Archive for July, 2012

MN: Arc Flash Injures 4 Utility Workers

Shakopee, MN:  Four Shakopee Public Utilities workers were injured while performing routine maintenance work near the Shakopee women’s prison at approximately 8:30 a.m. Monday. Two of the workers received care at nearby St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, two others were transported to Hennepin County Medical Center.  A spokesperson for Shakopee Public Utilities said that one worker had already been released from St. Francis, and said a second injured worker would likely be released from that hospital Monday afternoon.  Renee Schmid, Director of Finance and Administration for Shakopee Public Utilities, said that the two employees who were expected to remain at HCMC overnight were both sitting upright and communicating.

The accident occurred at the corner of Adams Street and Sixth Avenue and coincided with a power outage in downtown Shakopee that lasted approximately one hour and left both the prison and numerous downtown businesses without power. It remains unclear if the two incidents are related.  KMSP-TV News reported that a nearby neighbor saw one of the utility workers shocked while working on a power line from a “cherry-picker” bucket near the intersection.  “We heard a boom and his skin was smoking,” the neighbor told a reporter from the station.

According to the report, the city said the worker hadn’t technically been shocked but had rather been the victim of an “arc flash,” in which powerful electric currents travel through the air. Witnesses at the scene reported that at least one worker had visible burns to much of his back and other parts of his body.

Shakopee Public Utilities is currently conducting an internal investigation into the electrical accident and power outage but could not say when details from that investigation would become publicly available. The company will be cooperating with other agencies, including the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, as is required by law.  Schmid said that accidents such as this morning’s were very unusual for the company.  “I’ve been here almost five years and never seen one (an electrcial accident like this morning’s, so it’s very infrequent,” she said. “We spend an inordinate amount of time safety-training with our staff—it’s our number one priority.”

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TN: Faulty Electrical wiring sparks $75K Apartment Fire

Memphis, TN: Faulty electrical wiring started a fire Wednesday that damaged four apartments and forced three families from their homes, according to investigators.

The flames started just after 4:30 p.m. in the Cypress Garden Apartments, 1209 Springdale St. The fire started in an apartment’s bedroom wall, but three other units ended up being damaged during the electrical fire, according to emergency crews.

No one was injured during the fire, but the damage was so extensive that the Red Cross had to provide shelter for several families.

Investigators say the fire caused about $75,000 in damage.

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CALGARY: Electrical Fire shuts down 911 service, Radio and More

CALGARY, CANADA:  An electrical fire at Shaw Communications’ downtown headquarters  has wiped out radio stations, internet service, 911 service in the core, cable  TV service and much of city hall’s phone system.

Fire crews were called early Wednesday afternoon for a two-alarm incident at  Shaw Court at 630 3rd Ave. S.W. Calgary Fire spokesman Jayson Doyscher said the  incident appears to be in an electrical room on the 13th floor.

The building’s employees were evacuated, but EMS said they were not treating  any patients.

Shaw’s corporate base is also the nerve centre for several major  communications servers, it turns out. The Alberta Emergency Alert network said  around 4 p.m. that the incident has disrupted 911 services to up to 30,000 of  Shaw’s land line customers in downtown Calgary. It urged users to call 911 by  cellphone if necessary.

Alberta Health Services’ network has also gone down, said Bruce Burrell, the  city’s emergency operations chief.

The City of Calgary has also initiated its municipal emergency plan, as its  311 hotline and many of its office phones had gone down.

The city has set up a temporary line to replace 311 — 403-695-3255 — but  cautioned that its capacity is limited and should only be used for “priority” problems like dog bites, street light outages or similarly urgent issues.

The outage also extends to downtown landlines and debit machines at stores  and banks.

Three radio stations – Country 105, AM 770 and Q 107 – are housed in Shaw  Court and were tossed off-air.

“This thing was major,” said Garry McKenzie, regional general manager for  Corus Entertainment. “It was big and took everybody down.”

Engineers scrambled to turn listeners onto feeds from sister stations in  Edmonton.

Radio celebrity Dave Rutherford was amongst the evacuees.

“I was thinking it was one of those rolling blackout deals,” Rutherford said.  “Turns out, maybe not.”

Shaw employees were directed to a nearby park where they were told a problem  with a generator set off the fire suppression system. Staff were also told to go  home and that they would not be able to access the company parkade.

While most employees attributed the speedy evacuation to regular rehearsals,  a few snags were reported.

“When the fire alarms started to go off there was a bit of concern,” said  Shaw employee Colin Morrison. “None of our emergency lighting went back on.”

Nearby businesses were also affected.

Pub owner James Buchanan said an outage crashed debit and credit machines  during the lunch-hour rush.

Service was bogged down as customers were forced to pay in cash or leave  credit card imprints.

“What a massive waste of time,” said the frustrated restauranteer. “It’s  going to make cashing out at the end of the night a pain in the ass.”

Calgary EMS say they are not treating any patients.

Downtown roads are closed to traffic

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4 dead after Boat Electrocutions

Missouri and Tennessee:  Four children are dead after a pair of separate electrocution accidents on lakes in Missouri and Tennessee.

Nathan Lynam, 11, died Thursday night at Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., Grainger County Sheriff Scott Layel told The Associated Press.

On Wednesday afternoon, Lynam and Noah Winstead, 10, were swimming between two houseboats at Cherokee Lake outside Knoxville when they were electrocuted. Winstead died at the scene; Lynam was resuscitated Wednesday but died Thursday.

Five adults who jumped in the water to help were shocked as well.

Investigators ruled out electrical problems at the dock and have focused their attention on frayed wiring aboard the houseboat the boys were next to when they were shocked, Grainger County Sheriff Scott Layel told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The houseboat belongs to Nate Lynam’s grandfather, Michael Voccola, 58, of Morristown, said Matt Cameron, spokesman for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The boys were swimming near a metal ladder on the boat when the electrical current apparently hit them.

In the Missouri accident, also Wednesday, Alexandra Anderson, 13, and her brother Brayden, 8, were killed while swimming near a private dock at Lake of the Ozarks around noon, according to published reports.

Adults standing on a dock heard screaming and jumped in the water. Police say those who jumped in felt electricity and cut off power to the dock. The adults performed CPR on the children but could not revive them, according to a report.

The preliminary investigation indicates improper wiring, and the dock had no ground fault circuit interrupter, which allowed electricity to travel into the water, according to the report. Sources could be a boat lift and/or a pump for a water slide. The Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Patrol Division is investigating.

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Falling Chainsaw creates Arc Flash

Thou shall not use an electrical room for storage!” We all know this rule as one of the electrical commandments, right? At least that’s what I thought. However, when I looked in the NEC, I couldn’t find it anywhere **. Upon further investigation, I realized it is actually not a Code requirement, but rather a good practice, as is noted in 110.26(B) and evidenced by the lesson in this forensic case study. It all started when an experienced electrician was dispatched to a big box store for what he thought was a typical service call. This was not his first visit to the store’s equipment room. On previous occasions, he’d operated circuit breakers at the facility but never removed any panel covers. This time was different.

Setting the Stage

The store manager was not happy because the ballasts in the fluorescent luminaires over the sales area were failing frequently. Because the main electrical room, which had two entrances, was locked, the manager had to unlock one of the doors for the electrician. The manager unlocked the interior door in the general back office area. The other door, which was equipped with an emergency push bar and opened to the outdoors, was located at the opposite end of the room. Although there was no sign posted on the door identifying it as an electrical equipment room, it was locked to prevent unauthorized entry.

The Accident

The electrician arrived on-site with his tool belt, hand tools, and gloves but no personal protective equipment (PPE). The company he worked for — a large regional electrical contractor —  just so happened to be in the process of issuing PPE to all of its workers. Previously, PPE was available for a minority of employees, generally provided on an “as-needed” basis if the worker reserved it ahead of time. Because this was a simple service call, the electrician hadn’t made arrangements to check out PPE. Although the electrician was trained to use the gear, he had never actually used it in the field — he’d only watched a video on proper usage.

The electrician proceeded to change out the ballasts. He did not switch the circuit breaker off prior to doing so because these units had plug-type disconnects that allow you to swap them out “hot.” After changing out the first ballast, the electrician checked the connection and voltage level at the 20A circuit breaker in the 277/480VAC lighting panel. He removed his tool belt and the panel cover, placing his clamp-on meter on the panel enclosure, which was located about 10 ft from the front door. He bent down in front of the panel, preparing to perform a visual examination when he heard the door open. The next thing he knew something was falling toward him.

Although he hadn’t noticed it upon entering the room initially, there was a shelving unit situated behind the door that held many storage items — one of which was a chain saw resting on the top shelf. As shown in Photo 1, notice how the door swings inward. Due to the substantial weight of the chain saw, the structure’s center of gravity produced a downward tipping force when it was hit by the opening door.

Reflexively, the electrician raised his right arm to protect his head when he saw the falling objects. The next thing he remembered he was sitting up against the panel cover, which was propped up by the main distribution cabinet (Photo 2). As shown in Photo 3, the chain saw struck the right bottom phase lug, resulting in arc flash damage to the red shield. The arc blast was heard in all offices.

The Aftermath

The electrician’s resulting injuries were more a result of the blast shock wave than burns. There was no evidence of classic electrical entry and exit wounds. EMS was called immediately, and the victim was transported to a specialty burn unit. Burns to the top of his head indicated that he was fortunately oriented face down at the time of the accident. Symptoms of blast-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) seemed to be the best fit for the electrician’s permanent impairment condition.

When I met the victim two years after the accident, he was still unable to walk without a brace, had no short-term memory, and was in rehab for stroke symptoms on his left side. His marriage had ended, and his future indicated lifetime support needs. Because the workman’s comp claim was insufficient to cover the victim’s extensive rehabilitation costs and loss of income, the electrician filed suit against the big box retailer. I was hired by the victim’s attorney to analyze the electrical forensic evidence in the case and determine the cause of the accident as well as liability.

The Investigation

At my initial site visit, I was accompanied by the electrician, his attorney, the defense attorney, employees of the electrician’s previous employer, and the store manager. The electrician’s former employer had an electrician with him who wore full PPE when removing the lighting panel cover and dead front, which covers exposed wiring to the breakers. After he finished removing the covers, the 200A circuit breaker feeding the lighting panel was turned off. We were told we were not allowed to approach within 5 ft of the panel while it was energized.

Now that the panel was de-energized, we asked the other parties to leave the room. This left me, the electrician, and the lawyer. Once the other parties had vacated, I asked the electrician to place his clamp-on meter where it was at the time of the accident and show me where and how he was positioned. Working with this information, I could establish a theory of how the chain saw fell and was ultimately deflected by his right arm into the panel. This would have put the impact point area at the bottom of the panel, which was the feeder location.

After lifting the arc shield, I could see the orientation of cables at the bottom of the panel. I was also able to match up the damage to the chain saw to the panel. Given the amount of smoke char to the back of the shield, I concluded the chain saw fault was between the line and ground. This placed the electrician about 2 ft to 3 ft in front of the arc flash location.

Independent and store incident investigations confirmed that at the time of the accident there was an electric chain saw resting on the top shelf of the 5-ft plastic sectional shelving unit adjacent to the interior door. Paint cans were also stored on lower shelves, as shown in Photo 4. The damage I observed to the chain saw obviously had to come from contact with an energized source, as shown in Photo 5. Unfortunately, the chain saw had been lost and never located, although it was being held as evidence (according to the store manager).

My examination of damage to the chain saw bar based on a single image from the scene indicated arc damage at two points consistent with contact with the lug and grounded cabinet. I marveled at the small probability of how the original and deflected fall trajectory resulted in coincidental alignment with the shield edge.

Who Done It?

Despite these conclusions, one question remained: Who opened the door? The electrician was able to recall a familiar-looking woman opening the door prior to the impact; however, deposition testimony did not reveal the responsible party. There were several women working in adjacent offices who were aware someone was working in the electrical room. My working theory was that one of these women opened the door to check on the electrician or see what was going on. In the process of doing so, the door struck the shelf, causing the unit to tip over and launching the chain saw toward the victim.

Forensic Analysis

Clearly, the store had violated a number of its own policies that expressly prohibited using an electrical room for storage. Store policy also required shelves loaded with the heaviest objects at the bottom, which effectively lowers the center of gravity. Had the chain saw been located on the bottom shelf per store requirements, this accident would not have occurred.

It was discovered during deposition testimony that the chain saw was used to trim Christmas trees — and had been stored in the electrical room for quite some time. There was no question that the chain saw was stored in violation of store policy with respect to its presence and location. The fact that the chain saw disappeared post accident did not help the defendant’s case either.

Legal Arguments

The store’s litigation team argued that if the electrician had been using appropriate PPE he would not have been injured. Although I agreed that PPE would have protected him from burns, I argued it would not have prevented the shock wave injuries and resulting TBI. In the end, the case settled out of court in favor of the victim for an undisclosed amount prior to trial.

Lessons Learned

The moral of this story is that even innocuous storage in an electrical room should not be allowed and always reported to management. Of course, we know this happens all too frequently. After seeing the results of this improbable accident, I know I will always admonish responsible parties to remove any and all stored items from electrical rooms. In the end, your willingness to follow this unwritten electrical commandment may save your life and the lives of others.

BLOGGER’S NOTES:  ** This arc flash article originally from ECM seems to have a particular bias to it, has some improper information and ignores some key electrical safety requirements.

The opening paragraph about NEC and clear spaces not being a requirement, but rather just a good practice is incorrect and it also ignores OSHA federal laws and NFPA 70E standards.   OSHA, NEC and and NFPA 70E all have this is a requirement as “shall”, not as a “good practice”.  Work space is one of the most common citations by OSHA and all states have adopted work space around electrical equipment as part of their own electrical code if different from NEC.  Pictures were provided in the article.  From the pictures, it would appear the shelving was violating the work space, and the door itself might also violate the workspace.  The door would also violate NEC 110.26(C)(3) if the equipment was rated 1200A + and NFPA 70E 130.6 (G) as the door clearly created a hazard.

Prior to beginning the work, the worker should have done a Pre – Job Hazard assessment and if so he should have identified the hazards in the room and  cleared the hazards before removing the cover.

Further, he should have followed proper alerting techniques and either blocked the area with warning signs and caution tape to prevent access to the area or assigned an attendant to watch the door.

While the article here tries to define the storage room as the culprit, following electrical safety practices as outlined in NFPA 70E would have most likely eliminatd this accident.

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NJ: $124K in OSHA Electrical Safety Fines

July 10, 2012 1 comment

Norwood, NJ:  The employees of a cleaning-products company face “serious” hazards, OSHA says.

Earth Friendly Products, which makes plant-based cleaning products, faces a $124,000 fine for 23 alleged safety and health violations at its Norwood facility, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on Thursday.

In response to a complaint, OSHA inspected the operation from Dec. 28 to May 31 and found workers were exposed to hazards like insufficient machine guarding, flammable liquids and deficient personal protective equipment(PPE), among other violations, the federal agency said.

“The large number and extensive range of safety and health hazards found at this establishment are of great concern to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” Lisa Levy, OSHA’s area director in Hasbrouck Heights, said in a statement. “This employer needs to address the hazards to prevent injuries from occurring at its facility.”

The company, based in Addison, Ill., makes “environmentally friendly” cleaning products. It employs 38 people at 380 Chestnut St. in Norwood.

The alleged “serious” violations at the Norwood plant include safety hazards related to confined-space entry, which means having workers in an enclosed area not meant for human occupancy, with limited access and only one way in or out, according to OSHA.

Other alleged violations include: deficient “lockout/tagout” procedures to prevent machinery from accidentally starting up; failing to train powered industrial truck operators and make sure that truck modifications are performed with the manufacturer’s prior written approval, and insufficient machine-guarding equipment.

Also on the list of alleged violations are: junction boxes connected with flexible cords instead of being mounted on the wall; unlabeled breakers on the electrcial panel; unsafe flammable liquid storage and handling; personal protective equipment and respirator deficiencies; a lack of eye-wash stations, and a deficiency in fire extinguisher training and hazard communications.

Earth Friendly Products has 15 business days from receiving the citations and penalties to either comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before OSHA’s independent review commission.

The company’s chief executive and owner, Van Vlahakis, said his lawyer, Amber Enriquez, will be meeting with OSHA officials next week. Enriquez said she couldn’t discuss the case in any detail, but added, “We are working with them to reduce the fine.”

Vlahakis said the company was once cited by OSHA at another one of its facilities for a minor infraction.

OSHA considers a violation “serious” when “there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known,” according to the agency.

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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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