DSC_2035-199x300According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocutions are the third highest cause of construction worker deaths. Many electrical injuries and fatalities occur after a crane comes into contact with a powerline and the electrical current travels through the crane to the operator of the equipment. In order to help prevent these accidents from ever occurring, OSHA created extensive construction workplace safety rules for the operation of cranes and booms operating near powerlines. (29 C.F.R. 1926.1408).

Under the OSHA regulation, before beginning equipment operations an employer must complete a number of steps. First, the employer must identify the work zone. The employer can either mark off the boundaries and prohibit equipment operators from going beyond the marked boundaries, or the employer can define the work zone as 360 degrees around the equipment up to the maximum working radius.

If any part of the construction equipment could get closer than 20 feet to a powerline within the identified work zone, the employer must take additional steps and complete one of the following options:

crane-collapse-seattle-300x169A construction crane collapsed from the roof of a building on Saturday afternoon tragically killing four people and injuring four others. Two of the people killed were ironworkers and two others were bystanders. The crane was positioned on the new Google Seattle campus and was in the process of being dismantled when it fell.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is investigating five companies involved in the accident: Seaburg Construction Corp., GLY Construction, Northwest Tower Crane Service Inc., Omega Rigging and Machinery Moving Inc., and Morrow Equipment Co. LLC. The Department of Labor and Industries spokesman said that it is too early to speculate on the cause of the accident and the investigation could take up to six months and would including interviewing workers and accessing company records among other investigation.

According to an article by CNN, after a construction company is finished using a crane, disassembly can take between two and three days. The disassembly process requires taking the crane apart piece by piece. The article suggested that construction workers could have prematurely removed or loosened the pins connecting the crane all at once instead of in sections. Workers sometimes do this in order to save time during dismantling. But if pins are removed prematurely, portions of the crane become unsecure and unstable. At the time of the accident, relatively minor wind gusts between 18 and 23 mph were reported in the area and could have contributed to the collapse.

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Powerlines create a serious hazard to aircraft. Approximately 66 aircraft strikes occur annually in the United States and an estimated 30% of these strikes result in fatalities. Strikes occurring at night or in limited visibility are particularly dangerous and have a 60% fatality rate. Helicopters are particularly at risk of striking powerlines, because they operate in the wire environment (below 1,000 feet) 90% of the time.

One of the things that makes powerlines so dangerous is that they can appear invisible to pilots.  In only 40% of the aircraft strikes were pilots aware that the powerline or structure were there. In an effort to prevent these aircraft strikes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created both notice regulations for certain constructions and standards for the marking and lighting of powerlines.

14 C.F.R. Part 77.9 sets forth when developers are required to give notice of construction or alternation to the FAA, including:

social-image-logo-og-300x300A fun day out on the water could turn into a fatal accident, if the mast of your sailboat comes into contact with a low electrical line. In order to keep the public safe, the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) publishes clearance requirements for electrical lines that hang over bodies of water.

The NESC clearance requirements are different depending on whether or not the waterway is suitable for sailboating. Additionally, the NESC publishes separate clearance requirements for areas that are posted for rigging or launching sailboats. Where the body of the water is not suitable for sailing or where sailing is prohibited, the minimum clearance for electrical lines is always 17 feet.

In waterways suitable for sailing, the NESC clearance requirement changes depending on the surface area of the body of water. The larger the body of water, the higher the required clearance. Below are the NESC clearances for waterways suitable for sailing:

https://www.seattleinjurylawyerblog.com/files/2019/04/2016-01-14-10.08.20-225x300.jpgA downed electrical line coming into contact with a building or person can result in electrical shock or fire. In order to protect buildings and the occupants inside them from injury or death, the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) created clearance regulations for electrical lines that hang over or run next to buildings.

The NESC, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is considered the industry standard for electrical safety regulations. Most state regulatory commissions adopt the NESC.

The NESC publishes both vertical clearance requirements for electrical lines running over buildings and horizontal clearance regulations for electrical lines running adjacent to buildings. The vertical clearance regulation is dependent on whether or not the roof is available to pedestrians. If the roof is not accessible to pedestrians, the electrical line must be no less than 12.5 feet from the highest point of the roof. Whereas if a roof is accessible to pedestrians, the electrical lines must be no less than 13.5 feet from the highest point of the roof. The NESC considers a roof to be accessible to pedestrians if it can be casually accessed through a doorway, ramp, window, stairway, or permanently-mounted ladder by a person on foot who does not need to use extreme physical force or any special tools or devices to gain entry.

Seattle-utility-pole-crash-300x173On Friday April 5th, 26 utility poles fell on East Marginal Way in South Tukwila around 3:50pm. One Seattle couple is thankful to survive after one of the poles smashed through the windshield of their car trapping them inside. Luckily, the couple, Tom and Linda Cook, only suffered minor cuts and bruises.

According to an article by the Seattle Times, Tom Cook attempted to exit his car when a bystander shouted out for him to stop because of the live electrical wires that were strewn across the road. This advice may have saved Tom Cook’s life. Even if he did not directly touch a live wire, the ground around the wire may have been energized up to thirty-five feet. Instead of leaving his car and risking electrocution, Tom Cook and his wife waited for over an hour while emergency crews turned off the power and safely extracted them from their car.

Seattle City Light does not know what caused the poles to fall. Often power lines are brought down either to do a sudden event, like a lightning strike or strong gust of wind, or deterioration of the pole over time. Here, the weather does not appear to have caused the incident. According to the National Weather Service in Seattle, there were no lightning strikes hitting the poles. There were gusts of wind between 20 and 30 mph that day, but nothing out of the ordinary for the area. It is possible that deterioration played a role. The Puget Sound is classified as a “high deterioration zone” by the American Wood Pole Council due to the coastal climate.

https://www.seattleinjurylawyerblog.com/files/2019/03/2016-01-06-11.27.27-300x199.jpgElectrical lines over roads can cause serious injury if a person, truck, or extension ladder come into contact with the charged line. Because of the risk of injury posed by overhead electrical lines, the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) publishes strict guidelines for height clearance over roadways. 

The NESC is published every five years by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.  The NESC creates rules and guidelines for electric supply stations, overhead lines, underground lines, and safety-related practices for utility workers. It is considered the industry standard for safety guidelines across the United States. The NESC may be adopted by state regulatory commissions. Although the NESC regulations are the industry standard, transportation departments, cities, and states may require additional clearances.

The required clearance under the NESC is dependent on the activity under or adjacent to the electrical lines and the type of cable or conductor. The minimum required height clearances for electrical lines over roadways subject to truck traffic are below:

https://www.seattleinjurylawyerblog.com/files/2019/03/2016-01-06-11.27.27-300x199.jpgIf an electrical system does not have a fault protection system and proper grounding in place, electrical faults pose a substantial risk of injury. An electrical fault occurs when there is an abnormal electrical current, such as an over current, under voltage, unbalance of the phases, reversed power, and high voltage surge. A fault can be very dangerous and destructive causing fire, explosion, or electrical shock to persons nearby. These dangers to people are in addition to the damage faults may cause to the electrical system itself.

Electrical faults may be caused over time by a deterioration of the insulation protecting the electrical equipment. Additionally, electrical faults may also be caused by a sudden storm, vehicle collision, or aircraft collision. Finally, electrical faults can occur during switching surges when there is a sudden interruption in the circuit.

A protection device can eliminate the dangers that are associated with electrical faults. Fault protection systems detect fault conditions and remove the voltage on conductors, if there is an unwanted connection. Common protection devices include a circuit breaker or a fuse.

https://www.seattleinjurylawyerblog.com/files/2019/03/2016-01-06-11.29.23-300x199.jpgIt is common for a storm or car crash to cause overhead powerlines to be downed. Although electrical injuries are not common, the dangers of downed powerlines should not be underestimated. Downed powerlines can carry an electrical current strong enough to cause serious injury or death.

The stronger the electrical current charging throughout a person’s body, the more serious their injuries will be. Electrical injuries range from a slight tingling sensation to respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation. Deep tissue burning is likely to occur wherever the current flows throughout the body. Much of the burning may be internal and not immediately apparent to first responders. Internal burning can be deadly and cause serious injuries to internal organs. The most severe injuries occur when the electrical current passes through the person’s heart and lungs.

Electrical injuries occur when you comes into contact with an electrical source, such as a downed powerline. The electrical current is transferred from the powerline to your body. One way you can come into contact with an electrical source is by directly touching a downed powerline. You may also suffer electrical injuries, if you touch anything in contact with the fallen powerline, such as a fence or car. If a downed powerline has fallen on your car, you should stay inside your vehicle, if possible, and wait for rescue crews to arrive.

Scene-Photos-102-199x300Driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous and potentially deadly. According to the 2018 Washington Traffic Safety Commission survey, “Marijuana Use, Alcohol Use, and Driving in Washington State,” driver impairment due to alcohol and/or drugs is the number one contributing factor in Washington State fatal crashes. Marijuana is second only behind alcohol to appear in drivers involved in accidents, and the number of drivers under the influence of marijuana is increasing each year. Many of these accidents occur on the busy Interstate 5, Interstate 90, and Interstate 405. According to the results of the Washington State Roadside Survey, nearly one in five daytime drivers may be under the influence of marijuana. This statistic is up from less than one in 10 drivers prior to the implementation of marijuana retail sales in Washington State in 2014.

The risk of impaired driving with alcohol in combination with marijuana is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of either substance by itself. From 2008–2016, 44 percent of fatal crashes involving drivers testing positive for substances were drivers that tested positive for both alcohol and one or more other drugs. The most common drug drivers combined with alcohol was marijuana. Deaths involving drivers with multiple substances in their systems have been increasing at a rate of about 15 percent per year since 2012.

Like driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal. Initiative 502, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana, included the establishment of a blood per se DUI level of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.