For Safety's Sake
December 1966 QST Article
is a story with a lesson learned by the author and thousands of others ever since electric power
appliances and tools first became available. Fortunately, his Ham buddy was not permanently harmed,
but even today with all the effort put into educating the public, people continue to use ungrounded
(2-wire type, or with the ground prong removed)
extension cords in conjunction with 3-wire power cords on tools and end up electrocuting themselves (or somebody
else). I've told the story before about a friend of mine from high school who shortly after graduation
was making a piece of furniture in a garage that had a damp dirt floor, and was electrocuted
to death by the
metal-framed circular saw that had no ground connected. Nowadays we often have power provided
by a GFCI receptacle when working outdoors or under a house, but I sure would not rely on it performing
properly in lieu of taking prudent safety precautions. Hopefully you don't, either.
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the
ARRL's QST magazine. Here is a list of the
QST articles I have already posted. As time permits, I will
be glad to scan articles for you. All copyrights (if any) are hereby acknowledged.
For Safety's Sake
By H. W. Morgan, M.D.,* K0JTP
quad had been in the air for six year and needed to be checked over. K0IDN, a nearby ham friend,
provided a gin pole and enough rope from his hay-lift equipment to lower the quad for inspection.
I knew there was a loose connection somewhere in the system as a high wind caused an intermittent
make and break in the signals.
I usually hire a professional climber to do my high work,
ever since I spent a summer vacation in the hospital as a result of a flag pole breaking with
me at the age of 16. However, two young hams, Tom and Cap, volunteered to do the climbing for
me. A safety belt was provided and a safety rope was rigged for the second climber.
quad came down easily. We had thought about that when we put it up; only two bolts twisted off
in the removal process and these were easily replaced. The bad connection was found to be a coax
fitting which had been improperly soldered.
A slight modification had to be made to the
yoke supporting the quad boom. The old yoke was removed and replaced with a new one. This necessitated
the drilling of four holes in a floor-flange bearing plate attached to the upper end of the pipe
used in rotating the quad from the ground. The two boys accomplished this, working together at
the top of the tower with a quarter-horse electric drill powered by a heavy-duty extension cord.
Three of the four holes had been drilled and the bolts inserted with Tom working alone at the
top of the tower when the accident happened.
Cap and I were on our backs on the ground
watching the procedure when a cry came from Tom at the top of the tower. Being a physician, I
first thought that Tom was an epileptic and had suffered an epileptic attack. Cap, however, was
an old lineman and shouted that it appeared Tom had been electrocuted. Fortunately, he was mistaken.
For an old man I really made time around the corner of the house, fell as I made the turn, but
was able to grab the extension cord close enough to the plug to remove it, even while I was falling.
Tom immediately dropped the drill which he had been unable to release before that time. I insisted
that he wait at the top of the tower before unhooking the safety belt until George could climb
up to help him. He made it down without difficulty and within thirty minutes was back at the top
of the tower helping replace the quad. There was not even a burn on his hand which held the drill,
or on his feet where he was in contact with the tower except for a pair of tennis shoes. What
The drill is a heavy-duty job and is provided with a ground wire but this
was not used, since the extension cord was a 2-wire type. The drill was all of 25 years old and
the ground wire had long since broken off at the plug end. Only a short length remained of the
ground cord and this was doubled up inside the plug. I had tested the drill on the previous day,
using the same long extension cord at the base of the tower, and the boys had drilled several
holes on this occasion without experiencing any difficulty. In checking the drill immediately
after the accident, I found the ground wire exposed and in close proximity to one of the rivets
holding a plug contact in place. It is possible that the ground wire touched this rivet and the
polarity was such that the metal case of the drill was on the hot side of the line. My wife also
told me that during the time we were working, the electric current in the house went off at least
twice for a few seconds. Remodeling of the substation supplying our power is in progress and it
was thought that this was responsible for the interruption.
What can be learned from this
near-fatal accident? First, never work alone. Have someone on the ground capable of disconnecting
any electric circuit. You have four minutes in which to restore circulation to the brain either
by cardiac massage or artificial respiration. Otherwise, brain damage will result even though
life may be restored. Second, a safety belt or rope must be used. Heavy tools, such as the electrical
drill, should be secured with a line, too. Last but not least, remember that a trusted tool may
develop a defect.
My new extension cord is a 3-wire cord and the few remaining 2-wire plugs
in my home, shop, and ham shack will soon be converted, for safety's sake.