I got energized the other night, thought I'd share what happened.
We were demoing a grocery store. A former ice cream parlor had a short hot water heater in it. The foreman said to demo it (remove it). I pulled the plate off to reveal the wire nuts. The foreman put his tester on it to show that it was dead. He said, "It's dead. Go ahead and demo it." I put my tester on it right behind him. My tester showed no power. The foreman went around the room, tracing other circuits, flipping a couple of switches. I disconnected the wire nuts and my finger touched a wire and it energized me. I turned to the foreman and said, "I just got hit. This thing's hot." He said, "No way." I put my tester on it and it showed power. He put his on it and it showed power. We were surprised.
I suggested that maybe the hot water heater might have been connected through a switch, since he was turning switches on and off during the time I was removing wire nuts. He said, "No, it wouldn't be wired through a switch."
Nobody was able to get into the electrical room to flip circuit breakers on at that time, so I know that wasn't what caused the circuit to be energized.
I'm lucky because I was standing in water at the time, but it didn't go over my soles to the leather and soak in, and I didn't have any holes in the soles. The water was about 1/4" deep. All it would have taken was a thumbtack in the sole of my shoe, or the hole left behind by one, to put a grounding path right to my foot!
I think the hot water heater was somehow wired through a switch. We'll never know because we just had to keep on demoing the stuff out.
Just when you think you've done enough to be safe, something unexpected can come out of nowhere to bite you. Being careful isn't enough, you have to be clairvoyant.
Can anybody here tell me a story of how they got energized so I can learn from their mistakes? I've heard of people leaving wrenches in switchgear to fall down later and go phase to phase, blowing up in a guy's face. Sometimes these things come out of nowhere and certain "shocking" situations are very hard to predict.
Maybe your area is different but, where I'm from, you can't assume a w/h is going to remain unenergized. In much of Wisconsin, we have off-peak, radio controlled water heaters, electric heat, and air-conditioners. Just because the juice is off one minute, does not mean it won't come back on the next. That w/h should have had a disconnect of some kind so it is possible that one of the switches turned it back on (since you say it was a small w/h it may have only needed a 2 pole, 20 A toggle switch). If a disconnect is not present, the source of power MUST be found before making contact with potentially live wires.
#149209 - 08/21/0301:56 PMRe: A shocking story: Here's one, tell me yours
I told this story once some time ago when this subject came up in another thread, so here goes. When I was a student at University of Houston a number of years ago, I was helping a wonderful gentleman who was the stage manager at Cullen Auditorium - we were replacing a couple of burned out autotransformer dimmers in the stage lighting switchboard. In order to do this we had to shut off power to the 600 amp feeder from the MDP in the basement of the building - no LOTO, just a lock on the door to the switchgear room. We opened the breaker, then attached a warning notice directly over the handle, then left after locking the room. While we were installing a replacement dimmer (and while nearly all of my body from my waist up was inside the switchboard), several pilot lamps lit up, indicating that the power was turned back on . Miraculously I backed out of the switchboard without bumping up against several large phase busses which ran the entire length of the board. The stage manager and I went downstairs to the basement, found the switchgear room door open, the feeder breaker turned on, and the warning note wadded up and thrown on the floor. We turned the breaker off again, closed the door and hid in a corner of the room behind the MDP panel. A few moments later, a secretary opened the door and entered the room and turned on the breaker again, whereupon we detained her until the University Police arrived. When asked why she disregarded the warning, she said that the air conditioner in her office had gone off (apparently a wiring problem resulted in her a/c being connected to the same feeder breaker (600amp, 3 phase, mind you) as the stage lighting switchboard in the theater. She was more concerned about the heat in her office than the fact that we were doing electrical repairs . Aside from immediately being fired, I don't know what happened to this stupid person, but a long stretch in prison should have been part of the punishment - or maybe a psychiatric evaluation.
#149210 - 08/21/0302:07 PMRe: A shocking story: Here's one, tell me yours
When I havn't been hit in a while I tend to get confident and start letting down my guard. I think it is just a natural instinct.
I was demoing some 277V lighting and standing on my 8' ladder. I took off the 4 square blank cover plate and reached my fingers in the j-box and pulled the wires out.
Well un-benounced to me, one of the neutral wires was stripped way to long. There was exposed bare copper wire past the wire nut and when I put my two fingers around it to pull it out of the j-box. I got zapped pretty darn good.
I had to take a five minute break. I was holding a metal air vent plumbing pipe and the amperage went from my right hand and out my left hand via my heart.
I don't make that mistake any more. Even when I feel confident. I hate when others strip their wires to long.
#149211 - 08/21/0306:22 PMRe: A shocking story: Here's one, tell me yours
Mamills, that's a good story, and I never thought about detaining somebody and turning them over to the police for throwing a breaker of a circuit I'm working on, but it gives me ideas. How amazing that you guys hid and busted her in the act. Too bad you couldn't run sheetrock screws up through her chair or something so she could feel the pain a little herself. That just makes me mad that she would do something so retarded.
Straightedge, that's a good lesson, I try to be careful pulling wires out of a box but there are times when I know that if a wire had been bare like that it could have gotten me. I'll learn from your story to stay careful when pulling wires out of a box. It's a good reminder not to ground myself when reaching into a box by steadying myself on a duct or something metallic.
I worked with a guy who calls hot sticks "idiot sticks" and doesn't use them, but he got hung up twice in one night on 277 lighting and gets shocked more than anybody I've worked with yet. He uses his body as an "idiot stick". The night he got shocked, he had to take a long break both times and he got a lot more irritable than usual. It ruined his whole night and after the 2nd shock he didn't return to normal and finally had to go home for the day.
[This message has been edited by Spark Master Flash (edited 08-21-2003).]
"When in doubt, short it out"
#149212 - 08/21/0306:43 PMRe: A shocking story: Here's one, tell me yours
I started doing electrical work when I was 18 years old. I had been in the trade for about three months, and we were doing a remodel job at a office building with 277V lighting. One of the people I worked with required me to work on a live 277V J-box that could have been easily disconnected. He said "eventually you will have to work hot, so you might as well do it in front of me so I can show you what you do wrong". I HAD BEEN IN THE TRADE 3 MONTHS!!!
I think this sick S.O.B. just got his jollies on watching some poor kid get lit up. I had no business in that J-box. I would like to run into that individual again and have a nice "discussion" with him.
BTW, I didn't get shocked.
Ryan Jackson, Salt Lake City
#149215 - 08/21/0308:35 PMRe: A shocking story: Here's one, tell me yours
Good lesson, Wolfdog, I always check my own stuff, even if somebody else checks it in front of me with their own equipment. One guy I work with says, "Only a fool doesn't check his own sh*t."
Ryan, on my first day as an electrician, they put me to work in the office changing hot receptacles and switches. I asked them to turn off the circuit and they said, "We can't turn off the circuit, the fax machine's on it." I allowed as to how I don't care about their fax machine, how about my life, and they said they can't turn off the fax. I went ahead and did it after asking the boss if it's customary to work live power. He said it is sometimes. I said, "If that's customary, I'll go ahead and do it." I changed a bunch of recepts and switches, all of them hot. Got mildly energized once on that day. Nothing I read in books before that said I'd have to work live power, so in my inexperience I had to mentally adjust in about 30 seconds to the concept of working live power. I've done it plenty of times now, but luckily I haven't been shocked until the other night.
3 months is early to be told to work live 277, hopefully you'll restrain yourself when you see the guy! One foreman might let an apprentice work live power on his first day, another won't let an apprentice work live power after a year of experience.
"When in doubt, short it out"
#149216 - 08/21/0310:27 PMRe: A shocking story: Here's one, tell me yours