A case study of a fatality resulting from a metal ladder in contact with a 7,200 Volt (V) power line was examined. A 28 year old male billboard worker proceeded to his first work site to post three billboards, one of which had to be scraped. The 12 by 24 foot billboard was mounted on telephone poles 4 feet above the ground surface and was set back from the road approximately 12 feet. Evidence at the accident site indicated that the victim had begun to remove the outdated poster from the lower left portion of the billboard. The victim had scraped that portion of the billboard that could be reached from the 14 foot ladder and then moved the ladder to the right portion of the billboard. The victim then removed a 24 foot hook ladder from the truck and was in the process of positioning the ladder to assist in scraping the upper left portion of the billboard when the ladder contacted a 7,200V overhead power line located approximately 8 feet above the top left side of the billboard. Contact between the 24 foot hook ladder and the 7,200V power line resulted in the electrocution of the billboard worker. Two passing motorists witnessed the accident, summoned help, and administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The victim was flown by helicopter to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The authors conclude that employers should identify all safety hazards at the work site, provide proper equipment to perform all job related tasks, and should develop written safe job procedures that are task specific.
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