Do Not Open the Electrical Panel Door

Litigation, North America

While erecting a scaffold at a power plant, a scaffolder made a tragic mistake when he opened the electrical panel door protecting energized high-voltage equipment. We identified the applicable electrical generation regulations, industry standards, responsibilities of independent contractors, and individual human factors to determine the incident’s cause and responsibilities. Our expert report of opinions was used to negotiate a settlement.

Hazards at a power plant are as ever-present as temperature and pressure hazards in a refinery, but they are seemingly invisible by comparison. Regardless of the facility type, it is a well-known and commonly understood rule not to access or operate equipment that is not part of the job.

A contractor’s work crew was permitted to build a scaffold in a power plant to provide access for upcoming maintenance activity. When nearing completion of the scaffold and placing floorboards at the top level, a scaffolder opened an electrical panel door near where they were working for no apparent reason. The equipment inside was still electrically energized, and his action placed him between the high-voltage energy source and the electrical ground, providing a conductive path for the electric current. He was electrocuted.

Baker & O’Brien was retained to determine the incident’s cause and to opine on the applicable regulations, industry standards, and the responsibilities of independent contractors. Often, incidents have human factor elements. Some action errors result when well-informed humans perform intentional acts without immediate awareness of the consequences. We produced an expert report of the causal analysis and identified areas for improvement in company and contractor safety programs. Our expert report of opinions was used in negotiating a settlement.

Melvin M. Sinquefield

Senior Consultant

Power Generation
Accident / Incident Investigation / Standard of Care / Expert Witness Testimony / Safety
North America