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Farm worker electrocuted while pressure-washing interior of swine barn

Iowa Case Report: 08IA074
Report Date: December 5, 2014

The following report is the product of our Cooperative State partner and is presented here in its original unedited form from the state. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


In fall of 2008, a 34-year-old Hispanic man was electrocuted while using a pressure washer to clean the interior of a swine finishing barn.1 He and a coworker had been assigned to pressure wash buildings at local farms managed by their employer. The victim was a native of Honduras who had worked in the US for several months before moving to the local area. The incident occurred on his sixth day of work. The day of the fatality, the victim and his coworker arrived to work at the farm where the incident later occurred. Their supervisor, the site manager, instructed them to clean the finishing barn’s concrete floors and steel gate partitions using the electric-powered high pressure washer they had used in other buildings that week. At mid-morning, the coworker left to work at a different farm, but he returned to eat lunch with the victim over the noon hour. During lunch, the two workers discussed that the washer continued to malfunction just as it had during the week. After lunch, the coworker went back to the farm where he had been working, and the victim resumed pressure washing alone. The site manager returned to the barn at 15:30 to check on the victim’s progress and saw him inside, slumped over a steel gate partition along the center aisle of the main room. The manager tried to rouse the unresponsive victim and pulled him to the loading dock area adjacent to the main room. The victim was cold and without a pulse. The manager called 911, and he then disconnected power at the circuit breaker and turned off the faucet supplying water to the pressure washer. Within several minutes, the county Sheriff, an ambulance crew, and local emergency responders arrived from a town nearby. The county Medical Examiner arrived at the site and pronounced the victim dead at 16:00. The position of the victim’s body when found suggested that he had been leaning over the gate to reach the pressure washer. An autopsy identified an electrical burn injury to the victim’s right thigh where it had contacted the steel gate. The cause of death was determined to be electrocution.

Farm worker electrocuted while pressure-washing interior of swine barn [PDF 1.45 MB]