Electrical Safety

A defogging project in a seafood packing plant brought us in direct contact with a situation where one could not see his hand in front of his face when the lids of the pressure vessels were opened and steam escaped. Production was seriously slowed until the fog abated. Our humidity control system with heated ventilation air and humidistats on the ceiling beams did the job to the owners total satisfaction. At his instruction and to save energy, we were asked to adjust the humidistat set point to a higher level.

In a seafood plant, the floors are usually wet from the washing process. In our presence, the plant maintenance manager ordered an 18 year old helper to go up and reset the humidistats. In order to reach them, he recruited a fork lift operator to raise him up to the beam level after placing an empty pallet across the forks on which he could stand.

The helper carried a drop light with him that he had plugged into a 115 volt wall outlet. While the plant superintendent, maintenance manager and I watched, the operator lifted the helper toward the beam when the wire of the drop light became too short and pulled the light from his grasp. When it hit the cement floor, the bulb shattered.

The lift operator promptly reversed direction and lowered the helper down to the floor. He stepped off the pallet on to the wet floor and proceeded to walk over to the light on the floor. He picked it up, opened the cage and touched the still electrified filament of the bulb while trying to unscrew the bulb from its socket. He was unable to let go and was electrocuted in the seconds it took us to pull the plug from the wall.

OSHA closed the plant the same day and fined the owner for not having trained the new maintenance employee in proper safety practices.

Engineering Bulletin -Volume 2, Issue #1
by: Kenneth W. Wicks – ASHRAE Fellow

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