Department of Public Works Employee Electrocuted Attempting to Read a Water Meter Located Behind an Apartment Boiler


On June 30, 2003, a 37-year-old male Department of Public Work employee was electrocuted while attempting to read a water meter that was located behind an apartment boiler. The boiler room was lit by one overhead 40-watt light bulb. The meter was located near ground level. There was approximately a two-foot gap between the boiler and the back wall. He placed his water meter logbook on top of the boiler. The boiler's low water cutoff switch was bracketed on a water pipe near the boiler. It is unknown if the switch cover was on the switch when the victim tried to maneuver between the water pipes and the boiler to read the water meter. During his attempt to read the water meter, he contacted exposed, 120-volt energized low water cut-off switch terminals with his right chest. Following contact with the terminals, he collapsed and became wedged between vertical pipes coming from the boiler. The low water cutoff switch cover was found hanging under the victim's chest. A cigarette lighter was found on the floor under the body. A screwdriver, not the type used by DPW employees, and a small metal screw was found near the victim's body. He was found by an apartment complex resident who alerted an apartment complex employee. The apartment complex employee contacted 911. The power company was notified and turned the power off to the boiler room. The victim was declared dead at the scene.

It is imperative that inspectors, installers, repair personnel, owners and operators use extreme caution when working around boilers and pressure vessels. Even though it may seem that equipment is not in operation and not a danger, an energized control such as this one may prevent a person from going home to his or her family. Help prevent this sort of tragedy.