Bucket Truck Shocker – Lessons Learned

Before I start, let me congratulate Dr Bridgette Hester for the great article she wrote for AGL Magazine, found here, about here research into Carla Valencia’s death, may she rest in peace. It was her first real climb (sound familiar?) and another coworker got hurt as well. The article is great, take some time and read it! This too will have lessons learned about responsibility which is a topic for another day.

I read the story in wireless estimator, link here, if you don’t see it then scroll down until you see the headline “Near electrocution of two techs requires a review of safe practices” posted on April 6 of 2015.I am trying to figure out how these guys missed power lines. Do you know whet I am saying? So I think what we have to do is review what lessons can be learned from this incident.

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First off, thank GOD that they both are alive, although you wonder how they survived, let’s just say that this is a gift that they lived and we can learn from what went wrong! That ans the fact that bucket trucks are supposed to be rated non-conductive up to a certain voltage. I remember that from when we had our bucket trucks inspected, the paint was very important.

They must have been competent on a bucket truck because it didn’t tip and they were able to lower it back down. They did not jump out and the truck apparently is insulated properly. The only injury I read about is the guys arm was burnt from touching the electrical line. Thanks for clarifying this Wireless Estimator.
Let’s review, they were able to operate the bucket truck, let’s hope they were trained properly on using the bucket truck. I want to refer to my posts on a Fisk here, (wait for it), because it’s relevant. Everyone’s response to my Fisk post (or FISK Videos) is that the user must be trained and competent. That applies to more than the Fisk, it also applies to bucket trucks and lifts. In fact it applies to anything anyone is using when working at heights. You should not be winging it, but many do, and you should practice how to use the equipment, especially rescue equipment.
So you should be trained on the bucket truck as well. To be competent is more than just powering it up and leveling it. The operator was trained on using the lift. It is doing a hazard assessment prior to going up, just like you should do before you climb! What these guys did poor job of is hazard assessment and planning. Did they have a plan? Apparently it was to go straight up to whatever they were working on. Did they do a hazard assessment? It doesn’t seem like it.
Do you see now? I find that 20-20 hindsight is very clear. It took shocks and burns and near heart attacks to teach their gentlemen. Please don’t make this mistake but learn from it. Remember what I say, pay attention! These guys were not aware of their surroundings when going up, they were not looking in all directions. He has probably used the lift so many times he took it for granted that it was easy to use and that 99% of the other times everything was OK. He may have been distracted by the other guy. We can only assume that he just didn’t pay attention at that moment.
Ok, let’s play what if. What if someone who did the site survey would have identified the lines and then called the power company to insulate them? Remember that if you are working near power or high tension lines you can call ahead and request that they insulate the, What they do is wrap the lines with a loose fabric or plastic insulator so you don’t get shocked if you touch the line. You have to ask and plan. They will be happy to assist you if you give them the time to do it.
However let’s say this was a service call. Then these guys could have done a few things like they could have identified power lines and came up with a plan to avoid them. If they were paying attention then they would have made a serious effort to watch them as they were going up. Second they could have planned out how the bucket’s path to know where it would go. Finally, and most importantly they should have been paying attention! Simple yet we just don’t do it! Look up, look around, and see what is going on. Maybe they needed a ground guy to watch them go up because it sounds like they had 2 guys in the bucket.

They probably should have paid attention to their surroundings. It is easy to get distracted, seriously, they are lucky to be alive after being so careless. Remember that I say pay attention? It’s not just lip service; it is practical advice in any situation. We are all guilty of being distracted, all of us, especially me!

So learn from this mistake. Be competent on your equipment through training, practice, and reading if possible. If you have someone to teach you that has experience, great, just try not to pick up their bad habits.

What’s easy to do is easy not to do, like paying attention. So make the choice to go home every night healthy and alive! It is your responsibility to be smart, be safe, and pay attention. One act of stupidity can hurt or kill you in this business.

This is an old article where the bucket truck fell over and ended badly!

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