A case study of a transportation employee electrocuted by an overhead power line was examined. A 49 year old worker for a state department of transportation was measuring the amount of asphalt in a 10,000 gallon storage tank. The worker connected the tar kettle to the asphalt tank through a portable pump. The victim climbed to the top of the tank while another worker stayed on the ground and watched. After removing the 12.67 foot iron measuring rod from the tank, the rod came in contact with a nearby overhead 7,200 Volt power line. The victim sustained severe electrical burns to the hands, arms, axilla, back, and thighs. The victim was taken to a local hospital burn unit and died 20 days following the accident. The cause of death was attributed to pulmonary emboli resulting from the electrical burn injuries. The most probable path of the electrical current was from the rod to the victim's hands, through the body, out the knees and back, to the platform ladder, and to the ground. Factors contributing to the fatal accident included location of the tank in close proximity to the proximal overhead power line, elevation of tank, type of measuring rod used, weight of the measuring rod, method used by the company to check the fullness of the tank, unsafe work procedures, and inexperience of the victim.
Division of Safety Research, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Morgantown, West Virginia, Report No. FACE-85-3, 6 pages