Accident occurred on I-15 reconstruction project ($3 billion highway renovation to complete in 2001) when the operator, without aid of a spotter backed his crane (boom raised) on a closed section of new freeway into a 46kv line to avoid automobiles parked in the work area. (Operator had been running cranes for many years.)
The crane immediately became energized and remained energized for an estimated 25 minutes. The power company (Utah Power and Light) circuit breakers did not trip, and the power grid indicators showed an increased demand and not an event that warranted an automatic line shut down.
Meanwhile the crane turned in to an incredible fire ball and the operator had no option but to bail out. When he jumped he was electrocuted. He landed on the ground and began a series on log rolls. Nearby workers, completed the rescue at much peril to them selves.
Operator was air-lifted to local medical facility where incredibly, his only injury was an exit wound to the foot and severe muscle cramps, and as discharged from the hospital after only one night’s observation.
The electrical current continued to flow to the crane and completely crystalized the 10 inch concrete pavement and burned completely through, making a bomb like crater.
To add to the hazard, the concrete freeway section was built on a “styrofoam fill”. As the current continued to go to ground, the buried blocks of styrofoam (several feet thick) caught fire. As many may not be aware, when styrofoam burns, it gives off cyanide gas.
The main north/south freeway artery was closed for several hours. Fire fighting efforts were hampered at first by lack of electrical shut down and secondly by the off gassing of the styrofoam.
Ironically, this line had been hit several months ago by another contractor on the project. The line is marked with warning signs as per project and OSHA requirements.
This accident occurred at 11:00 A.M. At 2:00 A.M. the following morning on the same project several miles removed, a tracked mobile drill had lowered it’s mast to clear a power line, passed under safely, and re-erected the mast.
A service truck pulled up to fuel the rig, and the operator swung the upper carrier around 90 degrees to accommodate the fuel truck and swung into and made contact with the power line he had just passed under.
A second tragedy was averted, however, as the project safety team had done a Hazard Analysis on that particular section of work, and had made sure the power line was de-energized.
The job dodged two bullets in one day.
Category: Accident Report