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The case of the shipyard electrocution.

EC & M 2006 Aug; 105(5):16-18
It seemed like a typical night at a ship repair yard one rainy evening. Operating for more than 15 years - 13 of which had been at this particular location in California - the shipyard was home to around 1,300 employees working round-the-clock shifts. For a particular 35-year-old journeyman electrician, one of approximately 60 employed by the company, this shift would sadly be his last. Working from 4 p.m. until midnight, the man was sent out by his supervisor to perform electrical maintenance on a high-voltage transformer, which provided power to numerous essential areas and systems, including shipboard activities, confined spaces, lighting systems, and power hand tools. The assignment took him to the south power transformer, located outside in the southern portion of the shipyard, where the task at hand would expose him to high-voltage equipment (12,000kV and 600A) - a condition that would ultimately lead to his death. According to his coworkers and supervisor, the man's electrical experience had been primarily working with low-voltage equipment; however, he had worked with high-voltage on occasion. Instructed by his supervisor to inspect the transformers throughout the shipyard, this process involved ensuring the high-voltage conductors in the transformers were properly insulated - a job a local electrical company had performed on several occasions earlier that month. (It's important to note that around 9 p.m., while inspecting these transformers, he accidentally turned off power to a dry dock somehow, leaving a large number of employees without power until it was restored.) The plans changed, however. With a shift change came a new set of instructions from a new supervisor. This time, the worker was told to stop what he was doing and proceed with two new tasks. First, he was to troubleshoot and repair a ground fault in the center yard. Next, perform maintenance service on the high-voltage transformers. At approximately 10:20 p.m., while working alone performing maintenance work on the south transformer, the victim was discovered lying unconscious and unresponsive face down on a wet surface by a coworker. Emergency crews were called to the scene. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was initiated by coworkers and continued until arrival of paramedics at approximately 10:26 p.m. At this time, the victim did not have a pulse, was absent of blood pressure and respiration, and was asystolic on the cardiac monitor. An esophageal obturator airway (EOA) was placed, and he was administered intravenous normal saline, epinephrine, and atropine. No clinical response was noted, and he was transported to the local hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital emergency room at 10:54 p.m., the victim was unconscious and unresponsive with CPR in progress. Despite aggressive resuscitative efforts, including six defibrillation attempts, no clinical response was noted, and death was pronounced. Cause of death? High-voltage electrocution.
Electric-power-transmission-lines; Electric-properties; Electrical-charge; Electrical-conductivity; Electrical-equipment; Electrical-fields; Electrical-hazards; Electrical-insulation; Electrical-properties; Electrical-safety; Electrical-shock; Electrical-workers; Electricity; Workers; Work-environment; Personal-protective-equipment; Personal-protection; Shipyard-workers; Shipyards
Virgil Casini, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morgantown, WV 25606
Publication Date
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Journal Article
Email Address
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Cooperative Agreement
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Source Name
Electrical Construction & Maintenance
Performing Organization
Public Health Institute
Page last reviewed: October 29, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division