CrossWired

by kfrego

Keeping pace with all of the electrical requirements for construction crews on a project as big as Bath County is a nightmare. You have a project distribution system to provide most facilities power. There are also many portable generators throughout the project providing temporary services to the individual remote work areas. It’s a harsh environment for the electrical equipment providing the power. Anybody can plug in a cord, but you need somebody with experience and knowledge to properly install the numerous 440 volt pumps, motors, and equipment scattered all over the project. My crews maintained and used a dozen 30 to 60 horsepower submersible dewater pumps in various excavations and locations of the project. They were provided power by a mix of overhead line power and mobile generators. Pat McCoy’s crew’s also had multiple large pump installations.

One of Pat’s installations was in a pond used to provide construction water to different areas. The 60 hp pumps were mounted in a floating metal basket with 55 gal barrels for floatation. The basket allowed the pumps to move up and down with the water level of the pond. The crew had a small rowboat to get back and forth to the basket. One of the pumps needed repair. Pat brought in a crane to exchange pumps. An electrician with an apprentice pulled out and exchanged the power cords at the disconnect a hundred feet up the hill from the pond. The electrician left the apprentice to power up the pump when Pat was ready. The crane completed the pump exchange and went on to other work. Pat and two men hooked up the pump in the basket to the discharge pipes.

When installing a 440 volt, three phase, electric motor you need to check the rotation of the motor. This is a very common task performed by all electricians. The pumps at Bath County all had arrows indicating proper rotation direction. The new pump rotation was backwards when Pat had the electrician turn it on. The apprentice turned off the power and assured Pat he could properly change the connections for rotation. Pat and the two men with him relaxed on the float while the change was made. When the apprentice was ready Pat told him to turn on the pump. Pat and the two men leaned on the metal railing looking at the pump when the 440 volt electric hit them and froze them to the railing. When the apprentice finally realized what happened he threw the disconnect to the off position. The three men on the float all fell lifeless to the metal deck. They gradually regained consciousness, but didn’t dare move for fear of being shocked again. They talked, but remained motionless until the journeyman electrician returned and verified the power was off. The boat at the float was the only access so Pat and his men had to row themselves to shore. Their only long lasting implication was all had received instant gray hair. They were back to work after a couple days rest.

We never saw the apprentice again………but I don’t think the crew killed him.

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