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November 30, 2011

Co-op line worker injured by high-voltage power line

CULLMAN — A Cullman Electric Cooperative line worker is receiving treatment for severe burns after coming into contact with a high-voltage power line on the job in the Johnsons Crossing community Wednesday.

The worker, whose name is being withheld at his family’s request, was transported to the burn unit at UAB hospital Wednesday afternoon following the accident, which occurred around 2:15 p.m. No other workers were injured.

Co-op spokesman Brian Lacy said Wednesday the accident occurred during routine work on the cooperative’s distribution lines in the area.

“There were several crews working in the area at the time, and he was by himself in the bucket of a bucket truck when he came into physical contact with the line,” said Lacy.

“His partner on the ground, who had been trained in bucket truck-type rescue procedures, was able to use the bucket controls on the ground to lower him and help get him out of the bucket. He was transported to helicopter to the burn unit at UAB, and he was responsive and able to communicate with paramedics on the ground at the time that he was being loaded into the helicopter.”

The distribution line on which the man had been working carries 7,200 volts of electricity, said Lacy.

Because of the manner in which electrical injuries affect the body, Lacy said it is too early to offer a prognosis on the victim's long-term prospects for recovery.

“In general, in situations in which electricity passes through the body, a person can have visible burn marks on their skin — but they can also have internal injuries that may take more time to manifest,” he said. “It could really be several weeks until we know. The fact that he is alive is good news, and we are hopeful that the doctors will be able to help him in his recovery, but it is still very early in that process right now.”

While accidents involving high-voltage electrical currents are severe, they are also rare. The last accident in which a Co-op lineman was injured after contact with an energized line occurred more than 10 years ago, in July of 2000.

“We put a major emphasis on safety, and on understanding the dangers involved with electricity,” said Lacy. “It’s so unforgiving — all it takes is one mistake, one time. Our workers are guys who, every single day, put themselves in a position of potential danger. Our guys receive training on site six months out of the year with the safety director of the Alabama Rural Electricity Association, who comes and reinforces the same concepts and procedures these guys have known their entire career. Certainly there’s no one on the face of the earth who has more respect for the power of electricity than an electrical lineman.”

* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 270.

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