NIOSHTIC-2 Publications Search

Career fire captain electrocuted after contacting overhead powerline from the platform of an elevating platform fire apparatus - Pennsylvania.

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 F2008-01, 2009 Mar; :1-14
On January 6, 2008, a 40-year-old male career Fire Captain (the victim) was electrocuted after coming into contact with a 12,400-volt overhead powerline. The victim and a fire fighter had been assigned to ventilate the roof of an apartment building and were using an elevating platform fire apparatus to gain access to the roof. The victim was in the process of maneuvering the platform beneath a three-phase overhead powerline when he contacted one of the powerlines with his neck and back. The other fire fighter located on the platform had crouched down just before the contact. After realizing what had occurred, a fire fighter located on the turntable of the apparatus lowered the platform containing the victim and the fire fighter to the ground. The victim and fire fighter were removed from the platform and transported to a local hospital. The victim was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The fire fighter received medical treatment and was later released. Two occupants of the apartment building died as a result of the fire. The following factors were identified as contributing to the incident: fire fighter proximity to energized powerlines; suboptimal incident command; an absence of relevant standard operating procedures; absence of specific periodic training; heightened sense of urgency given civilian occupants; and a lack of verification of the powerline energy state. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. develop, implement, and enforce written standard operating guidelines (SOGs) or standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all aspects of fire fighting operations, including procedures for working in proximity to overhead powerlines; 2. ensure that a distance of at least 10 feet (3 m) is maintained between aerial devices and overhead powerlines; 3. ensure that a separate Incident Safety Officer, independent from the Incident Commander, is appointed and utilized when incidents escalate in size and complexity; 4. ensure that fire fighters receive periodic safety training specific to all tasks they are expected to perform; 5. use proximity warning devices to detect electrical current when working near exposed potentially energized parts (e.g. overhead powerlines) as a secondary/ redundant means of protection; 6. follow apparatus manufacturer's safety warnings. Additionally, NIOSH recommends that as an added safety precaution, fire fighters should always consider powerlines as energized and operate accordingly. Also, the National Fire Protection Association should consider developing safety standards that address work conducted in proximity to overhead powerlines.
Region-3; Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-fighting-equipment; Fire-safety; Emergency-responders; Electrical-hazards; Electrical-safety; Electrocutions; Traumatic-injuries; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Accident-analysis; Surveillance
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Services: Public Safety
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division