Safety - Near Miss Incident

Mike

I enjoy the information you provide and share on your excellent web site. I have learned a lot and receive a great deal of value from it. With regard to your recent story about space requirements associated with rooms containing electrical switchgear, Article 110, I wanted to share with you a personal near miss incident I had experienced some time ago while visiting a manufacturing plant recently acquired through a business acquisition.

While making my plant walk-through (plant was old and was my first visit to this facility), I noticed a large portable floor fan operating (hot weather months) at the open entrance door leading into an electrical control room (single man-door had been "propped open" and room was dark). My curiosity got the best of me so I investigated further. As I attempted to enter the room to turn on the lights, I tripped over a raised door threshold. I just caught myself from falling forward to the ground. I am glad I did. I almost fell directly into a wide-open energized electrical panel that contained live 480V circuits.

What I had discovered was that the plant had removed all protective covers from the energized electrical panels due to the high ambient temperatures and overheating problems they were experiencing. I also learned machine operators had to routinely enter this room to access electrical disconnect switches that serviced their machines. Obviously this condition posed a significant risk to plant personnel, a fire risk and was a serious electrical safety regulation violation.

From a design standpoint, I suggest light switches be placed on the outside at entranceways of electrical control rooms so lights can be turned on before anyone enters these rooms (qualified or not). You just never know what lurks inside these rooms. Also, besides the doors swinging outward in the direction of egress, I would recommend that the doorframe and threshold not create a tripping hazard of any kind.

The actions taken as a result of my near miss are as follows:

  1. Got plant manager directly involved in this matter ASAP
  2. Closed and resecured door and provided access to this room to only qualified & trained persons. Signs posted.
  3. Air conditioning (temperature control system) was put into this room and similar others
  4. Protective covers reinstalled
  5. Light switch placed on outside of room
  6. Door threshold removed
  7. Some electrical disconnect switches were relocated outside this room near-by machines for lockout/tagout work.
  8. All other similar rooms inspected (cautiously) for similar conditions and changes made as necessary.
  9. An outside electrical contractor and engineer retained to perform an electrical system evaluation for making upgrades on electrical system throughout plant. (Plant expansion over years with age, was overtaxing their electrical system).
  10. I also got our fire protection engineer involved to ensure electrical upgrades were approved by our fire insurance carrier.

Mike, you certainly can use this info if you like. If it saves one life, prevents one fire or one citation from being issued, it was well worth it. Keep up the great job you are doing!

Dave Walline, Safety Leader
Owens Corning World Headquarters
david.walline@owenscorning.com

Copyright © 2003 Mike Holt Enterprises,Inc.
1-888-NEC-CODE (1-888-632-2633)