Proper utility inspection is key to protecting public

When power lines go down, damaging property and threatening the community’s safety, one of the most frequent causes is negligent utility inspection

Proper utility inspection is the best way to protect public from dangers of downed power lines.

Timely and regular utility inspection is one of the main starting points when it comes to ensuring that the public is safe from electrocution and electrical shock injuries.

It’s  the first thing that an experienced electrocution lawyer will look at when power lines come down (they’re not supposed to, if utilities are performing the basic safety measures the law requires them to do to avoid this) and people are killed or injured and/or property is severely damaged.

That was the case in a very close-call scenario that a reader of my Electrocution Blog recently asked me about.

Specifically, the reader wanted to know if, due to a lack of proper inspections, the utility company was responsible for extensive damages to her boyfriend’s Mack semi-truck – and for possibly nearly killing him – caused by its dangerously low hanging power lines.

What happens without proper utility pole inspection?

Here’s the back story my reader provided me (quoted portions are from the on-scene report by the responding police officer):

  • Her boyfriend was driving his truck at night and in the rain when his truck made contact with the utility’s power lines which were hanging lower than was safe.
  • As a result, “the wires hit the top of the cab of his Mack truck.” The “wires came down on his truck” and the pole-top hardware landed on the passenger side of the truck and pulled up against the truck due to the wires still being on the truck.
  • These were live wires and the utility did not arrive until nearly an hour later to address the situation. There was extensive damage to his truck. The policeman made the driver get out of the truck because the live wires were right over his fuel tank.
  • The truck had extensive damage and would be out of service for at least three weeks. As such, the reader’s boyfriend – for whom the truck was his main line of work – would incur truck-related costs and lost wages.

Dangers can be avoided, minimized through proper utility inspection

This must have been a terrifying situation for the reader’s boyfriend, especially considering how easily and quickly everything could’ve gone from dangerous to deadly.

Here’s the advice I gave my reader:

  • “All electric utilities are obligated to adhere to the performance standards found in the National Electric Safety Code, in the installation, operation, and maintenance of their infrastructure. (A new version of the NESC is published every 5 years, and different states mandate adherence to different editions.)”
  • “As for the low hanging wires, also called ‘floating phases,’ there are minimum vertical clearance mandates found in the NESC Rules 230-239, and inspection mandates are found in NESC Rule 121A. From this event, you are on firm ground asserting that at the time and place of your [boyfriend’s] accident, the utility was in violation of the NESC.
  • “As to the pole itself, there will be a pole inspection metal tag affixed to the pole in question, that will provide the date of the most recent inspection. Often that tag will have a name, such as Osmose on it, designating the name of the pole inspection contractor used by your utility. Try to find and photograph that tag.”
  • “Pole top hardware keeps the conductors (i.e. powerlines) up where they belong, if properly inspected and maintained, consistent with their common law and NESC duties, absent being brought down by heavy wind and ice loads, or fallen trees or tree limbs, due to severe storms and weather. Absent such a severe event, or the intervention of some outside agency, like a car hitting a pole, an animal, or vandalism, there is a res ipsa loquitur presumption of utility negligence when powerlines fall.”

If you have questions related to electrocution, electrical shock injuries and/or the safety rules that all utilities must comply with, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to help you find the answers.

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