and will possibly undergo a skin graph on Friday.

“We’re so thankful that he is improving and words cannot express our gratitude for the prayers of everyone,” Starling said. “We just ask everyone to continue praying for his recovery.”

Tuckey emphasized that although it is uncertain what the length of Alford’s recovery might be, a full recovery is expected.

“We’ve had an excellent track record in safety, but this was a very unfortunate incident,” Tuckey said.

Alford, who has been employed with SVEC since 1989, was listed in fair condition at Shands UF Wednesday morning.

Story via Suwannee Democrat

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