Safety Minute: Vehicle Accidents

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Electrical safety tips from Safety and Environmental Compliance Specialist David Young

Mistakes can happen to anyone. On September 12, just after noon, a vehicle accident created a widespread outage. A longtime grain delivery driver, making a regular delivery to a farm and who had done this routine countless times, became distracted. He moved the grain delivery truck without lowering the auger.

A utility pole may carry telephone cables, fiber optic cables, and at the top of the pole, electric transmission and/or distribution lines. The auger first caught a telephone cable. The cable has a steel cable in it, which pushed up the auger. The pole held two different electric circuits: transmission and distribution. The auger shorted out a total of seven wires and the pole broke.

The driver heard a pop and stopped the truck. At first he thought he hit a tree, so he climbed out of the truck before he realized the electric wires were down. Luckily, our protective equipment shut off the lines. If one of the circuits had stayed energized, the vehicle might have become energized. If he had touched the vehicle and the ground at the same time, he might have been electrocuted.

This kind of accident happens with excavators, dump trucks, passenger vehicles running into poles, or when individuals cut trees that fall on the line. Here’s what to do if you are in a vehicle and there is damage to electric wires:

  1. Do not leave the vehicle. Call for help.
  2. If you are a witness, do not approach the vehicle. Stay more than 50 feet away. Encourage anyone inside to stay in the vehicle. Call emergency services.
  3. If the vehicle becomes engulfed in flames, jump – do not step – clear of the vehicle. When you are in the vehicle, you are like a bird on a wire. If the vehicle is energized and you touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time, your body will become a circuit for electricity.
  4. If you must jump clear of the vehicle, shuffle until you are more than 50 feet away. The ground may also be energized. Breaking and reintroducing contact with the ground by stepping will make your body a circuit.

Members can request safety presentations from David Young for their school, organization, or community group. Contact him at 802-224-2340 or