Blog Post #736 – Electrical Line Contact Claims Worker

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine

The planning of a family celebration southeast of Watford, Ontario took a tragic turn on August 1, 2013 when a large outdoor tent came into contact with a power line.

The 21-year-old worker, Jeremy Bowley, from London, Ontario, died as a result of the accident. Another worker sustained critical injuries, while for others received treatment at Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital, says Constable Crystal Jones, spokesperson for the Lambton Ontario Provincial Police detachment.

The workers, all under 25 years old, were employed by Signature Events Rental Centre based in London. Matt Blajer, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL), says a private residence hired the event-planning company to erect a tent on the property for a function.

“A six-person crew was putting up the tent when the tent pole contacted on overhead hydro lines, Blajer says, adding that no orders were issued. The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is assisting the labour ministry with the investigation.

While Doug Crawford, the ESA’s chief public safety officer, says it is too early to speculate on the incident, “everyone needs to look at powerlines as high-voltage, electrical energy sources,” he cautions. “They’re carrying a lot of power and if you do touch them, you’ll very likely have a serious injury or fatality.”

The day after the accident, ESA issued a statement providing safety tips on Hydro lines and urging heightened vigilance regarding the risks of electrical equipment. Crawford says such incidents occurred not only in workplaces, but also in the community and in residences and homeowners are cleaning out eaves troughs. “They’re exposed to some of the same hazards as workers are.”

Crawford advises that any work around power lines, such as construction crews, should have a designated spotter. “If he or she sees anything of concern, the spotter can advise the operator accordingly.” Workers in the vicinity of power-lines should employ personnel to review the site with a checklist beforehand.

My opinion

Section 188, subsection 2 of the Ontario ‘Construction’ regulation 213/91 shows the appropriate distance from high voltage power-lines or overhead energized conductors with a nominal phase-to-phase voltage rating.

Here is the actual listing,

1. 750 volts and up to 150,000 volts – 3 metres (approximately 10 feet)
2. 150,000 volts and up to 250,000 volts – 4 metres (approx. 14.75 feet)
3. Over 250,000 volts – 6 metres (approximately 19.7 feet)

All section regulations be it for Construction, Mining, Healthcare or Industrial have the same sort of table listed. It is just that important!

I wonder if the on-site supervisor had a tailgate meeting prior to the work being done. If he or she was competent to properly supervise then a hazard assessment would’ve been completed and the overhead wires recognized and the hazard controlled. Obviously, this was never done. That means that section 27 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was violated and, if the supervisor was never properly trained to ensure hazard assessment was completed prior to any job, then he or she was not competent and, therefore, section 25, subsection 2 (c) was also violated because the employer must ensure that the supervisor, when appointed, be competent.

Either way, the employer is at fault for allowing such a tragic thing to happen.

There was no need for this!

Ensure your workplace is a safe place. Read the appropriate sections of the act and your particular sector regulation before any work is ever done. That is the law!

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Due Diligence’, ‘Electrical Safety Awareness’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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