Refurbished Circuit Breakers in North Carolina Can Cause High Risk of Fires and Explosions Leading to Burn Injuries at Work

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a hazard alert for certain refurbished circuit breakers that have been rebuilt incorrectly by a third party. Any employee working near one of these refurbished circuit breakers is at severe risk of electrical shock, arc flashes or electrocution hazards at work in Greensboro or elsewhere. Certain molded-case circuit breakers emit a high risk of burn or other severe injuries caused by fires or explosions.
Gastonia workers’ compensation lawyers know that employers trying to cut costs by opting to use refurbished equipment need to be careful because they can put their workers at risk of severe injuries or even death when an accident occurs. Many refurbished items look brand new but may not have been rebuilt correctly.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the hazard alert after they learned from the Mine Safety and Health Administration that a third-party rebuilder slapped on 600 or 1,000 VAC covers to circuit breakers and then labeled them to look as though they were new products before selling them directly to users or indirectly through a mining supply company. The circuit breakers were originally manufactured by Eaton/Cutler-Hammer as part of its E2 mining series but were refurbished by a different company.

Workers in the mining industry may be at risk of hazards such as arc flash, electrocution and shock when the defective circuit breakers catch fire or cause a potential explosion. Safety features such as phase-to-phase fault protection or proper grounding may be lacking in the defective circuit breakers putting workers at risk of these hazards when the breaker trips. Additionally, the frames used for covers may contain tips and springs from an unknown origin and are labeled with 600 VAC or 1,000 VAC which may not be the correct identification for the defective part.

You may be wondering how workers or employers can identify the defective circuit breakers. The circuit breakers will either appear new or properly built on any frame size but the design has changed from the original manufactured look. These types of circuit breakers are used for tunneling operations or in any electrical cabinet where standalone type circuit breakers are used. The refurbished models have different cover colors than the original equipment and lack the marking of a qualified National Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) on the label or frame. These are the only two known exterior means of identifying the defective breakers. Model numbers that may be defective include the E2K or E2KM mining series breaker.

OSHA is instructing employers who may have one of the defective models to take necessary precautions and refrain from resetting the Eaton circuit breaker if it trips. Someone qualified in working with circuit breakers should shut off the power and follow proper procedures for lockout/tagout practices. Workers should be protected from voltage in the area by being prohibited from going anywhere near the circuit breaker until it has been determined that the circuit breaker is working properly and does not impose a threat for electrocution or fire hazards.

Contact the NRTL Program if you have questions or concerns about defective circuit breakers manufactured by Eaton. Call 1-202-693-2300 or email

Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. if you or someone close to you has been injured at work or needs to file a workers’ compensation or disability claim. We offer free consultations to injured workers in North Carolina, including Greensboro, Charlotte, Gastonia and the surrounding areas so call 1-800-887-1965 to discuss your case today.

More Blog Entries:
OSHA’s ‘Picture It: Safe Workplaces for Everyone’ Contest Winner From Charlotte, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, December 14, 2011.

Grain Elevator Explosions Put Workers at Risk of Burn and Other Injuries,North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 7, 2011.

Circuit Breakers a Workplace Hazard Leading to Electrocution Injuries of North Carolina Workers, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, September 20, 2011.

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