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Armstrong workplace death deemed accidental

The workplace death of an Armstrong teenager in 2011 has officially been declared accidental.

Provincial coroner Andrew Cave reported that Cullen James Rowan, 18, died of electrocution while at work in Armstrong on Sept. 22, 2011.

Cave said Rowan had completed preparing a scissor lift and moving it to the back of the work yard where there were six high-voltage electrical power lines and a neutral conductor line running parallel with the rear fence.

“Normal practice would have been to raise the lift to its full height using the ground control panel,” said Cave in his three-page report. “For an undetermined reason, Mr. Rowan had raised the lift while on its platform (using a hand-held control).”

A witness to the incident saw Rowan on the elevated platform on the lift, and stated that “it appeared as if he was moving his right arm in a defensive manner.”

“There was a loud bang and a bright flash, and Mr. Rowan collapsed onto the platform of the lift,” said Cave.

Two other people witnessed the accident, staff was alerted and 911 was called.

Cave said an exam of the power lines showed Rowan had come into close proximity of one of the 25,000 volt distribution lines, and that a flashover – an electrical arc passing through the air conducting through him and the lift to ground – had occurred.

“A distance of approximately 2.5 centimetres from Mr. Rowan’s hand to the line would have been sufficient for the electricity to flashover,” said Cave.

WorkSafeBC investigated and discovered Rowan had been employed at the yard for slightly more than two months. His training was primarily given through verbal direction as each new task was encountered.

“Interviews with other employees indicated that there was a general understanding of the dangers surrounding the raising of machinery near the power lines,” said Cave.

The required minimum distance between any object and the power lines was three metres.

One operator positioned below the power lines told investigators that there were no visual reference points to establish how close the power lines were, making a misjudgment of distance possible.

WorkSafeBC has provided direction to the employer in regard to increasing training and awareness of hazards.

 

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