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OH: Arc Flash Shuts Key Tower Down

August 29, 2012 Leave a comment

CLEVELAND, Ohio:  An electrical explosion inside a basement vault Monday afternoon forced the evacuation of about 2,500 workers from Key Tower on Cleveland’s Public Square.  No one was injured, Cleveland Fire Department spokesman Larry Gray said, but a security guard said it took about 30 minutes to evacuate the building’s 58 floors, where the workers were greeted by heavy rain. Gray said the electrical fire was quickly extinguished by the sprinkler system in the basement. The explosion occurred around 2 p.m., but Gray said when firefighters arrived within five minutes, they found the system had been properly working and the fire had been contained.

“What the explosion did do was knock out power to the first four floors, and smoke infiltrated the first two floors,” Gray said. “As a precautionary measure, we had the total building evacuated.” Key Tower officials announced by 3 p.m. that the building was closed for the day. No one was let back in except employees who had left valuables at their work stations — and they were accompanied by security. The company was also providing updates on its Twitter accounts,  including information for employees who have questions.

Employees had mixed feelings about the evacuation – generally not happy going out in the rain, but thankful that there was no rendition of “Towering Inferno.” “I’m on the seventh floor, and I could smell something coming from the loading dock area (which is above the basement),” said Dennis Walsh, a Lakewood resident. “It was more like steam than smoke…nothing was bellowing out.” Donna Jacobs of Sagamore Hills, who works with Walsh in KeyBank’s securities lending department, said she didn’t mind the work interruption. “I’d rather be in the rain than in a building on fire,” she said.

Janet Averman of Eastlake, an employee of Squires Sanders LLP on the 49th floor, said the incident reminded her of a similar one in 2003, when the building lost power and she had to walk all the way down to the exit. “At least this time the elevator was still working,” she said. “God was on my side this time.” It was an easy day at work for Craig Uterhark of Gate Mills. “You can’t call today a mundane Monday,” he said. “I’m glad nobody got hurt. My shift starts at 2 p.m., and I walked in the building and walked right back out. For me, I got a nice day off, even if it is raining.”

Story via cleveland.com

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Cleveland State U Found Not Liable for Electrical Death

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland State University is not liable for the death of biology professor Tarun Mal, who was electrocuted in 2005 when he used a nongrounded electrical device that adapts a three-pronged plug for a two-pronged device to plug in a homemade grow lamp, the Ohio Court of Claims ruled this week (pdf).

 The university, however, now requires all employees to undergo electrical safety training. It also has installed ground fault circuit interrupters, which detect fluctuations in current and breaks the circuit to prevent electrocution, in electrical outlets in laboratories.

“It was obviously a tragic incident,” said CSU spokesman Joe Mosbrook.

Mal, 42, was in a biology lab in the Science Research Building at CSU on Aug. 16, 2005 with two students when they decided to use a three-tiered metal rack with two fluorescent lights on the top tier to conduct an experiment, according to court documents. The three-pronged light plug was attached to an adapter called a “cheater plug,” which was then plugged into a two-prong electrical timer.

Mal held on to the metal rack and knelt down to plug the timer into a three-prong wall outlet when the grow lamp emitted a surge of electricity of nearly 400 volts. The associate professor was electrocuted.

It was later discovered that one of the fluorescent lights had a defective “ballast,” a small transformer used to regulate voltage.

Mal’s wife, Sanchita Mal-Sarkar, an instructor in computer and informational science at CSU, and their daughter sued the university. A trial was held in fall 2007.

Mal-Sarkar’s lawyers contended that CSU did not conduct routine inspections of electrical equipment and wiring in the laboratories and did not provide electrical safety training to employees. They also alleged the use of cheater plugs and the lack of ground fault circuit interrupters contributed to unsafe conditions in the laboratory because water is nearby.

According to testimony, the National Electric Code prohibits cheater plugs and requires circuit interrupters in bathrooms and kitchens, because water is nearby, but not in areas such as laboratories.

CSU lawyers said the university did not authorize the acquisition or use of the light rack assembly and did not require Mal to use that system to conduct his research.

In his decision, issued Wednesday, Judge Joseph Clark wrote that while he was convinced CSU may have violated certain Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Public Employees Risk Reduction Program regulations by not providing electrical safety training or inspecting its 200 laboratories, such violations did not rise to the level of an intent to injure an employee.

Even if CSU provided training and conducted inspections there was no way to determine if that would have prevented Mal’s death from the use of unauthorized equipment, he wrote.

CSU’s Employee Health and Safety Manual, adopted in January, 2006, has an extensive section on electrical safety. It prohibits cheater plugs and requires approval before any non-commercial electrical equipment is used in laboratories. And if water is used within six feet of an electrical outlet a circuit interrupter will be installed.

Story via blog.cleveland.com