Home > Arc Flash, Industrial, Legal > NY Metro Worker Receives $1.1M for Electrical Accident

NY Metro Worker Receives $1.1M for Electrical Accident

BRONX, NY – Jim Deacon knew his work testing the electrical system for Metro-North was dangerous, but when he suffered severe burns in a high-voltage explosion, he didn’t expect the railroad to blame him for it.

The Oct. 28, 2006, accident, in which 700 volts of current exploded, severely burning Deacon’s left hand and forearm, has been settled with the commuter railroad admitting fault and awarding him $1.1 million.

The case was settled last week in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

“This whole hand was black with skin hanging off of it,” Deacon, 51, said Monday, showing a hand that looks only mildly scarred after three surgeries.

Deacon was working on a malfunctioning switch box next to the electrified third rail in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, N.Y., when he took off his rubber gloves to thread a small wire. What he didn’t know was that a cable from the third rail to a motor inside the box had detached and the motor housing was electrified. When the wire touched the housing, the arc created the explosion.

Deacon’s lawyer, Charles Goetsch of New Haven, said when they brought the case to Metro-North, they found the detached cable had been removed and management allegedly denied a video taken the day after the accident existed.

However, Deacon was slipped a bootlegged copy, which showed a supervisor telling a worker who wasn’t wearing gloves to remove a tool from the switch box, in violation of safety rules.

Deacon, who started working for the railroad in 1980, said it’s standard practice not to turn off the power when making such repairs. Complaining would result in being disciplined “or you’d just be made a pariah. … They’ll just start giving you a hard time somehow, they’ll make you miserable.”

An analysis of the accident by railroad safety consultant James Sottile of Southbridge, Mass., concluded, “It was standard practice in the Metro North Test Department not to de-energize the 700 volt power to the (switch) box when performing that troubleshooting repair.”

Goetsch pointed out Metro-North has procedures that require power be turned off before working on high-voltage equipment and that regular inspections be performed, but it didn’t appear the switch box had been checked in years. “You eliminate the risk entirely if you follow those procedures,” he said.

Marjorie Anders, spokeswoman for Metro-North, confirmed the railroad admitted liability in the case, calling Deacon “a longtime employee who has now been fairly compensated for his injury.”

Anders said that under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, blame must be assigned to one or both parties and there is no workers’ compensation process on the railroad, making legal action automatic.

Story Via New Haven Register

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