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Diagnosis of an Incident – Electrical Control Panel Incident

- August 11, 2017 by Guest Bloggers (View all posts by Guest)

As a workplace safety expert, it’s important that you’re able to use a detective’s eye when evaluating the cause of an accident. Let’s take a look at a true case, and work backwards to determine how and why the incident occurred.

The Incident

A “well-seasoned” company electrician was working on an electrical control panel at a manufacturing plant. The panel door was open while he performed his maintenance task. His screw driver came in contact with 440v electrical current from inside the panel. In an instant, he received the effects of an arc flash. He was nearly electrocuted and received third degree burns to much of his body. He received extensive medical attention and remains off from work, as his rehabilitation will be a lengthy and expensive process. 

He thought that the power was off, but did not verify this. Being a well-seasoned electrician, he assumed that he could work around the electricity, if he was careful (after all, in his mind, he had successfully done it that way before and had no incident).

The Diagnosis

 – The company has a lock-out/tag out program (LOTO) in place. The power is to be turned off and locked out when any maintenance work is undertaken. No exceptions.

– The plant safety policy includes using a high voltage multi-meter to check for current flow before starting the work.

– The electrician has a multi-meter (located about 10’ from the work site) when the incident occurred.

The electrician made two major errors in judgment. First, he did not follow the LOTO policy that is in place. Secondly, he assumed the electricity was not live—but did not check first.  The safety policy is there for a reason. Violating the policy is poor judgment. Even if he had failed to do this, he had one more chance to avoid the serious injury: the multi-meter. But, he made another error. He left it on the nearby workbench.

The Solution

Safety policies are in place to help keep people free from injury. Safety assumptions are like spinning the wheel of chance. You might be fortunate, or the result may be similar to that of the above electrician. You or your supervisor should enforce safety policies at all times and set a good example for others. Any violation of a safety policy should be reviewed and taken seriously.

Please leave a comment below if you have had similar experiences and have found other solutions.