Electrocution of Plumber

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by brother, Sep 30, 2009.

  1. brother

    brother New Member

    I read this article, and my sympathies go out to the family. But as I read, they still try to indirectly blame the electrician by saying " That's one more reason why electricians should be trained to have an awareness of the potential consequences of their actions and decisions on other trades/persons who may enter a work site while they are present or at a later time."

    I disagree, and Im sorry, even if the electrician left some 'romex' lieing on the ground, this is still the plumbing companies fault and no fault on the electrician. I know the fined the plumbing company, but to mention the electrician is at fault is not right in my opinion. Whats yours???
    heres the link

  2. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Link doesn't work.
  3. brother

    brother New Member

    Ok, heres part of the article itself. Had to shorten because of the limit of characters here. sorry about the link, you have to register to see the whole article.

    Plumber Electrocuted After Installing Unsafe Temporary Power Connection at New Construction Residential Housing Development
    Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Chris Shiver, P.E., Cerny & Ivey Engineers, Inc.

    When plumbers Jim and Dave arrived at a new residential development, their task at hand certainly seemed routine — performing trim-out work (installation of fixtures and appliances) in a partially completed house. Once on-site, however, they quickly hit a snag.

    After realizing that the mostly finalized electrical system in the house was not connected to the electric utility, they questioned the general contractor (GC) on the availability of power for their tools. The GC promptly directed them to a temporary construction pole setup on the adjacent lot.

    Not considered an out-of-the-ordinary request on a new construction residential project, this situation did not raise any red flags for the plumbers; however, the events that soon unfolded would quickly turn this typical job into tragedy.

    As he approached the temporary power location, Jim found that an unconnected length of Type NM cable was lying loose on the ground between the temporary pole and meter base of the house they were working at, with the house end routed into (but not connected to) the meter base.

    He recalled that a few days earlier he had seen an electrician using this NM cable to create a temporary service connection for the house — to enable testing of the wiring and fixtures. Apparently, the electrician had left it in that location, he thought to himself, possibly for follow-up testing/troubleshooting use. Based on this assumption, Jim recreated the connection (as he thought the electrician had done) and succeeded in energizing the house wiring, enabling the use of lighting and tools. Next, Jim and Dave began working on different levels in the house, with Dave in the basement installing a water heater.

    Both plumbers worked separately for some time, with Jim occasionally coming down to the basement to check on the water heater installation. During at least one of those visits, Dave mentioned to Jim that he'd received a few electrical shocks while touching pipes or other bare metal. Because they'd experienced similar occurrences at other locations in the past without any ill effects, neither man was overly concerned.

    Soon thereafter, Jim went outside to speak to another plumber (Mike), and then returned to the basement, only to find Dave sitting on the floor — slumped back against a furnace installed adjacent to the water heater. Assuming Dave was pulling a prank, Jim immediately scolded him. However, when Dave did not respond, Jim shook him and received an electric shock. Jim immediately ran outside to get help from Mike. The pair quickly called 911, moved Dave away from the metal-cased appliances, and administered CPR until emergency medical services arrived.

    While watching the medical responders work on Dave in the basement, Mike touched the furnace casing, received a shock, and yelled for someone to shut off the power to the house to prevent further injury. Another contractor (Roger), who had responded to the incident, ran outside and disconnected the NM cable from the temporary power pole. Prior to making that disconnection, Roger noted the connection details at the temporary pole and also observed the connection details to the meter base on the house where the accident occurred (click here to see Figure). His account of those details proved crucial to determining fault in this case.

    Unfortunately delayed by the lack of street names and map information for this new housing development, once on the scene medical responders were unable to revive Dave. As suspected, medical and forensic examination later indicated that Dave had died from electrocution with the fatal current probably passing from one arm to the other through his chest.

    Because a fatality was involved, OSHA performed an inspection at the work site within a week of the accident. This investigation was followed by inspections of the involved electrical systems and hardware at the site by several engineers, including myself. I became involved in the case as the technical representative of the insurance carrier for a major electrical equipment manufacturer, which had provided some of the temporary electrical setup hardware.

    Prior to the OSHA visit, the NM cable, which was originally lying loose on the ground before Jim reconnected it, reportedly was fully removed from its connection points at both ends (temporary pole and house). Therefore, Roger was the only person known to have a recollection of the connection details at the time of the accident (plumber Jim was unsure). As detailed in the Figure, Roger's recollection indicated that the NM cable was probably a 10/2 + ground configuration. The connections reportedly did include insertion of the two insulated conductor's previously stripped ends into the slots of a GFCI-type receptacle at the temporary pole, as diagrammed. However, they did not include the bare conductor in the cable. His description also indicated connection of the previously stripped opposite insulated conductor ends to one of the meter base hot leg lugs with the other conductor end connected to the neutral. (Note the polarity of these connections indicated in the diagram.)

    Examination of the temporary power pole revealed it included four 120VAC GFCI-type duplex receptacles downstream of two 20A circuit breakers (two receptacles supplied from each circuit breaker). The components were mounted in an outdoor-type box with a damaged cover that would not properly close. The GFCI receptacle identified as the unit supplying temporary power through the NM cable was then removed for detailed laboratory examination (Photo 1). During this removal, proper supply connections within the temporary power pole assembly for that receptacle were confirmed, including bonding connection. It was verified that the neutral and ground were bonded together within the main service panelboard in the house — and that there was a bonding connection to the copper piping within the house from the panelboard grounding electrode connection point.

    The diagrammed temporary terminations for the NM cable would have the effect of connecting the GFCI receptacle outlet hot leg with the service entry neutral in the house where the plumbers were working. This would have resulted in energization of any exposed bonded metal, including the furnace and water heater casings and metal piping, at voltage levels potentially up to 120VAC.

    The GFCI receptacle was confirmed as a UL-listed 20A rated indoor-only-type assembly with front-mounted “test†and “reset†buttons. The receptacle exterior evidenced some age and weathering, including heavy corrosion of the screw heads that secured the plastic casing. Investigators also confirmed that when connected to a nominal 120VAC supply, the outlets were live — a condition that did not change when the GFCI test button was pushed. During disassembly, the receptacle internals evidenced significant contamination from dirt, insect remains/webs, and other debris. External corrosion from probable water intrusion also was apparent. The unit evidenced heavy overheating/burn damage to the circuit board (Photos 2a, 2b, and 2c). Provided information indicated this GFCI receptacle was probably at least five years old. Based on these findings, it's unlikely that the GFCI circuitry would have reacted to the expected ground leakage currents and shut off power, following connection of the outlet hot leg to the house grounded conductors as described above.

    After its investigation, OSHA cited the plumbing company for “serious†violation of four federal health and safety regulations:

    Failure to instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and hazards, as required by 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(2).

    Failure to ensure that electrical equipment is free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees, as required by 29 CFR 1926.403(b)(1).

    The path to ground from circuits, equipment, or enclosures was not permanent and continuous, as required by 29 CFR 1926.404(f)(6).

    A ground conductor was attached to a terminal or lead so as to reverse designated polarity in violation of 29 CFR 1926.404(a)(2).

    Particularly noted was no evidence that any of the plumbing company employees had been provided with safety instructions regarding safe usage or connection to temporary construction site power sources, proper testing and usage of GFCI-protected circuits, or typical construction site electrical shock hazards.

    At the time of this accident, the 1996 National Electrical Code (NFPA 70/NEC) was in effect at the accident location. Therefore, the references below come from that edition. Article 305 addressed Temporary Wiring, with 305-2(a) requiring that all permanent wiring provisions apply except where specifically modified in this Article, and 305-2(b) requiring approval for any temporary methods. Additionally, 305-4(a) requires installation of services in conformance with Art. 230, and Sec. 305-5 requires that all grounding conform to Art. 250. Section 305-6 requires ground fault protection for all personnel utilizing temporary wiring installations.

    The NM cable feed used as a temporary service for the house where the accident occurred clearly did not meet numerous Art. 230 requirements, including ampacity/size (230-23), clearances (230-24), and attachment (230-26). Section 250-23(a) requires that a premises wiring system connected to a grounded service should have a connection between the grounded service conductor and the grounding electrode conductor.
  4. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

    SW Florida
    Never touch stuff outside of your trade. RIP to the plumber and condolences to his family.
  5. Cass

    Cass Plumber


    I can hear the conversation...

    Plumber #1 looks like we need to get someone to hook this up...boy we are gona be behind on this job...

    Plumber #2 hay look...here is some wire laying here...I can hook this up...it's easy...no problem...

    There...done...it only took a second...
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Plumber #1. Do you think we have to worry about whether the black wire has to connect to the other black wire, or not.
    Plumber #2. No. Electricity is color blind and doesn't know which wire it is flowing through. We can use blue PEX for hot water if we want to, can't we?

    Now, those plumbers probably went to Home Depot and heard that "Anyone can do electrical and plumbing".
  7. Electricians made it too easy for an accident to happen

    Why did the electrician leave such a probable and easily attainable reconnect, and why was it installed in that manner/fashion to begin with.

    That statement above to a jury is like the statement below,

    Here's a knife, you've never had one in your hands before, but here it is and it's laying there. When "I" use it there's no issue but I can't say that for another.

    I have seen some really F'd up situations in regards to electrical setups for homes in temporary situations. Never have I seen anything not drug across the ground, never have I seen the rated underground wire either.

    If work is being performed on the site, it should of been already set up for electrical requirements without this temporary setup.

    Of course, the plumber took his and his partner's life into their hands, but someone else made it real easy to do so, by exemplifying bad example and bad tradesmenship.

    Those plumbers didn't go to work to die, electricity did that.

    A properly wired home even in temporary standard would of stopped this.

    Those wires should of been permanently terminated into a box where the "average" person couldn't reinstall it, right? That's an electricians job. Nobody is going to take that much effort if there's a clearly marked box, concealed wires and wire nutted that says "DO NOT CONNECT".

    Whatever court case this involves, whether recent or in past, there should be negligence thrown at that electrician for making a dangerous situation so easily possible.

    I don't care what you think about my opinion, but a good lawyer representing the victims will prove that point into a jury of 12 that someone made a dangerous situation too easy to become.

    Next time hard wire that electric, run it overhead and do it like a finished wiring setup so that constant issue never recreates.

    And who in the F**K thinks one 20 amp breaker is always enough for a construction site? That's been the most retarded joke on the planet for all the ones I've worked at where the temporary never had enough adequate electric for numerous companies working at the jobsite, tripping breakers left and right due to overdemand.

  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    What a tragedy.

    Regardless of who is to blame now or what caused it, the lesson is that everyone, wife kids etc. should know that any time you feel the slightest electric tingle when touching any metal, you should stop whatever, don't touch any metal and especially metal plumbing and shut off the power main and make damned sure the electrical is done right by testing the entire system completely before going back to work etc..

    Another serious warning is static in an AM radio that is plugged into the building's electric or not. That saved me from a missing ground on the breaker panel of a 6 month old house, and yes an electrical inspector had inspected it; so the sticker said. The lady said they had been having noise with a kitchen radio and shocks at the kitchen sink and laundry washer since before they moved in. Had she not come down in the basement as I was getting my tubing cutter to cut their water service line and me asking her about the noise in my radio and me checking the breaker box, and her telling me days later what the electrician said, I wouldn't be here today. I used that lesson in another house to find a bad short in an old freezer a few years later as I was replacing a jet pump. The freezer power cord and motor wires were real hot there due to a loose and heavily corroded ground screw in the receptacle it was plugged into.
  9. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    I'm not an electrician, but... if I leave a screwdriver lying on the floor, under a receptacle, and you come along and stick it into the receptacle and get a shock, do you seriously think you have a case against me?

    I mean, seriously?

    The plumber, who's not an electrician, took it upon himself to hook it up himself, the way he thought he'd seen an electrician do it earlier?

    I mean, come on.

    Too lazy to run an extension cord from the pole = killed his buddy.

    I'm not a plumber, either, but I gotta ask - what kind of power tools do you need for trim-out? I mean, really? It's all hand tools, isn't it? So they needed lights... me, I have a whole collection of headlamps.

    BTW, a quick google turned up the full article:


    and the diagram:


  10. Remove those two harnesses from the temporary tree to meter to house panel and you have two plumbers that do not know how to wire up juice to a home.

    Leave it lay there and put a licensed electrician in that equation, creating such a scenario to exist,

    Liability begins with purporting a lethal scenario.

    Just like if I run around fixing slow drains in front of people unsuspecting showing how well it works, using "Clobber" << Sulfuric Acid in its strongest form,

    and then I leave that jug of joy at the site and someone picks that bottle up...trying to mimic my latest task?

    You better believe I've set up a terrible example for someone to pick up where I've left off and possibly hurt themselves.

    That's the part about NOT being stupid and understanding that there are people around you that are. You do stupid things and people mimic your lead, or even leave a possible bad situation to exist where the likelihood is possible for it happen,

    BOOM, it's over.

    We as plumbers never wired it up like the diagram shows, too risky and don't want to set live a panel in a home that no one has any idea what the electrician did on the 2nd rough. Sometimes they "tie back" connections for whatever reason I don't need to know, and I shouldn't be messing with another contractor's work, period.

    Degree of Culpability

    Reasonable Standard

    Personal Accountability

    Performance Standard
  11. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    Fair enough.
  12. gardner

    gardner DIY Senior Member

    It's bad enough that the plumber energized the electrical system and killed his co-worker, but he could also have killed electricians, carpenters or others working in other parts of the building. Imagine being the electrician happily working on the wiring when some idiot energizes it without telling you.
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    quote: Imagine being the electrician happily working on the wiring when some idiot energizes it without telling you.

    Just like a plumber working on a water pipe when the bricklayer decides he needs water and opens the valve. There is a saying in the industry, "If you did not turn it off, do not turn it on", at least until you find out WHY it was turned off. That applies to electricity also. The Darwin Awards would consider this an instance of improving the gene pool.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2009
  14. gardner

    gardner DIY Senior Member

    ...don't apply, since it was not the guy who hooked up the power who died.
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