Ignoring safety can cost in ways none of us are willing to pay.

Ignoring safety can cost in ways none of us are willing to pay.

Fatality on Disney property in Orlando, Florida is a stark reminder that everything can change when safety is ignored around electrical utilities.

A recent news article reported that the estate of a 54 year old utility worker electrocuted after contacted 12,400 volts at a substation on a Disney property has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Disney World in Orlando Florida, the Power Company and Disney subcontractors.

Read the full story at the Orlando Sentinel

The electrical contact occurred on Nov. 5, 2008. The worker died on Nov. 25, 2008, nearly three weeks later.

My first reaction to this story is why has another electrical contact occurred in an industry populated by well-trained, professional, experienced utility workers?

And now the Blame Game starts: Was the employer completely at fault in this fatality? After all, OSHA cited them so they must be wrong. In reality, OSHA can only cite the employer not the worker, even if the worker was one hundred percent at fault in the accident.

Was the worker at fault? Considering the outcome of the accident it’s difficult to believe that a trained and experienced electrical utility worker would forget the hazards involved in working around electrical energized sources. Having worked in substations, I know that the electrical power they channel is an ever present and palpable presence that makes it difficult to be unaware of the potential for injury around high energy sources.

The bottom line is that placing blame is a luxury reserved only for the living. Blame does nothing to change the loss to the victim or his family. The victim’s estate will ask for millions of dollars in damages, but no amount of money can bring the victim back to life, ease the anguish or the suffering of the victim’s family, change the outcome of this incident or compensate for the agony that an electrical burn victim endures in the aftermath of the injury.
The real value of this news story is it that is serves as a stark reminder that in the blink of an eye every thing can so radically change when safety is ignored by anyone working around electrical energy. One moment in time changed everything for this victim, for his loved ones and for everyone else involved in the event and in its aftermath. It unfortunately takes this type of reminder to force us to consider the consequences of ignoring safety and the high price paid by everyone when injuries happen.
The employer costs are the bad press; the potential legal and liability costs; the insurance increases; and the damaged to their reputation and the anguish of dealing with the loss of an employee.
The family’s costs involve the anger and the anguish this injury causes and the day-to-day problems of dealing with the loss.
But for the victim, the cost is simply everything he has. The victim paid for this accident with all the rest of his days and moments; all his hopes and dreams and all the tomorrows that could have been.
I am confident that each party would take it all back or change the outcome of this accident if they only could, but none of us have the power to change the past, we all can however learn to change the future.
The question is will we actually learn from this injury today or will we forget again and have to deal with the reality of another electrical fatality later?
How important was putting safety first for the victim in this accident? I know for the victim safety was the most important job he had that day. Safety was the difference between finishing up a days work and going home or never being able to go home again.
For the rest of us, today might be just another work day exactly like most other work day or it just might be the day when all your tomorrows are paid out in exchanged for one small safety mistake you make today.
At A.R.E. Utility Construction our motto is “You are the person most responsible for your safety, each task, each job, each day, always!”
The only way to break the cycle of these fatal electrical accidents is for everyone in the utility industry to stay focused on and to communicate about safety, today. The costs of ignoring safety can be just too damn expensive!

The Department of Labor reported that there were 390 workplace fatalities due to electrical contacts in 2009.