This case involves a fatal electrocution accident involving a team of utility workers who were tasked with repairing a downed power line. At the time of the incident in question, the crew had been dispatched by the utility company to repair a power line that had been brought down when a strong storm caused a utility pole to snap. The crew was informed that power to the line had been cut off, and therefore approached the power line as if it was not live. However, the utility company failed to turn off power to the line, causing the crew to suffer severe electrical injuries, resulting in the death of one of the workers.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your experience working for an electrical utility in a maintenance and operation capacity.
- 2. What are the proper steps and protocols on the electric company's end that are required when linemen are actively working on a utility pole undergoing repair?
Expert Witness Response E-013769
In this case, the utility should have been on the scene and before the work began, the power should have been de-energized and grounded. In addition, the contractor should have requested the line be de-energized prior to starting their work. This would have made the lines safe to work on. When a pole is severely damaged the pole cannot be trusted to hold the strain necessary to support the lines and the first precaution should be to de-energize the lines prior to placing anyone working on the lines or pole where there will be changes in the stress of the pole. I have reviewed several cases that involved a broken pole that resulted in injuries, usually involving poles falling with the lineman climbing them. This case is unusual since the lines are typically de-energized and grounded prior to working on damaged poles.