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FACEValue: Laborer electrocuted by underground power line

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Case report: #14WA05401
Issued by: Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of incident: Aug. 20, 2014

An experienced 38-year-old laborer and two other workers were digging trenches and installing storm drains in a parking lot. In the way was a buried duct bank that contained three lines of PVC electrical conduit piping encased in concrete. Each line of conduit piping had four power line cables, each carrying 7,200 volts. The employees were using an excavator, breaker bar and jackhammer to chip away at the duct bank concrete. The victim was in the trench chipping the concrete when his jackhammer punctured the conduit and contacted the power line cable. He was electrocuted and died at the scene.

To prevent similar occurrences:

  • Know the exact locations of buried power lines before beginning a work project.
  • Never assume power lines are de-energized. Always confirm with the power line owner or a utility company before starting work.
  • Do not perform work that exposes workers to energized power lines.
  • General contractors and subcontractors should have a safety plan that identifies and addresses hazards to employees.