Circuit Breakers a Workplace Hazard Leading to Electrocution Injuries of North Carolina workers

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an alert cautioning employers and workers about the dangers of certain molded-case rebuilt circuit breakers from Eaton/Cutler-Hammer. These circuit breakers have model numbers E²KM and E²K and were rebuilt incorrectly which can cause them to malfunction.

Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers in Charlotte know that defective circuit breakers can cause fires, burns, explosions, shock, electrocution and arc flashes.
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It is unknown how many defective units are out there and identifying them is difficult since they look like new or seem properly rebuilt. The manufacturer’s specs were changed by the third party rebuilder.

The original Eaton/Cutler-Hammer breakers were part of their E² mining series. The easiest method to determine if you have one of these defective units is to feel with your finger the square portion of the cover near where the circuit breaker handle is.

If this area is very smooth, you most likely have a defective unit. The circuit breaker, if in use, must be taken out of service immediately. The OSHA alert explains that inaccurate voltage ratings are on the covers of the rebuilt circuit breakers.

Since the covers don’t meet manufacturer’s specs, they may lack safety features like fault and grounding protection to avoid electrical burns, fires and shocks. This presents an extreme risk for injuries to workers in North Carolina using these devices.

A specific instruction to employers on what to do if they have any E²K and E²KM breakers is in the alert. Employers must have an experienced person shut the power off to the breakers, adhere to proper lockout/tagout protocols, and take out of service any defective breaker and swap it with one that is Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) certified.

Even though the E²K and E²KM circuit breakers are meant to be utilized in mining operations, OSHA understands company’s engaged in tunneling operations may buy the same circuit breakers. It is an OSHA requirement that workplaces use OSHA-approved NRTL certified circuit breakers.

Stay safe when working around electricity:

Safety reminders with extension cords -Never modify cords.
-Always use extension cords that are the 3-wire type.
-Use strain relief fittings, cords and connection devices.
-Never unplug a cord by pulling on the cord.

Electrical Equipment
-Use GFCI’s (ground-fault circuit interrupters) on all single-phase, 120-volt, 15 and 20 amp receptacles.
-Use clearly identified double-insulated equipment and tools.
-Check all electrical equipment prior to using. Take out of service any equipment that has missing ground prongs, frayed cords or cracked tool casings.

Overhead and Buried Power Lines -Always look for overhead and buried power line indicators.
-Always assume that power lines are live and stay at a minimum of 10 feet away from overhead lines.
-When working near power lines ground or de-energize them.
-Never use metal ladders around power lines, use fiberglass or non-conductive wood ladders.

And always remember if the power goes out and you are using a generator never bring it inside. Always turn off the main circuit breaker while the generator is in use and make sure the generator is cool prior to refueling.

If you have been injured in a workplace accident or have a workers’ compensation claim, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. for assistance regarding your case. Call 1-800-887-1965 for a free initial consultation to discuss your case today.

Additional Resources:

More Fatal Work Injuries Reported in North Carolina in 2010 Compared to Last Year, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, September 5, 2011.

Power Tools Often Cause Workplace Injuries to North Carolina Workers, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, June 15, 2011.

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