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Incident Prevention Magazine

Lito Wilkins, CUSP

My Shocking Awakening: Lessons Learned From a High-Voltage Contact


Why is this happening? It hurts! Don't let go!

These are some of the thoughts that ran through my mind on a day in late 2015 when an induction contact surged through and around my body for roughly 30 seconds. What was supposed to be a typical workday quickly turned into a fight for my life as I was held captive 130 feet in the air by an insulated optical ground wire (OPGW) charged with inducted voltage off two energized 500,000-volt circuits. Why did it happen? Did I miss the warning signs? Could the incident have been avoided?

The Event
Before we get to those questions, let me describe what happened the day of the event. I started work at 4 a.m. when I arrived at the yard early to inspect new fall protection gear before I issued it to the crew. The project that day was to replace insulators and hardware on two suspension towers on an energized 500-kV circuit using barehand work procedures. The job site was two-and-a-half hours away, and I was to drive the flatbed truck carrying the insulators to the landing zone.

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