The plaintiff, an employee of a residential contractor, was seriously injured from electrical shock when he contacted an overhead 7,200 volt electrical line while handling the rigging cable from a hydraulic boom crane operated by another contractor. The crane had raised its boom above the foundation, rigged with 4 short wire cables from its hook down to 2 spreader beams with a longer cables attached for lifting the 2 sections a modular home. The 2 longest cables were to be wrapped underneath the modular home section, which was on a trailer, and connected to the other 2 shorter cables to complete the rig to �pick� the load. The plaintiff, working from the ground without any protective apparel, grabbed both long cables and whipped them to prepare to rig the modular home section. The whipping action caused both of the cables to contact the overhead electrical line which severely shocked the plaintiff.
Although there were some conflicting testimonies, the majority agreed the plaintiff�s own actions caused him to strike the power line by holding and moving the cables in his hands. The task was performed in the following manner:
Plaintiff worked alone and did not take time to assess the hazard of whipping the cables into the power line accidentally. He had rigged many times before so he knew of the whipping nature of the wire cables.
Plaintiff�s employer should have provided training on performing tasks as such. The general contractor should have conducted toolbox meetings and a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) for such tasks as rigging near power lines.
Plaintiff should have questioned his supervisor as to the status of the electrical power line. It was not de-energized and he should have refused to whip the cables in the manner that he did.
Plaintiff did not wait or ask spectators to �spot� him as he handled the cables to position them to rig the house section in preparation to lift it.
There was no record or mention of him asking for personnel protective equipment (PPE) such as non conductive clothing, boots, and gloves for arc protection.
Plaintiff�s employer should have provided the appropriate PPE and training on how to use it. Although PPE is the lowest form of worker protection and last resort it would have helped protect the plaintiff.
The general contractor did not coordinate the activities of the contractors, assumed the task of lifting the modular home could be done safely without de-energizing the lines, and did not supervise that particular task.
The power company failed to �Check the location of the proposed construction, its possible effect on Company equipment and any protective measures that may be taken� as stated they were to do in their Practices and Standards Manual.
The expert concluded the crane operator did his job in a safe manner since it was not the boom that struck the high voltage line and it was the plaintiff who decided to perform the task in the unsafe manner that resulted in his injury. The case was settled prior to trial.
Jon Pina, MS, CSP, is a Safety, Health, & Environmental Expert. With more than thirty years experience in safety management, loss prevention, construction and demolition, coal, chemical, steel, and hazardous waste abatement, Mr. Pina can observe cases from a well-rounded viewpoint of a Safety and Health professional, construction manager, and "hands on" worker. Among his most notable accomplishments, he has held the position of Construction Manager on many large-scale demolition projects. He also has demonstrated expertise in areas such as the operation of chemical plants and gained field experience as a union journeyman pipe fitter.