Electricity & Natural Gas Safety Case Studies 2020-12-14T18:47:45+00:00

Case studies—learn from these mistakes

Take a lesson from these unfortunate, true stories about job site mistakes. Expand the “Don’t do what they did!” boxes to see relevant safety information, so you can prevent similar tragedies.

A man in a hurry

A Missouri contractor who called before digging hit a 6-inch high-pressure gas line in an industrial park. He was told the gas company would be locating a line at the site, but he began digging the day before the date set for marking. The line was capped within two hours of the accident, and fortunately there were no injuries or damage. (Source: Underground Focus magazine)

CALL BEFORE DIGGING

Contact MISS DIG 811 (by calling 811 or by going to www.missdig811.org) at least three full working days before you dig.
They will arrange to have underground power lines, gas lines and other utilities marked so you can dig safely. Be sure to leave adequate time in your job schedule.

Make sure your excavation site is clearly described on your staking request.
White lining or staking the dig site can help locators identify and mark affected utilities.

Know what's below. 811 before you dig.

You can also initiate MISSDIG811 staking requests for simple projects online at elocate.missdig811.org.
Excavators with complex projects may apply to use the MISSDIG811 remote ticket entry (RTE) tool at rte.missdig811.org.

Worker with jackhammer

Contact MISS DIG 811 at least three working days before digging, so underground utilities can be marked and you can dig safely.

Underground lines can surprise you

A 20-year-old plumber’s apprentice began to jackhammer some concrete, not knowing that a power line lay just beneath him. The jackhammer bit into the line and thousands of volts of electricity surged through his body. The current exploded out the back of his head and shoulder and through his foot, taking two toes with it and burning away part of both knee joints. He spent several months in the hospital healing from burns and it took him two years to learn to walk again. Despite his injuries, the young man went on to become an Olympic kayaker and competed at the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia, where he was the flag bearer for the U.S. team. (Source: Cliff Meidl)

CALL BEFORE DIGGING

Contact MISS DIG 811 (by calling 811 or by going to www.missdig811.org) at least three full working days before you dig.
They will arrange to have underground power lines, gas lines and other utilities marked so you can dig safely. Be sure to leave adequate time in your job schedule.

Make sure your excavation site is clearly described on your staking request.
White lining or staking the dig site can help locators identify and mark affected utilities.

Know what's below. 811 before you dig.

You can also initiate MISSDIG811 staking requests for simple projects online at elocate.missdig811.org.
Excavators with complex projects may apply to use the MISSDIG811 remote ticket entry (RTE) tool at rte.missdig811.org.

Worker with jackhammer

Contact MISS DIG 811 at least three working days before digging, so underground utilities can be marked and you can dig safely.

Don’t do double duty as spotter and ground rigger

A crane operator was putting up steel beams for a building annex. His brother-in-law was acting as both spotter and ground rigger, attaching the steel beams to the crane. A high-voltage line ran by the job site. The crane operator reminded his relative to help him keep the crane at least 15 feet* from the line, but something went wrong. The brother-in-law signaled the crane to get too close to the line, and when he grabbed the crane cable to attach a steel beam, he was electrocuted. (Source: Worker Beware video)
*Today, per OSHA regulations, this clearance would be at least 20 feet.

GUIDING LOADS

When you guide a load, you are at risk of electric shock.
If the crane or other piece of equipment you are guiding hits an overhead power line, electricity can travel down the tag line that you are holding and through you. In the event of power line contact, workers on the ground are in the greatest danger of shock.

Don’t try to guide a load and spot at the same time.
Assign a spotter whose only job is to make sure the equipment stays clear of power lines. Spotting effectively needs someone’s full attention.

guiding loads2

guiding loads1

Watch those irrigation pipes

A 19-year-old apprentice nurseryman was fatally electrocuted while installing a sprinkler irrigation system. He apparently lifted up a long aluminum pipe, and it contacted an overhead power line 28 feet off the ground. The young man received a shock of 22 kV of electricity. He was knocked to the ground and dropped the pipe. He told his coworkers that he was okay, and got up. However, he then staggered for about 25 feet before he collapsed and died. (Source: Victoria Department of Labour, Occupational Health and Safety Division)

WATCH THOSE IRRIGATION PIPES

Identify overhead power lines in the area.
Make sure everyone on your crew is familiar with their location. Store wheeled irrigation equipment at least 100 feet from all power lines.

Keep irrigation pipe far away from power lines.
When installing irrigation systems, keep pipes horizontal so you don’t lift them into lines by mistake.

Adjust spray to avoid shock hazards.
Contact Consumers Energy at 1-800-477-5050 to verify voltages and contact MIOSHA for specific rules before work begins.

Keep irrigation pipe at least 10 feet from power lines that carry up to 50 kV. Higher voltages require greater distances.

Irrigation system

Keep irrigation pipe horizontal and far away from power lines.

A spotter could have saved them

A truck driver and his employer (the company president) were electrocuted when the boom of a truck-mounted crane contacted a 7.2 kV power line. The driver was operating the crane by a handheld remote-control unit and was unloading a cube of concrete blocks. While the driver, the company president, and a masonry contractor were focused on watching the blocks, the tip of the crane boom contacted the overhead power line and completed a path to ground through the truck, the remote control unit, and the driver. The company president tried to help and apparently contacted the truck, completing a path to ground through his body. He died on the scene. The truck driver later died at the hospital. (Source: National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health)

USE A DEDICATED SPOTTER

For equipment operators, visibility is limited.
When you operate hoisting equipment, it is often hard to judge the distance from your equipment to power lines overhead. Certain weather conditions and bright or dim lighting can make it even harder to see.

A spotter helps you stay clear of overhead lines.
Someone on the ground has a much better view of the power lines near you. You should work with a dedicated spotter on the ground whose only job is to watch your equipment and make sure you stay a safe distance from overhead lines and other hazards.

Crane and derrick operators:
Maintain continuous contact with a dedicated spotter to comply with electric line clearance requirements.

Spotters: Lives depend on you. Make spotting and clear communication with the equipment operator your top priorities.

A dedicated spotter on the ground should be stationed to watch that your equipment stays away from power lines.

Don’t become a victim by helping

A 46-year-old man was electrocuted on a tree-trimming job. The accident occurred as a hydraulic bucket came into contact with a 7.62 kV line. A worker noticed that a tire on the bucket truck was burning, attempted to move the truck, and was shocked. He was not able to let go of the door handle. The 46-year-old was electrocuted when he tried to free the worker from the door handle. (Source: St. Joseph News-Press)

IF A CO-WORKER HITS A POWER LINE

Stay clear of any person or any object that is in contact with a power line. Call 911 and Consumers Energy immediately at 1-800-477-5050. Don’t try to rescue the victim. Stay away until utility workers assure you the power has been turned off.

Protect yourself.
If you touch someone who is in contact with electricity, you could be shocked too. You can also be shocked if you touch the vehicle or equipment that person is in, or the tool they are holding. Again, the best thing to do is to stay far away and call for help.

Power line contact victim

Immediately call 911 and Consumers Energy if someone accidentally contacts a power line. Don’t try to help the victim until you’re sure the power is off.

Always call 911 if gas is leaking

A Minnesota contractor severed a buried natural gas pipeline with digging equipment. He reported the leak to his supervisor, but did not call 911 or the local utility company. Within 40 minutes, gas migrated into a nearby building and exploded, killing four people, injuring eleven and destroying six buildings. (Source: National Transportation Safety Board)

IF YOU CONTACT A UTILITY

If your equipment makes contact with a Consumers Energy pipeline, electric, or other line, stop your excavation. Call us immediately at 800-477-5050, even if there is no apparent damage.
This includes nicks, dents, gouges, cuts, scrapes or scratches to the underground facility or its coating. Even a minor nick or scrape could cause future corrosion and/or a failure of the underground facility, resulting in a major health and fire hazard.

Follow these precautions:

  • Do not attempt to repair damaged gas or electric lines.
  • Do not cover the damaged facility with dirt. Trying to cover up an accident can be dangerous, and can lead to costly damages or criminal charges against you and your company.
  • Do not crimp plastic gas facilities.
  • Do not attempt to plug damaged pipes. Allow the gas to vent into the atmosphere.

DO NOT assume that damage occurs only at the contact point.
An underground facility that is pulled or bumped could break some distance away from the contact point.

Report any and all underground facility contacts to Consumers Energy immediately.

contact dig 1

Learn the warning signs of a gas pipeline leak.

  • A distinctive, sulfur-like odor
  • A hissing or roaring sound
  • Dirt spraying or blowing into the air
  • Continual bubbling in water
  • Grass/plants dead or dying for no apparent reason

If you smell gas, get out fast

A 39-year-old Canadian woman refused to leave her home despite a gas line rupture and was killed when the gas exploded. The woman’s husband had hit a buried natural gas line while digging footings for a room addition. He went into the house and warned his wife of the gas leak, but she assured him she was safe. The man went back outside to wait for repair technicians to arrive. The explosion knocked the man down, and he was dragged away from the flames by a friend. The woman died in the fire. (Source: Alberta.com news report)

IF LEAKING GAS ENTERS A BUILDING

If you have damaged a gas line and you know (or even just suspect) that leaking gas is entering or blowing into a building, by law you must take immediate action:

  • Evacuate the occupants immediately and leave the doors open.
  • Notify Consumers Energy at 800-477-5050 and call 911.
  • Tell people they must not return to the building for any reason until safety officials say it is safe.
  • DO NOT operate light switches, doorbells or use telephones in the building.
  • PROHIBIT smoking in the area and the operation of machinery.
  • Keep people away from the leak area until safety officials say it is safe to return.

Your prompt action during a gas leak may save lives or prevent serious injury or property damage. DO NOT leave a potentially hazardous situation to chance.

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