September 2, 2019 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Linkage Adjustment Claims the Life of an Electrician

Electrician Receives Fatal Injuries While Attempting to Make Repairs to Circuit Breaker

It was 8:05 am, Wednesday, August 7, 2019, at Blackhawk Mining LLC’s South Hollow Prep Plant and Loadout in Kanawha County, West Virginia, when a 42-year-old preparation plant electrician was electrocuted upon contacting an energized connection of a 4160 volt energized circuit. The electrician had 15 years of mining experience. 

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued a Fatality Alert after the electrician was electrocuted during the linkage adjustment on a lever in a live panel. The incident occurred in the plant’s Motor Control Center (MCC) as the victim was adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the VAC panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors.

While this occurred at a coal mine, this type of accident could occur at any mining operation.

To help prevent accidents of this type, MSHA provides the following best practices:

    • Lock Out and Tag Out the electrical circuit yourself, and NEVER rely on others to do this for you.
    • Control Hazardous Energy! Design and arrange MCCs so electrical equipment can be serviced without hazards. Install and maintain a main disconnecting means located at a readily accessible point capable of disconnecting all ungrounded conductors from the circuit to safely service the equipment.
    • Install warning labels on line side terminals of circuit breakers and switches indicating that the terminal lugs remain energized when the circuit breaker or switch is open.
    • Before performing troubleshooting or electrical type work, develop a plan, communicate, and discuss the plan with qualified electricians to ensure the task can be completed without creating hazardous situations.
    • Follow these steps BEFORE entering an electrical enclosure or performing electrical work:
        1. Locate the circuit breaker or load break switch away from the enclosure and open it to de-energize the incoming power cable(s) or conductors.
        2. Locate the visual disconnect away from the enclosure and open it to provide visual evidence that the incoming power cable(s) or conductors have been de-energized.
        3. Lock-out and tag-out the visual disconnect.
        4. Ground the de-energized conductors.
    • Wear properly rated and maintained electrical gloves when troubleshooting or testing energized circuits.
    • Focus on the task at hand and ensure safe work practices to complete the service. A second qualified electrician should double-check to ensure you have followed all necessary safety precautions.
    • Use properly rated electrical meters and non-contact voltage testers to ensure electrical circuits have been de-energized.

This incident marks 14 fatalities in 2019 to be reported in U.S. mines; it is the first accident this year classified as an electrical accident fatality.*

*The above information is from the MSHA August 7, 2019, Fatality Accident Report

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Categories
Accidents, Human Performance, Root Cause Analysis
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