Thursday, July 15, 2004

Worker's death was electrocution

Coroner: 110-volt line the source

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

HAMILTON - A 46-year-old worker was electrocuted at a job site, the Butler County coroner has ruled, even though the wire he touched was not high voltage.

Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt on Wednesday said Daniel Anderson of Barnesville, in southeastern Ohio, died because he was wearing wet, muddy boots that helped electricity pass through his body as he handled an electrical wire.

About 6:30 p.m. Monday, Anderson and two fellow employees of Mid-Ohio Pipeline Co. Inc. of Lexington, Ohio, were working on Fort Hamilton Hospital's new intensive-care unit just north of the hospital on Eaton Avenue.

One of the workers knocked down an overhead wire with a forklift. Anderson, thinking the wire was a harmless cable TV line, began coiling up the wire, Burkhardt said.

"The current went through his left arm to his feet," Burkhardt said. During an autopsy Tuesday, Burkhardt found telltale signs of electrocution: an electrical burn on Anderson's left arm and tiny broken blood vessels in his feet.

Anderson was taken to Fort Hamilton's emergency room where he was pronounced dead minutes later, Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt said some people couldn't understand why Anderson died from handling a 110-volt line - about the equivalent of a household light bulb.

"It's not the voltage that kills you; it's the amperage and the voltage together that make for a dangerous condition," Burkhardt said. "You can get killed with 50 volts if the amperage is high enough."

Voltage is how strongly the electricity is being pushed through a line and amperage is the amount of electricity that is flowing, Burkhardt explained.

Meanwhile, an investigator from the federal agency that monitors workplace safety was interviewing witnesses at the site Wednesday.

Dennis Slessman, assistant area director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said such an investigation is routine after a workplace death. Typically, the agency takes several weeks to a month to release its findings, Slessman said. He said he could not discuss the investigation.

Records show the agency has cited and fined Mid-Ohio for several "serious" workplace violations in recent years. But the specific nature of those violations was unclear, and Slessman declined to comment on the company's record.

A reporter was not able to obtain comment from Mid-Ohio.


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