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NJ State Agency Orders Utilities to Assess Contact Voltage Threats

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

NJ – In New York City a few years ago, a woman walking along the streets stepped onto a manhole cover and was electrocuted. In Baltimore, the 14-year-old daughter of a former NFL football player died after she touched an electrified fence at a softball game. Probably, neither had ever heard of the phenomenon known as contact voltage.

The state is ordering its four electric utilities to determine whether contact voltage, or faults in a power system that can prove hazardous to humans and pets, is a problem that needs to be dealt with in New Jersey.

The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) yesterday directed the companies to assess the extent of the problem and to recommend if there should be better reporting of cases involving electric shock with energized objects.

Some commissioners called the assessment long overdue, given the risks associated with the issue.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to order utilities to look at safety issues in their own infrastructure,” said BPU Commissioner Nicholas Asselta, at a bimonthly meeting of the state agency in its Trenton offices. “I hope this is a wake-up call for the utilities.”

The agency has been examining the problem since it first began holding stakeholder hearings with the utilities and other interested parties this past August. At the time, the utilities said the state’s current rules are adequate to deal with any potential problems, which they argued were minimal at most.

More Than 400 Threats Detected

That view was countered by Power Survey Company, a Kearny-based company that provides detection services to help root out contact voltage problems. It conducted a survey of 33 urban municipalities, mostly in northern New Jersey, and detected 408 energized objects, according to a presentation it made to the agency in August.

Contact voltage is mostly a problem in urban areas where underground wires are buried and the infrastructure is aging, with a lot of foot traffic creating potential situations where contact with energized objects, such as manhole covers, streetlights and parking meters, is more common. In addition to aging, objects can become energized because of accidents and faulty workmanship.

New Jersey’s largest utility, Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), said it will furnish the agency with further information regarding its limited experiences with contact voltage, according to Bonnie Sheppard, spokeswoman. The utility recently surveyed all of its streetlight poles and randomly sampled its manholes for contact voltage. It does spot inspections of its equipment every year.

An Underground Issue

“We have never had a reportable incident involving contact voltage causing injury to members of the public, employees or contractors,” Sheppard said. “Moreover, contact voltage concerns electric utility underground infrastructure and, unlike New York City, most of New Jersey’s electric utility distribution infrastructure, including PSE&G’s, is overhead.”

Ron Morano, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light Co., the state’s second-largest utility, with more than 1 million customers, said the utility has not yet seen the written order, but added, “We understand it applies mainly to underground networks in urban areas. We have limited exposure to those situations.”

BPU President Lee Solomon noted the agency does not yet know the extent of problems with contact voltage, but Asselta said it has been a big problem in New York. Commissioner Jeanne Fox urged the agency’s staff to find out how the neighboring state has dealt with the problem.

According to Power Survey, contact voltage test programs and reporting requirements do exist in other states. After the death in New York City, the New York Public Service Commission mandated that all NY cities with populations in excess of 50,000 be scanned for contact voltage via mobile detection, because it was shown that mobile detection is more effective and less costly than any other means of detection.

Story via njspotlight.com

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2 NJ Men Killed, 1 Injured in Electrical Accident with Combine

October 13, 2010 Leave a comment

UPPER PITTSGROVE TWP, NEW JERSEY — Two men were killed  Tuesday afternoon when a piece of farm equipment came in contact with a power line, authorities said.

A third man was also injured in the incident which took place in a farm field.

State Police Sgt. Julian Castellanos said the accident happened when a chute on a combine the men were operating struck high-tension electrical wires and the combine caught fire.

The accident took place about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Hitchner Farm on Jefferson Road.

Castellanos said one of the men was pronounced dead at the scene. A second man died at South Jersey Healthcare-Elmer Hospital.

A third man was flown from the scene to Crozer Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pa. His condition was not immediately available, but one official said his injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Story via NJ.com

NJ Company Fined by OSHA for Electrical Safety Violations

JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY – Three companies were cited Monday by federal officials for violating workplace safety standards. The U.S. Department ofLabor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Importers Service Corp. of Jersey City, N.J., for a deficient system for controlling the release of hazardous energy, inadequate protective equipment for workers and electrical hazards, among other violations. The proposed fines total $158,500.

Story Via FairWarning.Org

Two NJ Men Burned in Electrical Accident When Power by PSE&G Restored

May 17, 2010 5 comments

JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY – An electrician doing work at a Downtown Jersey City high-rise was rushed to the hospital yesterday with life-threatening second- and third-degree burns after power was restored to an electrical switch he thought was turned off, officials said.

Police were called to Pershing Plaza at 95 Christopher Columbus Drive at 12:06 a.m. and found the 47-year-old electrician lying face down on the first floor, reports said.

EMS rushed him and a 33-year-old electrician, who suffered minor burns to his left forearm, to the trauma center at Jersey City Medical Center, reports said.

But the burns to the 47-year-old were so severe, he was airlifted to the Burn Unit at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston at about 3 a.m., Fire Director Armando Roman said.

The 47-year-old was listed in critical condition yesterday.

Both men work for Scholes Electric & Communication in Piscataway, reports said.

The less injured victim told police that his co-worker was changing a switch after checking that power had been shut down for the work.   He said that while working on the switch, PSE&G restored power, reports said.

At that point, there was a large flash followed by an electrical fire that burned both victims, reports said.

David Hollenbeck, a spokesman for PSE&G, said that the cause of the accident is under investigation but a PSE&G crew working with the building engineer was advised that the contractors had completed their work and began to restore power.

When a PSE&G employee heard a flash he stopped restoring power immediately, Hollenbeck said.

Scholes Electric could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Police have notified the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration about the incident, reports said.

Story Via Jersey City News

Morristown NJ Library Severely Damaged in Electrical Explosion

MORRISTOWN, NEW JERSEY – An underground electrical accident and explosion at the Morristown & Township Library was so severe that the blast buckled concrete, shattered windows and blew out doors. 

“If any human being had been in the path of the force of this explosion, it’s fair to say they would have been killed,” said town Administrator Michael Rogers after touring the library basement today.

Jersey Central Power & Light has acknowledged a malfunction called a “cable fault” occurred beneath a manhole on Miller Road, near the library’s 1917 wing that sustained heavy damage. But spokesman Ron Morano said this damage “was not consistent with what one sees in a cable fault.”

He declined to elaborate. But he said the utility plans to tap outside experts for help with its investigation, which so far has been slowed because crews have not been allowed inside the library.

Mayor Tim Dougherty, meanwhile, may ask the state Board of Public Utilities to take a look at JCP&L, said Michael Rogers, the administrator. Morristown has a long history of exploding manholes and underground fires.

“We are losing patience” with JCP&L, the administrator said. “We need answers. Tough questions will be coming their way. They have some explaining to do.”

Story Via NJ.com

NJ Woman Gets $5M Verdict from Electrical Injuries

April 8, 2010 1 comment

TOWNSHIP OF IRVINGTON, NJ –  A legal coverage dispute arose out of a personal injury that occurred when the Township of Irvington firefighters responded to a report of a flooded basement. While the firefighters were on the scene, an individual in the basement, Chantel Porras, was exposed to a live electric current and she suffered serious injuries.

After the accident occurred, Porras sued the Township in the Law Division, seeking compensation for her injuries. The record indicates that the Township’s defense counsel made what Coregis contends to be various mistakes in handling the Porras litigation. Among other things: he did not retain a defense medical expert or have Porras examined; he failed to take the depositions of Porras and several of the firefighters who were on the scene; and he did not file opposition to Porras’s motion for partial summary judgment on liability.

Porras then filed a de novo demand for a jury trial. At that time the Township’s defense counsel recommended that the case was worth $65,000 in settlement value. He consequently obtained a slightly higher sum, $75,000, in settlement authority from Coregis. Porras rejected the $75,000 offer and demanded the $1 million municipal policy limit, a critical fact that was unfortunately not timely conveyed to Coregis.

After the trial court granted Porras partial summary judgment on liability, the matter went to trial. The jury awarded Porras $5 million in damages. Through remittitur, the trial judge reduced the award to $1 million.   In an ensuing appeal and cross-appeal, a panel of our court reinstated the $5 million verdict.

Story via Leagle.com See the full comments on the case