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My closest call #48182
02/05/05 05:54 PM
02/05/05 05:54 PM
maintenanceguy  Offline OP
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 300
Southern NJ, USA
Yesterday morning. Checking out a breaker that kept tripping on a convection oven. I was removing the cover on this old Westinghouse panel. There were 6 blank breaker fill-ins in this panel and these were supposed to be screwed in place. Well they weren't. When I pulled the panel, they started to drop. I couldn't hold the panel cover and grab them at the same time; and I couldn't move the panel cover because it was holding up the falling steel plates. I stood there frozen staring at those 6 pieces of steel - in contact with the cover I was holding and about to touch the main lugs at the panel bottom. I stood there for probably a minute sweating from the fear trying to think of a solution. I clicked my radio and called for help. A guy who works for me just happend to be in the buildng and came to my rescue. When he got aobut 20 feet form me, they dropped.

I must have let go of the door because I'm still here. I don't remeber exactly what happened in that second but it was loud and bright. Sounded like a rifle went off two times one right after the other. Later that afternoon the guy who was with me said his ears were still ringing.

One main lug pitted pretty deep, the panel in my hands was black and had several scars. 15 kitchen staff in another room, around the corner saw the flash rflected on the walls and came running in thinking we were both dead.

I blew out a 125KVA transformer and tripped the breaker feeding the transformer.

We started calling around for a transformer immediately and had everything back online by 7:00pm but I left the room several times yesterday to calm myself down. I never actually cried but the enormity of how close I had came did bring a few tears to my eyes a couple of times.

I would have locked out the breaker but I considered removing the panel cover to be relatively safe. And I needed the panel hot to take a amperage reading.

Take nothing for granted. I'll be holding a safety meeting on Monday and we're going to change the way we do a few things. I got shocked pretty bad a few years ago and I do take electricity very seriously. But obviously not serously enough.

Don't get overly comfortable. Don't start to think you won't get hurt. Take what you do very, very seriously.

[This message has been edited by maintenanceguy (edited 02-06-2005).]

Work Gear for Electricians and the Trades
Re: My closest call #48183
02/05/05 06:29 PM
02/05/05 06:29 PM
SolarPowered  Offline
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 625
Palo Alto, CA, USA
Amen on that. While I fortunately haven't had any serious electrical close-calls, I have several scars on my left hand from varioius times I've been slicing stuff with a knife and been momentarily distracted. It only takes an instant.

Re: My closest call #48184
02/06/05 12:29 AM
02/06/05 12:29 AM
smokumchevy  Offline
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 60
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Glad to see your still here to post about that close call. Your accn't is a good reminder of how just the simplest of tasks can go wrong, and just how easy it can become our time to go in this trade.

Kudo's to remaining on the jobsite after that (spare pair in the truck eh? lol).

My mechanic had a 400a panel blow because he forgot to sweep the panel top before removing the cover and had some loose screws drop in and behind the busbars, even though I was on the building roof at the time I felt the whole building shudder and new something had gone wrong. I don't think I shimmied a ladder so quick to run inside and found him holding the huge panel door with only singed arm hair and a blank stare yet still alive. The panel was destroyed, busbars gone, scorched walls all around and behind him and smoldering carpet on the floor beyond the electrical room door.

This was my 3rd day on the job and new to the electrical game, but everytime I pull a panel cover that memory pops up and I get a lil shiver.


Re: My closest call #48185
02/06/05 06:34 AM
02/06/05 06:34 AM
maintenanceguy  Offline OP
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 300
Southern NJ, USA
You're right about the blank stare. The guy I was with asked immediatley if I was alright. I just looked at him inquisitively for several seconds because I wasn't sure. He thought I couldn't hear the question because of the bang. But apparently God was looking out for me once again. All is well.

Re: My closest call #48186
02/06/05 09:03 AM
02/06/05 09:03 AM
rhiphi  Offline
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 40
Groton NY
Great note about cleaning off the top of the panel i'll have to remember that.
peeps are always setting stuff ontop of them

a couple of years ago during a retro fit of a building
where the manufacturer in the building was still occupying one small space, I was installing some new conduits, and was working around some old dead conduits, that the previous day, some of my colleagues had taken out. I was mounting a box to a beam, I was standing on top of a 12-foot ladder (I know, bad) - the next thing I know - I'm locked up - I was thinking to myself - "who's screaming like a little girl?" I remember my life flashing before my eyes - then the ladder kicked and I dropped to the floor. Just then, a carpenter walked by and chuckled "haha - you fell off your ladder". If I could've gotten up - I would've punched his lights out. The power burned a whole in my neck and out my thumb where I was holding the box. Upon closer inspection of what had happened, there was an octogon box with a cover on it in a 1/2" pipe connector with three live 277 wires not taped where one of my colleagues had just snipped them off. They never admitted who had done this because they saw the anger in my eyes. That's why I always carry one of those stupid little tracers - to see if there's juice anywhere around me.

Re: My closest call #48187
02/06/05 10:17 AM
02/06/05 10:17 AM
golf junkie  Offline
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
York, NE
I'm glad you are OK maintenanceguy.

A few years back I shorted an 800A buss. Luckily I had my gloves on and neither my apprentice or I were looking directly at the arc.

I my case someone had fabricated a sheetmetal cover for an open space in a Sq. D I-Line panel.

Re: My closest call #48188
02/06/05 10:25 AM
02/06/05 10:25 AM
dmattox  Offline
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 265
Anaheim, CA
Glad to hear you are still with us. Its amazing how dangerous our trade can suddenly come.

Fortunitly I haven't been hurt other than a few random encounters with 120 and once with 277V, which all just reminded me to respect what we work with.

My closest scare was a building I was running where my boss took over on the day when we were pulling in the feeds for a 1200A subpanel fed from 2000A switch gear. 4 parrallel 4" runs with 4 350 mcm each.

Days after my boss had me run over at the end of a day and turn the building on. I was kinda of tired and wasn't thinking to test the run, but right as I reached for the breaker my boss called me on the radio and reminded me to test the run. They had screwed up landing the wires, all 3 phases were miswired, causing a dead short between all of them and ground with 350 mcm. I was so pissed at our guys for screwing that up, but thankful for that radio call.

I still wonder exactly what would have happened if I threw that switch standing in front of the switchgear.

Re: My closest call #48189
02/06/05 11:25 AM
02/06/05 11:25 AM
cpal  Offline
Joined: May 2004
Posts: 162
Cohasset MA
I am glad you or any one else was not injured. This is an excellent example of the need for our industry to push NFPA 70E" Electrical Safety in the Workplace. If you intend to institute a policy for work on energized equipment the document contains several forms and procedures. They may appear to be time consuming but I believe that your experience will validate taking a moment or two to save a life.

Edited for spelling

Stay Healthy


[This message has been edited by cpal (edited 02-06-2005).]

Re: My closest call #48190
02/06/05 01:29 PM
02/06/05 01:29 PM
wolfdog  Offline
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 135
About 20 years ago I was working with several other a\c techs getting a large compressor ready to pull out with a crane.

I was not the first man on the job.
I asked if the power was off.
I asked if the fuses were pulled out.
I trusted him without checking.

I stuck an allen wrench in a terminal block and got 277 from one arm to the other until I finally fell down on the roof.

400 amp fuses in the disconnect (out of site) still very much on.

Never trust anyone blindly with your life.

Always lock it out.

[This message has been edited by wolfdog (edited 02-06-2005).]

Re: My closest call #48191
02/06/05 03:55 PM
02/06/05 03:55 PM
e57  Offline
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
Worst electrical accident I have had was 11 years ago. Just finishing up an OH/UG service convertion. (Run a new UG feed up the side of a building to old conduit at weather head, and replace with a can.) In my hurry to get all back on, connected the splices in the cristy box in the street first, before putting the cover on the box at the old weather head location. (About 24' above ground) I rang out all the conductors, finished splicing, closed the cristy, and climbed the ladder with a 24"X24" cover to close the other box live. One of the splices I rolled into the box sprung out while I was putting the cover on and pushed through the (what I thought was a very well taped) kearny, it blew a 3" hole in the cover I was holding. (Went off like a grenade) I fell backwards off the ladder, and got hung up by one leg 1/2 way down, and rode the ladder down to the ground. I had a few big bruises and a large white spot in my vision for several hours, and a scorched sweat shirt. I disconnected the whole thing and went home. The next day I had to go back check and replace the burnt splice, conductors and conduit and put a new cover on it. It took 4 hours to get up the nerve to climb the ladder again! Even though I knew the box was dead, I would pick up the cover and re-live it.

Learned alot since then I'll tell you... A complete respect for the power of what we weild.

[This message has been edited by e57 (edited 02-06-2005).]

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
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