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. 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: 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. 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.

Construction workers in road/highway work zones are at a significant risk of fatal and nonfatal injury. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, in 2017, 132 construction workers died in work zone related accidents in the Unites States. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in 2016 there were 158,000 non-fatal work zone injuries in the Unites States.

Construction workers are at an equal risk of injury and death both from passing motorists and from construction vehicles and equipment operating within the road/highway work zone. Furthermore, workers operating construction equipment in work zones are also at a risk of injury and death from the overturn of equipment, equipment collisions, or being caught in between equipment.

Both construction workers and passing motorists can take steps to ensure construction worker safety in road/highway work zones. Construction workers can take the following measures to reduce their risk of injury or death: 1) Use temporary traffic control devices and communicate clearly with motorists; 2) Illuminate the work zone during evening and night hours; 3) Wear high-visibility and reflective apparel to increase worker visibility; 4) Participate in safety training in order to be aware of common hazards and prevention measures.

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On November 12, Trina Morgan was killed as she attempted to assist a 9-year-old child who was injured in a motor vehicle collision on State Route 530 near Arlington, Washington.  According to the Washington State Patrol, Ms. Morgan was hit by another driver as she attempted to offer assistance to the injured child.  The driver that struck her was later processed by the Washington State Patrol on suspicion of driving under the influence.  Trina Morgan was pronounced dead at the scene by authorities due to her significant injuries.  The young girl was transported to the hospital for medical treatment for her injuries.

Our hearts go out to Trina Morgan’s family for her untimely death while trying to assist an injured child.  She is a true hero and an unnecessary death.  We all need to do more to prevent and report drunk drivers operating on our highways and roads.  If you see a driver that appears to be impaired, report it to 9-1-1 immediately.  Do not let friends or family drive if they are impaired.

Drunk driver is a major problem in the state of Washington.  Just in the last year, police agencies in the state of Washington have made over 24,000 arrests for driving under the influence on Washington’s highways and roads.  Impaired driving is a leading factor in motor vehicle accidents and deaths.  Last year, there were 146 deaths in motor vehicle collisions caused by drunk driving.

On September 26, 2016, two men were seriously injured when a crane at a construction site in West Seattle made contact with overhead power lines close to the job site.  The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. near 42nd Avenue Southwest and Southwest Oregon Street.  As lawyers representing injured construction workers, we have unfortunately seen these types of incidents many times in the past.

Data from the NIOSH National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System indicates that electrocutions accounted for approximately 450 of the 6,400 work-related deaths that occurred annually in the United States from 1980-1989.  Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members Working Near Overhead Power Lines, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 95-108 (May 1995).  In the four-year period from 1985 to 1989, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported 113 deaths from crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines.  Id.  Nearly 30 percent of all electrocutions on the job site involve crane and boom operation.  Id.

As a direct result of the hundreds of electrocutions throughout the nation caused by crane and boom truck contact with overhead power lines, a number of regulatory standards have been established to prevent these tragic deaths by state and federal governments.  On the national and international level, OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have adopted strict standards to help prevent work site electrocutions.  See 29 CFR 1926.550; Mobile and Locomotive Cranes, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME B30.5-1994.

The National Safety Council (NCS) released a report on motor vehicle fatality estimates for the first six months of 2016 that found traffic deaths on the rise across America, as well as in Washington State.  From January to June of 2016 there were 19,100 total motor-vehicle deaths, a 9% increase from the same period in 2015 and an 18% increase from 2014.  Washington had 253 motor-vehicle deaths in the first half of 2016, an 8% increase from the same period in 2015 and a 12% increase from 2014.  One possible explanation for the increase in motor-vehicle deaths is the decrease in gas prices nationwide and the subsequent increase in cumulative miles driven; gas prices have averaged over 16% below 2015 levels through the first six months of the year.   Another possible explanation for the increase in fatalities is the rise in distracted driving across America.  While many laws have been implemented across the United States to combat distracted driving, many motorists are still texting and calling while driving.  As a driver we highly recommend not using your cell phone while driving.

At Kraft Davies we represent those who have been involved in motor-vehicle accidents.  In the event that you have suffered an injury in a motor-vehicle accident our lawyers are available to consult with you regarding your injuries.  Please call us at (206) 624-8844, or contact us through this website.

Please find below more statistics from the NCS report: