(Canadian OH&S News)
The planning of a family celebration just southeast of Watford, Ontario took a tragic turn on August 1, when a large outdoor tent came into contact with a power line, killing one worker at the site and seriously injuring another.
Jeremy Bowley, 21, of London died as a result of the accident, said Const. Chrystal Jones, a spokesperson for the Lambton Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment. Another worker, 17, whose name hasn’t been released, was transported to London University Hospital by air ambulance with critical injuries, while four others received treatment at Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital.
The group of workers, all of whom were under 25 years old, was employed by Signature Events Rental Centre, an event-planning company based in London.
The local Emergency Medical Services, Hydro One and the Lambton OPP were all dispatched to the site immediately after the accident.
“A private residence hired Signature Events to erect a tent on their property for a function. I believe it was a wedding,” said Matt Blajer, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which is looking into the accident. “A six-person crew was putting up the tent when the tent pole contacted an overhead hydro line. We sent an inspector and an electrical engineer.
“There are no orders at this time,” Blajer added.
As of August 4, the 17-year-old worker was still recovering in the hospital, according to Const. Jones. “My understanding is that the others have been released,” she said.
The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), a non-profit, delegated administrative organization that promotes electrical safety in the province, is assisting the Ontario Ministry of Labour with the investigation.
“It’s too early to speculate about the exact incident,” said Doug Crawford, ESA’s chief public safety officer, “but everyone needs to look at power lines as high-voltage, electrical energy sources and really show some respect for them. They’re carrying a lot of power, and if you do touch them, you’ll very likely have a serious injury or fatality.”
The day after the accident, ESA put out a press release urging more vigilance regarding the risks of electrical equipment. The release provided hydro line safety tips, both for workers and the general public.
Danger can occur at work or at home
“That’s certainly our goal, to prevent these tragedies from happening,” Crawford continued. “We see incidents happening in the workplace, but we also see them happening in the community, during individuals’ recreational activities. And we also see them happening at home, with homeowners doing lighter-maintenance activities, like cleaning out eavestroughs or going up on the roof to check something. They’re exposed to some of the same hazards as workers are.”
ESA employs the motto “Look Up, Look Out, Locate” for dealing with power lines. One should always look up and ahead to spot any potential hydro dangers in advance, the agency advises, whether putting up a ladder, flying a kite, climbing a tree or doing any kind of construction work.
“If you’re doing any work around power lines,” Crawford added, “it’s absolutely imperative that you have a spotter watching what you’re doing and that you’re in visual contact with that spotter, so if he or she sees anything of concern, the spotter can advise the operator accordingly.” Crawford also recommended that workers in the vicinity of power lines, such as construction crews, employ personnel who review the site with a checklist beforehand.
According to ESA, there have been 28 deaths in Ontario from hydro-line contact over the last 10 years, while 63 people have been seriously injured from it. The agency also says that 39 per cent of Ontario’s electricity-related deaths over the last decade have been connected to overhead hydro lines.