As the electrical contractor (hired to restore electrical service):

1. I would instruct my crew foreman to take as many pictures of the damaged gear as possible, before proceeding with any work.
2. Since there were no fatalities, I would assume that no local law enforcement agency would be conducting any investigations. However, before proceeding with any repairs, I would provide the owner with the written scope of work and have him/her sign the waiver of any liabilities be borne on my company, and resulted directly from any third party claims of “evidence spoliation.”
3. I would ask my foreman to write up his/her own assessment of what happened and keep this for the record.
4. I would testify to the local OSHA office about the accident.

As the forensic engineer:
1. After arriving at the site I would ask the crew foreman to stop the work so that I could take pictures of the damaged equipment.
2. I would allow the repairs to proceed at the current pace.
3. I would ask the crew foreman to save all the damaged parts removed from the switchboard.
4. So far as my investigation is concerned, I would ask/verify the following:
a. Verify exact scope of work performed at this location by the injured electrician.
b. Justify necessity of terminating the new wiring inside “energized equipment."
c. Determine whether de-energizing was ever considered.
d. Verify whether the original electrician was really qualified to perform the work? Did he have proper safety equipment in place (i.e. rubber blankets, pads, gloves, face shield, headphones, non-combustible clothing)? Did he follow common safety procedures? Were there any signs of the direct cause of the flash?
5. I would interview the injured electrician and witnesses.

My opinion:
There are many variables that could cause this accident to take place. Usually, such unfortunate incidents result from lack of proper safety procedures and lack of experience. Work on energized circuits should be performed only when absolutely necessary. I’m sure that power shut down after business hours was available to the original contractor, and it could have been arranged.

Max Seagal
SASCO Electric
Newbury Park, CA

Read on for the next letter.