Hello, I am Reynaldo Gomez, a safety specialist with the Department of Labor & Industries, Division of Occupational Safety and Health. In September, 2012, I investigated an incident where a 31 year old irrigation worker was electrocuted when he contacted an overhead power line with a long section of irrigation pipe.
The worker went out early in the morning to perform some irrigation work in an alfalfa field next to a trellis orchard. He was working alone. † †The worker drove the farm tractor to the location of the irrigation wheel lines. † The irrigation system risers which provide water to the sprinklers were located under the power lines shown in this photo. The height of these seventy six hundred volt electrical wires was 27 feet. † † †
The 29 foot long irrigation pipe needed to be hooked into the irrigation system riser. To accomplish that, the worker up-ended the aluminum irrigation pipe, and either hit the line or got so close that caused the 7600v conducter to arc with the pipe. †
These photos show the burn marks on the irrigation pipe where it contacted the power line, sending high voltage surging down the irrigation pipe and into the workerís body. When the worker failed to show up at the shop later that morning, another worker was sent out to search for him. He found him laying unresponsive on the ground next to the irrigation pipe. Paramedics were called but they were unable to revive him.
The employer was cited for storing irrigation pipe under power lines and not addressing the hazards of workers handling irrigation pipe near power lines. After this incident, the employer removed all irrigation valve risers from under the power line and initiated training of their employees about the hazards of handling irrigation pipe near power lines. Letís keep Washington safe and working by storing irrigation pipe 100 feet or more away from power lines, and training all irrigation workers to keep long irrigation pipes at least 10 feet away from power lines.