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ELECTRICAL UTILITY ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION Robert E. Witter, M.S., P.E. ADVANCED ENGINEERING INVESTIGATIONS CORP. Jemez Springs, New Mexico WHAT IS AN “ACCIDENT”? An occurrence in a sequence of events that usually produces injury, illness, death, and/or property damage - OUTLINE OF SEMINAR -

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electrical utility accident investigation

ELECTRICAL UTILITY ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

Robert E. Witter, M.S., P.E.

ADVANCED ENGINEERING INVESTIGATIONS CORP.

Jemez Springs, New Mexico

what is an accident
WHAT IS AN “ACCIDENT”?
  • An occurrence in a sequence of events that usually produces injury, illness, death, and/or property damage
outline of seminar
- OUTLINE OF SEMINAR -
  • Purpose of Accident Investigation
  • General Notes
  • Investigative Tools
  • Notification/Response
  • At the Scene . . .
    • Documentation
    • Measurements
    • Other Information
outline of seminar continued
- OUTLINE OF SEMINAR - (Continued)
    • Preserving Evidence
    • Drawings and Sketches
    • Photography and Videotaping
  • Notes, Statements, and Reports
  • Scenarios
purpose of accident investigation
PURPOSE OF ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION
  • To prevent similar accidents
  • To determine change or deviation which produced error(s)
  • To direct attention to hazards
  • To determine facts for legal liability
  • To do “fact finding”, not “fault finding”
general notes
GENERAL NOTES
  • Develop an accident investigation procedure
  • Investigation procedure should be written in general form, reviewed, and approved by attorney and/or insurance company
  • Utility should designate two or more qualified employees as investigators
general notes continued
GENERAL NOTES (continued)
  • Investigators should be on a rotating 24-hour call
  • Investigative tools should be kept in a readily accessible location
  • Investigators should be trained in good photography techniques
general notes continued8
GENERAL NOTES (continued)
  • Linemen/servicemen - on call to assist in scene safety, investigation, scene preservation, and restoration of service following initial investigation
  • Utility should have agreements with fire, police, rescue, EMS services to notify utility at any time if there is suspicion that an event (fire, accident, storm, etc.) might possibly involve electrical facilities of the utility
general notes continued9
GENERAL NOTES (continued)
  • Understand accident reporting requirements by agencies (Utility Commission, OSHA, Insurance Company, etc.)
  • If an accident is reported, designated investigator(s) should be notified and should proceed to the scene as soon as possible
investigative tools
INVESTIGATIVE TOOLS
  • Camera (preferably 35mm or digital), several rolls of fresh film or digital cards, fresh batteries (avoid Polaroid-type photography, except for “back-ups”)
  • Measuring rod (insulated)
  • Air thermometer (measure in shade)
  • Cloth tape measure, folding tape measure
investigative tools continued
INVESTIGATIVE TOOLS (continued)
  • Portable tape recorder, several blank tapes
  • Evidence bags (zip-lock bags), business and/or manila envelopes, identifying stickers, tags
  • Colored markers or pens
  • Sketch pad, straightedge, shape template
  • Flagging tape
investigative tools continued12
INVESTIGATIVE TOOLS (continued)
  • Scene lighting (flashlights, spotlights or portable lighting)
  • Cell phone and/or company radio (watch what you say and who you say it to)
  • Personal protective equipment
notification response
NOTIFICATION/RESPONSE
  • Utility receives notification of accident. Document:
    • time of call
    • name and telephone number of caller
    • location of accident
    • nature of accident and possible injuries
    • type of assistance needed (fire, EMS, police, etc.)
  • Investigation/response team notified
  • Management notified
notification response continued
NOTIFICATION/RESPONSE (continued)
  • Management should notify insurance carrier as soon as practical
  • Management should report to appropriate agencies as soon as practical
at the scene
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • IS THE SCENE SAFE?
  • Secure emergency assistance, if necessary (medical, fire, police)
  • Cooperate with fire, EMS, police officials. However, work with them to ensure scene is preserved as much as practical
  • Secure the scene and ensure continued safety during accident investigation
at the scene16
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • BEGIN DOCUMENTATION:
  • WHO:
    • Victim(s)
    • Eyewitnesses
    • Employees
    • Emergency responders
  • Names, addresses, telephone numbers, employers, license numbers, etc.
  • Get narrative or statement of what happened (if witness is cooperative)
at the scene17
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • WHAT?
  • Traffic accident, contact with overhead line, information on equipment or vehicles involved, lightning, suspected electrical fire, explosion, etc.
  • Nature of injuries (electrocution, burns, shock, other medical or trauma)
at the scene18
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • WHEN:
  • When did the accident occur?
  • Night or day?
  • Police, fire dispatch, SCADA systems?
  • Weather conditions at time of accident?
    • Wind, temperature
    • National Climatic Center, Asheville, NC
    • www.ncdc.noaa.gov/
at the scene19
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • Sunrise/sunset times
    • U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington, DC
    • www.usno.navy.mil
  • Lightning data and information
    • National Lightning Detection Network
    • Managed by Vaisala
    • www.vaisala.com
at the scene20
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • WHERE:
  • Where did the accident occur?
  • Pinpoint on system maps
  • Police, EMS, fire reports are usually reliable at locating accident
  • Document roads, highways, cultural features, feeder/circuit number, nearest protective devices, voltage, conductor, phasing, etc.
at the scene21
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • WHY:
  • HOW:
  • “Why” and “How” begin to get into conclusions - avoid during scene work
  • Document the obvious
    • Crane hit line, burns on crane and conductor
    • Vehicle struck pole, broke pole, wires on vehicle
at the scene22
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • MEASUREMENTS:
  • Air temperature (thermometer in shade)
  • Clearances of all wires to ground, other structures, etc. at accident location
  • Measure clearance at poles on either side of the span (useful if a profile drawing needs to be made)
  • Span length and location in span of accident
  • Determine/measure conductor amp loading
at the scene23
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • OTHER INFORMATION:
  • Record characteristics of area
    • feeder phasing, conductor size, voltage, etc.
    • general terrain in area
    • crossing category
  • Document all equipment information
    • Pole sizes, pole classes
    • Nearest fuses, OCR’s, etc.
    • Other - vehicles, crane, other equipment
at the scene24
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • OTHER INFORMATION (continued):
  • Check and document any fuse, OCR, OCB operation(s).
    • Photograph blown fuses
    • Save fuse remnants
  • SCADA records/event logger
    • OCR/OCB operations, reclosings, times
    • voltage recorders - may document OCR operations
at the scene25
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • PRESERVING EVIDENCE:
  • Gather and tag loose evidence
    • arced ends of conductors
    • blown fuses
    • failed equipment, broken insulators, etc.
    • metal poles, pipes, other objects involved
  • Use tags or sealable bags to secure evidence
  • Record date, time, location, initials on tag
  • Keep all retained evidence in a secured, locked location (chain of custody)
at the scene26
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • PRESERVING EVIDENCE (continued):
  • If you release evidence to any party, prepare a receipt for transfer of evidence, have other party sign and date, then keep receipt
  • If another party secures evidence, make a record of who has it and where it will be stored
  • Third party testing may be indicated if equipment failure is suspected
at the scene27
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • DRAWINGS AND SKETCHES:
  • Need for a drawing or sketch based on type or magnitude of accident
  • Drawing or sketch does not need to be to scale
  • Use straightedge, shape template
  • Sketch all electrical facilities, locations of poles, services, transformers, etc.
at the scene28
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • DRAWINGS AND SKETCHES (cont’d):
  • If clearances of conductors involved, a profile sketch may be needed.
  • Sketch location of buildings, vehicles, victims (if known). Show measurements directly on sketch, where appropriate
  • Sketch location of other objects or other cultural features that may be involved
  • Don’t forget the “NORTH” arrow
at the scene29
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEOTAPING:
  • Obtain one or more good quality 35 mm or digital cameras and accessories. If necessary, get training in photography techniques
  • Keep film or memory cards and fresh batteries with the camera. Do not spare on photographs
  • Photograph scene using quadrant-convergent technique
at the scene30
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEOTAPING (cont’d):
  • Photograph all artifacts and other evidence (in situ, if possible)
  • Use folding rule in photograph field for scaling
  • If digital, download to “read only” CD as soon as practical
  • Always retain negatives. If requested, prints can be made for others
at the scene31
AT THE SCENE . . .
  • PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEOTAPING (cont’d):
  • Narration with tape recorder while photo-graphing may aid in documenting photographs.
  • Videotaping:
    • Good for overview of scene
    • Not good for detail work or low light conditions
    • Sound - on or off?
    • Never edit a videotape after taping
notes statements and reports
NOTES, STATEMENTS AND REPORTS
  • Notes - record only facts and observations. Avoid conclusions or opinions
  • Witness statements:
    • Check with attorney or insurance co. first
    • Use a portable recorder
    • Ask witness (while recording) to state his/her name, then ask if the person is aware that inter-view is being recorded and that you have the person’s permission to record. Repeat this procedure after the last interview question, prior to concluding the interview
notes statements and reports continued
NOTES, STATEMENTS AND REPORTS (continued)
    • Use “WHO-WHAT-WHEN-WHERE-WHY-HOW” sequence of questions
    • Be thorough
    • Do not ask leading questions.
    • Do not put “words in the witness’ mouth”
    • Let the witness fully answer the question before asking the next question.
    • Interview witnesses privately one at a time
  • Never edit an audiotape. Remember that your audiotape may be eventually transcribed
notes statements and reports continued34
NOTES, STATEMENTS AND REPORTS (continued)
  • Reports:
    • Write a report only when requested to do so by the insurance company or company attorney
    • Report should be comprehensive, but as brief as possible
    • Find out first who to write report to, due to “work product” laws
    • Reports should not be handwritten
    • When requested, write the report as soon as possible
notes statements and reports continued35
NOTES, STATEMENTS AND REPORTS (continued)
  • Report format:
      • What you have done and when you did it
      • Persons you talked with or interviewed
      • Documents reviewed
      • Photographs taken
      • Evidence collected
      • Other investigative activities
      • Findings
      • Disclaimer
      • Signature
      • Attachments (photos, sketches, maps, etc.)
report disclaimer
REPORT DISCLAIMER . . .
  • If used, put near the end of the report:
  • “The findings set forth in this report are based upon facts and evidence known to me as of the date of this report. Should additional facts or evidence come to my attention, I reserve the right to amend or modify the above”.
notes statements and reports continued37
NOTES, STATEMENTS AND REPORTS (continued)
  • Watch what you say and who you say it to both during the investigation and afterward.
  • Do not discuss the matter with:
    • Any unknown parties
    • Attorneys (other than company or insurance attorney)
    • Insurance adjusters or insurance representatives (except for your company insurance personnel), unless approved by company insurance company or company attorney
and finally
. . . AND FINALLY,
  • NEVER make any concessions or admissions to victims or unknown parties.
  • Be cognizant of what you say, do, or write. If a lawsuit arises, all will be discoverable.
  • Do not rely on the insurance company personnel to do the total investigation. They will need and want your expertise and input.
  • Be honest, objective and ethical in your investigation. Your personal credibility is at risk.
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