On May 19, 2004, a 19-year-old Hispanic factory worker was fatally burned and his co-worker injured when an electrical test meter exploded as the victim was trying to test a 480-volt overhead electrical bus bar. The two workers were employed at a plant that used thermoforming machines to make plastic inserts for cosmetic packaging. These machines created a great deal of residual heat, so management ordered the installation of fans to exhaust the heat from the room. The two employees were working from a scissor lift to do the "non-live" installation of the wiring for the fans, which would later be inspected, connected, and energized by a licensed electrician. As the workers ran conduit along the ceiling of the room, they approached a partially-exposed, 480-volt, three-phase electrical bus bar that supplied power to the thermoforming machines. The victim reportedly used a voltmeter in the scissor lift to test the exposed electrical conductors at the uncovered end of the bus bar. He apparently connected the voltmeter across two of the phases, which overloaded the meter and caused it to explode. The explosion ignited the victim's clothing and caused an electrical breaker to trip, plunging the area into darkness. The victim's co-worker managed to lower the lift, but his own clothing ignited while trying to extinguish the victim's burning clothing. Another employee put out the fires with a fire extinguisher. The victim was taken to the area burn unit with burns over 35% of his body, where he died of complications 14 days later. NJ FACE investigators recommend following these guidelines to prevent similar incidents: 1. Employers should permit only properly trained and qualified persons to carry out electrical work. 2. The company should develop, implement, and enforce an electrical safety program. 3. A qualified person should inspect work areas prior to permitting employees to work near electrical or other hazardous equipment. 4. Employers should ensure that all personnel lifts are properly maintained and inspected.
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