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Worker in Rubber Products Plant Electrocuted in Ohio

FACE 85-39


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research (DSR), is currently conducting the Fatal Accident Circumstances and Epidemiology (FACE) Project, which is focusing primarily upon selected electrical-related and confined space-related fatalities. By scientifically collecting data from a sample of fatal accidents, it will be possible to identify and rank factors that influence the risk of fatal injuries for selected employees.

A maintenance laborer was carrying a 20 foot piece of angle iron from a welding shop to an outside storage rack. As he was negotiating a 90 degree turn next to a bank of transformers, the front end of the angle iron struck against an uninsulated supply wire at the top of one of the electrical transformers.


Officials of the Industrial Commission of Ohio notified DSR concerning this fatality and requested technical assistance. This case has been included in the FACE Project. On August 20-22, 1985, a safety specialist from DSR met with employer representatives, conducted a site visit, interviewed comparison workers, discussed the incident with the next of kin, and photographed the accident site.

Overview of Employer’s Safety Program:

The company is a supplier of quality rubber and vinyl products to the automotive, domestic, and industrial market and employs 280 workers at the rubber products plant. An additional 470 workers are employed in several subsidiaries, all located within the same county.

The plant foreman serves as the plant engineer and is assigned safety responsibilities. The safety program consists of a monthly walk-through inspection, by a committee of three: a union worker, a representative of personnel and the plant engineer. Also, the plant engineer meets with a representative from the Industrial Commission of Ohio on a monthly basis. The company provides preplacement physical examinations to all new employees. Occasionally a safety topic will appear in the monthly company publication. Workers receive their training from co-workers and the foreman. The employer experiences an annual labor turnover of approximately 10%, depending on economic conditions in the area. The firm has no written safety or training program, and rarely uses occupational safety and health consultants. The company does not periodically evaluate its safety program.

Synopsis of Events:

On December 17, 1984, the 20-year-old victim was hired as a press operator. Two months later he was reclassified as a maintenance laborer. His primary responsibility was custodial and janitorial in nature. Prior to working in the rubber products plant, the victim had worked twenty-one months as a janitor in a school and for eighteen months he worked as a fork lift operator and truck driver. The victim’s work schedule was 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

On July 8, 1985, the victim reported to work at 7:00 a.m. His first assignment was to clean and resupply the restrooms. At 8:30 a.m. the foreman told the victim to clean up the welding shop. He went to the shop, picked up a piece of angle iron (20′ x 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″) and was in the process of carrying it to a steel rack located in the outside yard. The 135 pound victim carried the angle iron (weighing approximately 47 pounds) on his right shoulder. The piece of metal was slightly elevated in front of him (not parallel to the ground), as he walked to the outside rack (approximately 250 feet). Forty feet from the rack, the victim had to make a 90 degree left turn, around a bank of three high voltage transformers. The transformers were enclosed by a 6 foot high Cyclone fence with a top border of barbed wire, which extended the height of the fence another twelve inches. The transformers were approximately 3 feet higher than the fence enclosure. Each transformer carries 4160 volts. As the worker negotiated the turn, the angle iron turned horizontally approximately 130 degrees. The front tip of the angle iron struck the uninsulated supply wire at the top of the center transformer. This contact resulted in the electrocution of the victim.

At approximately 8:45 a.m. a fork lift operator in the yard heard the sound of metal dropping on concrete. Five minutes later on his route he noticed the victim on the ground beside the transformer. He checked the victim’s pulse and found none. Co-workers performed CPR until the EMS arrived. The victim was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cause of Death:

According to the Certificate of Death, the immediate cause of death was electrocution, due to contact with 4160 volts.


Recommendation #1: These transformers should be protected in accordance with existing regulations concerning transformer installation and maintenance.

Discussion: OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.402(d)(1) requires that transformers over 150 volts to ground be protected to prevent accidental contact. Protections should be provided by individual integrated housing or by an enclosure, such as an electrical substation fence, which accommodates a group of such equipment. 29 CFR 1910.303(h)(2) states “A fence less than 8 feet in height is not considered to prevent access unless it has other features that provide a degree of isolation equivalent to an 8 foot fence. ” The fence provided was six feet in height and obviously did not prevent accidental contact. (It should be noted that subsequent to the electrocution, the company has complied with this recommendation.)

Recommendation #2: The company should develop and implement a comprehensive occupational safety and health program.

Discussion: There is no corporate policy, commitment, or resources designated for a comprehensive safety program. Training is not given to supervisors or workers concerning the implementation of safe work practices or hazard recognition and correction. The company rarely uses outside safety services even though the Industrial Commission of Ohio provides free consultation services to employers located within the State of Ohio.

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