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Massachusetts arborist electrocuted on contact with 13,800 volt public utility powerline.

Massachusetts Department of Health
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 94MA003, 1994 Apr; :1-4
On October 16, 1993, a 32 year old male arborist was electrocuted when he came in contact with a 13,800 volt public utility power line while cutting down a large pine tree. The victim was tied off to the upper section of the tree by a safety harness and lanyard, and was cutting branches. A co-worker, who was on the ground passing the branches through a chipper, heard a groan, and looking up saw that the victim had come in contact with the powerline at the back of his neck. The victim appeared unconscious, and the powerline was visibly arcing. The co-worker called for help, but subsequent rescue efforts were hampered when the tree itself became energized. It was not until approximately fifty minutes later that the powerline was de-energized and the victim retrieved from the tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene by a state medical examiner. In order to prevent similar future occurrences, MA FACE recommends that employers: 1. Contact the public utility to arrange to have power lines de-energized and grounded, or insulated, prior to requiring employees to trim trees in close proximity to energized power lines. 2. Ensure that tree trimming employees maintain the minimum safe working distances specified by OSHA when working near energized powerlines. 3. Develop, implement and enforce comprehensive safety programs that include, but are not limited to, electrical hazard control and fall protection. 4. Provide workers exposed to the hazards of electrocution and/or severe burns with training in electrical safety. Also, public utilities should consider: 5. Underground placement of potentially hazardous utilities, permanent insulation and/or implementation of a permit system whereby persons or firms engaged in work near high voltage power lines must first notify the public utility prior to commencement of work.
Region-1; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Training; Forestry-workers; Electrical-conductivity; Electrical-fields; Electrical-hazards; Electrical-properties; Electrical-safety; Electrical-transmission; Electricity; Electrocutions
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
FACE-94MA003; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-108704
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Massachusetts Department of Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division