A 29 Year Old Truck Driver/Delivery Man Was Electrocuted When The Aluminum Pole Brush He Was Holding Came In Contact With A 14,000 Volt Overhead Transmission Line

FACE 92WI08901


A 29 year old white male working as a truck driver/delivery man for one and one-half years was electrocuted on a farm where he was delivering bonemeal. It is assumed that the victim was standing on top of the truck tank and holding an aluminum pole brush overhead when the pole brush contacted a 14,000 volt power transmission line overhead. The victim was found within the tank (bin) by the farm owner when he arrived home. No one witnessed the incident. The weather was described as dry and sunny the day of the incident. The farmer had his son call 911 while he shut the truck off and entered the bin to try to help the victim. He was unable to pull the victim out and waited for the EMT’s and the coroner. The coroner and the EMT’s arrived at the same time and after rechecking that neither the truck or the auger was running and after lodging a pole in the auger as an additional precaution the coroner went into the bin and pronounced the victim dead at the scene. The Wisconsin FACE investigator concluded that in order to prevent similar occurrences, the employer should:

  • Conduct a job-site survey on a regular basis to identify potential hazards, implement appropriate control measures. Remove from service all conductive pole brushes and install machine guards for open bins.
  • Develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive written safety program with particular emphasis on electrical safety
  • Train workers in safety-related work practices that pertain to their work assignments


At 3:25PM on August 19, 1992, a farmer returning to his farm yard discovered a man in the bin of a animal products delivery truck. An autopsy determined that the victim had been electrocuted prior to the fall into the bin. The Wisconsin FACE director was notified of the fatality on September 1, 1992 by the Wisconsin Department of Industry Labor and Human Relations. A phone call was made to the safety director of the company who reported that the truck had been returned to the business site and that OSHA had been to the site. Following the fatal incident the company had replaced all conductive brush poles with non-conductive ones and was in the process of installing bars over open bins. Drivers were being trained in lockout and tagout procedures that would be used whenever there was a need to access the bin area (augers operate within the bin) and were made aware of the requirement for 10 foot minimum clearance from energized transmission lines. The FACE investigator went to the site on May 12, 1993 to interview the safety director and see the truck and the pole brush involved in the incident. The OSHA report, death certificate, WC claim, coroners report, and the county sheriff’s report were obtained.

The company had been in business 111 years. The company reports that there is a safety officer who devotes 76-100% of his time to safety issues, there are general written safety policies, though none are specific to electrical safety, and that general safety training is provided and worker competency is measured. The victim was following standard operating procedures at the time of the incident.


At approximately 3:25 PM on August 19, 1992, a farmer returning to his home found that the delivery truck which had been sent to his farm to deliver a product was running but no operator was present. The farmer climbed onto the truck and saw the operator in one of the bins. He shut off the truck, had his son call for help and then went into the bin to attempt to pull the worker out. When unable to pull the operator out, the farmer waited for the rescue workers. The coroner and the rescue squad arrived at 3:50 PM and the coroner went into the bin after rechecking that both the truck motor and the auger motor were shut off and after a steel rod had been placed in the auger. The coroner found the worker deceased in the bin. The operator had been working alone at the time of the incident. It is assumed that he was brushing the product out of a bin while standing on the truck. The aluminum brush made contact with the electrical wires overhead and the victim fell after the electrocution into the open bin. According to the company safety director, the pole brush the victim was using was newly purchased, the only one like it used by the company and extended longer than the poles used routinely.

CAUSE OF DEATH: Electrocution


Recommendation #1: Conduct a job-site survey on a regular basis to identify potential hazards, implement appropriate hazard elimination and/or control measures. Ensure machine guarding.

Discussion: A job-site survey could have identified close proximity to transmission lines and conductive pole brushes as well as unguarded bins as safety hazards. Immediately following the incident, the company identified conductive poles, large unguarded bin openings, and close proximity to transmission lines as hazards to worker safety. The safety director developed a job-site survey mechanism and a system for call in when any field worker sees a questionable safety situation. Hazards were removed, conductive pole brushes were replaced with non-conductive pole brushes, guards were placed over bins, and delivery to customers who were unwilling to provide a delivery point away from transmission lines was stopped.

Recommendation #2: Develop, implement and enforce a comprehensive written safety program including electrical safety.

Discussion: Though the employer had written safety policies, the employer did not have a written safety program that addressed electrical safety. Following the incident, the company wrote an electrical safety policy. The company policy addressed minimum clearances for energized power transmission lines, lockout tagout, personal protective equipment, and general principles of electrical safety.

Recommendation #3: Train workers in safety-related work practices that pertain to their work assignments.

Discussion: Truck drivers were not trained for their work near overhead power transmission lines related to minimum clearance for vehicles, use of long conductive poles and clearances from overhead lines for the trucks in transit.


FACE 92WI08901

Staff members of the FACE Project of the Wisconsin Division of Health, Bureau of Public Health, perform FACE investigations when there is a work-related fatal fall, electrocution, or enclosed/confined space death reported. The goal of these investigations is to prevent fatal work injuries in the future by studying: the working environment, the worker, the task the worker was performing, the tools the worker was using, the energy exchange resulting in fatal injury and the role of management in controlling how these factors interact.

To contact Wisconsin State FACE program personnel regarding State-based FACE reports, please use information listed on the Contact Sheet on the NIOSH FACE web site. Please contact In-house FACE program personnel regarding In-house FACE reports and to gain assistance when State-FACE program personnel cannot be reached.

Page last reviewed: November 18, 2015