Introduction; Some History. [back to the beginning]
February 22nd 1994, Lloyd Alfred "Al" Battle, on assignment for CNN, was
killed after he raised the mast of his ENG
van into a 19,900 volt power line. Reportedly he was in a rush to get a signal back to the network, as he had been kicked out
of a planned transmission location in a parking lot of a courthouse by a management representative. The time to set up the
needed signal was running short.
There were also reports that indicated the people who were at the network's signal receive location, producers and
assignment desk people, were very anxious about getting the shot in, creating or elevating a previously existing level of tension.
Because of the tragedy, the live shot never happened. An EMT created a very abbreviated site report which stated that
Battle had no pulse, was not breathing, and his feet were off. Al Battle died while in a rush to transmit a newsfeed of a couple
walking down the stairs after their arraignment on espionage charges. The effect of this feed being transmitted a few minutes
later, if he had taken the time, or had been given the time to move the truck, presumably would have been better than what
Battle was not the first ENG technician injured or killed performing his or her duty. Perhaps his characteristic of being the
most experienced technician in his company was somewhat unique, though. Al was reportedly a 20 year, experienced industry
veteran. What also might be labeled as unique was that Al Battle's death was demonstrated in a way which had not been
demonstrated previously; It was videotaped.
What the tape shows is Al's van parked on the same side of the road where the power company had run their overhead high
voltage power lines, just like the lines on so many streets in many communities. The road also had a crown in it, meaning that the
center of the road was higher than the sides in order to facilitate water drainage. The crown tilted the truck enough so that the
mast, on the street side of the van's roof, actually angled closer to the wires as it raised.
Al was setting up in clear, daylight conditions. In fact, if just anybody were to look at the tape, it would be hard to explain
how anybody could purposely put an aluminum mast somewhere between 30 and 60 feet in the air into the very obvious
overhead high voltage power lines. The explosion footage had wild-sound of the electrical arcing underneath and one observer
saying, "Is Al still in there? God damn..........." The scene was captured in a way from which we stand obligated to learn.
And that's the situation in so many of the ENG accidents. Many people have done something which NOBODY with some
basic education about the hazards of that activity would do, once they have learned what it can do. Some of us have learned
afterwards, only because we have been exposed to the information.
The purpose of this paper is to illustrate issues involved in ENG safety in order to show the reader that the industry, namely
employers AND employees, have an obligation to pass on easily learned information, and prevent senseless tragedies.
As of the writing of this paper in April, 1998, there has never been an accident involving a person with documented education
of laws regarding the use of elevated structures near power lines. Federal law requires that employees who are operating
equipment with capability to reach overhead high voltage lines need to be familiar with such laws. (Code of Federal Regulations
(CFR) 29 1910.268) It is also part of the law that the training needs to be documented. In virtually all of the accidents involving
power lines, citations mention violation of CFR29 -1910.268. In this authors definition, an event cannot be deemed an accident
if untrained people are operating equipment, as injuries are contingencies of untrained operators. Accidents are unexpected
events. More on this follows.
Finding an answer through past experience.
It can be stated accurately that if a person is given a device that he
or she has little or no knowledge of the characteristics of
use, then allowed frequent exposure with motivation to use the device with little nor no restriction, faulty operation will result. If
the faulty use of the device is potentially harmful to that person or others, that contact can and eventually will result in harming
that person, or others.
This sounds extraordinarily cumbersome, but bear with this. If a young child were given a razor blade and encouraged to
wave it around and play with it, undoubtedly the result would be some sort of injury, either to the child or a person simply in the
area, perhaps trying to help. If the child were shown a videotape, or had other means of practical demonstration of proper and
improper use of the device, the child would probably understand concepts of use and misuse of the blade. The child would also
probably pick up some sort of knowledge which could be transformed into what might be considered good, or at least better,
operating habits. Maybe the child would become afraid or respectful of sharp blades.
It has been proven by accidents, such as that of Al Battle's unfortunate circumstance, that the possibility of an ENG truck
operator taking as long as one to four minutes to raise an aluminum conductive telescopic pole into contact a high voltage line is
a reality. If it was an obvious hazard to operators involved in these accidents before the accident, it probably would not have
been repeated as many times as it has in ENG truck/power line accident history.
As stated earlier, Al Battle's was not the first death. A truck operator in Bakersfield California was killed in the mid 80's. His
story, to this day remains untold, except to a few. Cara Crosby, a technician for an east coast station, was injured severely in
the same period of time, as was Don Hayford, who lost both legs in an overhead high voltage line incident. Don has graced the
effort for ENG safety by telling his story for publication. The one comment Don made which outlined the one aspect of the
industry's mindset was the last thought he had before reaching into the truck to try and rectify the fact that the mast of his truck
was in contact with lines. Don said, "Running away is not the first thing I thought about, You get in trouble for screwing up your
truck." Moving to rectify the situation represented the last voluntary move Don made on the legs he was born with.
Don was lucky, though. He lived. Another person involved in a similar circumstance did not. Andrew Austin died in
Greenville Mississippi after the mast on his truck contacted power lines. Andrew was the second employee at his station to lose
his life in an electrical accident within a three month period. Could you imagine a station that lost two employees to electrical
accidents and the only thought process which the second one was aware was that he didn't do the same electrical work the first
one did, so he wasn't in danger? At least that's what Andrew Austin told his mother when she expressed concern about
Andrew's exposure to electrical dangers at his workplace.
Shortly after Andrew's accident there was another which will be the concentration topic of the next section of this paper.
An incredible incident which has presented the industry with (almost) a full cycle of information.
David Bingham and Kimberly Arms were reporters and photographers for a
central US medium-sized market station, WOI
in Des Moines, Iowa. In their roles they were called on to perform microwave truck transmission work as well as that required
to report a story.
Most people in broadcasting would consider the mix of the two roles very demanding. Others commented that at the very
least, the dual roles would be distracting.
David and Kimberly were sent to perform a "location" live shot, sometimes labeled as "live for the sake of live," at a church
where there had been recent burglaries. David, according to published accounts, had minimal training on live truck operation
from the station's chief photographer, and was only officially guided, according to legal documents, by a station policy in which
were the written instructions "Always avoid power lines and overhead obstructions" when operating the ENG truck.
Kimberly was given about the same level and type of instruction. She had also expressed apprehension about operating the
truck, and was unsure of many aspects of its operation. Typical of most ENG operators, she was never given a copy of the
operations manual for the vehicle by her station, a move which might have given her more information. The reason that points
regarding the amount of training she was given is somewhat vague is that there was never any documentation of instructions,
course materials, trainer, or training regimen, per the Federal Regulations mentioned earlier. There was also no comprehensive
testing so an instructor could evaluate what Kimberly really knew, or got out of any training her station says she had.
From reports and interviews, it appeared as if David was raising the mast of the live truck after parking it under a 13,000 volt
wire on the same side of the street as the "telephone" poles. A 60,000 volt wire was on the next higher tier of power wires. Two
operators on site and neither looked up, were terribly distracted and too busy, or just forgot.
When the mast made contact with the lower power line, David, who was standing on the ground, most probably in contact
with the mast raise lever, and, undoubtedly, other parts of the vehicle, grounded the charge from the overhead wires which
flowed through the mast and the van, then through his body. Power lines are full of utility company power and their commitment
to keep power running. A minor moment of additional demand on the lines usually doesn't matter much, or create enough of a
problem for protection circuit breakers to kick in. David was severely burned, with arc burns visible on his right forearm and
hand heavily blistered. Typical of many victims of an electrical shock, he was thrown clear of the path of conduction.
Kimberly was aware of what happened and did what emotion, not proper judgment or training, would have dictated. She ran
to David's aid. At some point, she was either a victim of what power companies call "step and touch," a phenomenon where
grounded voltage causes concentric circles of uneven voltage in the ground in the area of the electrical contact, or she made
actual contact with the van. If Kimberly stepped between two concentric rings of differing voltage on the ground, her legs might
have stopped working as voltage surged up her legs and surprised her nervous system, perhaps taking her off balance, and her
"rescue" momentum keeping her moving towards the truck. If she made actual contact, she, like David, would have grounded
the 13,000 volts. A small amount of hair left on the center catch of the van's side doors and burn marks on the curb left a
macabre clue of the horror experienced in the incident.
Whatever way it happened, Kimberly and David's lives changed irreversibly in those few moments.
Another person at the scene, a young adolescent named Stephen Myers, responded
to the horror he witnessed; Two human
beings on the ground, visibly suffering, and on fire. He did what he thought was best, as Kimberly did. Stephen ran over to the
scene, took an article of clothing and placed it on the burning flesh of David and Kimberly to snuff out the fires. I've watched
the videotape of this incident and Stephen's account many times, once with three experienced safety professionals from an
electric company. Nobody knows why Stephen Myers was not injured, as his contact with David and Kimberly should have
been cause for injury.
We'll touch more on the role Stephen might have played with regard to this incident a bit later in the paper.
Another person came upon the scene after hearing the calls for help on police scanners in her news car. Sarah Strom, a
photographer for another station drove up and immediately knew what was happening. She knew there was an accident, saw
the van with its mast up in the wires, and knew what to do. Sarah immediately left her vehicle and screamed for people to stay
clear of the van and get away. Sarah had the benefit of attending the 1996 Newsvideo Workshop in Oklahoma and hearing a
presentation by this author regarding ENG safety. Her minimal exposure to safety information allowed her to understand the
danger. The small addition to her technical "vocabulary" was sufficient for her to react in a way which saved her life, and
perhaps those of others. This reasoning lies in direct contrast to Kimberly's, or that of any typically untrained person. If
Kimberly knew to stay away, and did, this incident would have been recognized as another of the industry's close calls, where a
person was severely injured, but not killed. It was the seriousness of her injuries which made this incident so spectacular.
Historically, in many accident situations, injuries sustained by the second person in are worse than those to the first. Perhaps it is
emotion or distraction which fogs objective thought processes, and allows for actions which, when reviewed in a calmer
atmosphere, are deemed incorrect.
Another person who had been exposed to The Workshop's ENG safety presentation knew how important the issue is, and
expressed some reasoning regarding its potential cause.
"I saw your presentation at the NPPA Newsvideo Workshop last March. With all you've done to train field crews about
ENG masts and power lines, I thought would like to know about an accident that happened yesterday in Des Moines.
The unbelievable has happened here. It has shaken everyone.
Two "photojournalists"(really reporters with cameras) for WOI raised their mast into a 13,000-volt power line. Both of them
survived. David Bingham, who was raising the mast, is in serious condition. Kimberly Arms, who rushed to his aid, is in critical
Both Kimberly and David were at WOI for about three months when the accident happened. They are a part of the station's
new "one man band" staffing. Over time, most of the photographers will be replaced by reporter/photographers. The station is
known for having a bare-bones, slash and burn management style. Apparently they slashed the training budget too."
Another letter received within a short time of the WOI incident was from the point of view of another who was closer to the
"My name is Brian Weiss and I'm the producer at WOI-TV in Des Moines.
I thought I've seen it all when our tape operator suffered a seizure right in the middle of the newscast a couple of months ago.
But that was nothing compared to what happened to me last week. Last Wednesday night, I'm sitting around waiting for the
newscast to start. It was 5:30 and I just printed scripts. The first call on scanners was for an "unknown problem" at 47th and
Franklin. "That's odd", I told my anchor. "47th and Franklin is where Kim (Arms) and Dave (Bingham) are doing their live shot
from." I ran over to the radio. Nothing. I ran in the control room to see if a signal was established. Nothing. It was as I was
walking out that I heard it on the scanner. Electrocution. Their mast touched a live power line. Two of my closest and dearest
friends at the station were lying on the ground.... 13,200 volts of electricity running through their bodies.
From that moment, my life has been a living hell.
I pass along this story because it is something that shouldn't have happened. Something that I wish will never happen to
anyone or their co-workers again. Sometimes you forget how dangerous this job can be. Well here's a reminder.......
Thousands of live shots take place everyday. They've become routine. So how many take the time to think about what
they're doing? How many rush to get things on "first"? Is a story worth your life? How about the agony you're going to put your
family, friends and co-workers through? I'm probably as guilty as the next person, but sometimes you need to step back and
use that thing attached to your shoulders."
The first step regarding using "that thing attached to your shoulders"
is to learn the characteristics of any equipment you are
dealing with, including potential dangers. That's why laws exist regarding training....somebody has been there before, and after
their incident, or with great foresight, laws were created to try and save the next person.
The EMT's who responded to the call of the WOI mishap knew pretty much what was lying ahead of them. EMT's are
trained for electrical mishaps in the same manner to which they are trained regarding other burn victims. Electrical injuries are
usually just that - burn injuries, unless the force of the voltage also knocked the victim into another catastrophic circumstance.
Upon arrival the EMT's found Dave Bingham burned, in shock, but responsive. They lifted him to a stretcher. There was time
to perform an assessment of his condition as EMT's are trained to do. He was stabilized, packed up, and brought to an
ambulance for transport to the hospital.
Kim was in very grave condition, unconscious and unresponsive. The EMT's didn't bother with any large scale assessment,
aside from the fact that it appeared as if her head had been part of the contact path for the 13,000 volts, the worst condition for
any electrical injury. They lifted her limp body and simply carried her to an ambulance. Any additional injury from not isolating
her body on a board or stretcher was secondary, her life, or what life was left, was in question. The full extent of her injuries
would not be known for some time, as it was more than a month before she would regain consciousness.
The following text is from the Department of Energy's Occupational Safety and Health information pages, accessible on the
internet, and describes the effects of electrical injuries.
"Electric Shock - Biological
If a direct contact is made with an electrically energized part while a similar contact is made simultaneously with another
conductive surface that is maintained at a different electrical potential, a current will flow through the body. The effects of
electric current on the human body can vary, depending on the following:
Circuit characteristics (current, resistance, frequency, and voltage) (60 Hz is the worst frequency). Contact and internal
resistance of the body, the current's pathway through the body. duration of the contact, environmental conditions affecting the
body's contact resistance.
In electrocution, the most damaging route of electricity is through the chest cavity or brain. Ventricular fibrillation of the heart
(stopping of rhythmic pumping action) can be initiated by a current flow of 75 milliamps or greater for 5 seconds or more
through the chest cavity of a 150 pound (68.2 kg) person. Nearly instantaneous fatalities can result from either direct paralysis
of the respiratory system, failure of rhythmic pumping action, or immediate heart stoppage. Even if the current does not pass
through the vital organs or nerve center, severe injuries, such as deep internal burns, can still occur.
Burns suffered in electrical accidents can be of three basic types: electrical burns, arc burns, and thermal contact burns. In
electrical burns, tissue damage (whether skin deep or deeper) is caused by the heat from the current flow. The body is unable
to dissipate this heat. Typically, electrical burns are slow to heal. Arc burns, caused by electric arcs, are heat burns similar to
burns from high-temperature sources. The temperatures generated by electric arcs can melt material nearby, vaporize metal in
close vicinity, and burn flesh and ignite clothing at distances up to 10 feet (3 meters). Lastly, thermal contact burns are those
normally experienced from the skin's contact with hot surfaces of
overheated electric conductors.
Electric shock currents, even at 3 to 10 milliamps, can also cause injuries of an indirect or secondary nature through
involuntary muscle reactions. In this case, the involuntary muscle reaction to the electric shock can cause bruises, bone
fractures, and even death resulting from collisions or falls.
Damage to the internal tissues may not be immediately apparent after contact with the current. Internal tissue swelling and
irritation are also possible. Prompt medical attention can help minimize these effects and avoid possible death."
An electrical injury, more often than not, is forever.
Nearing the end of this story?
David eventually returned to work at WOI in a somewhat restricted condition, typical of burn victims. Kimberly, far more
seriously injured, never did, and moved away from the area. Both are facing years of rehabilitation and consideration of their
WOI was cited and fined by Iowa's OSHA. (IOSHA, or IOSH) The following passages were put together as part of an
article submitted to Television Broadcast magazine regarding the citations, and the response by the Attorney representing WOI.
The full article appeared in the March 1998 issue. The intent of the response letter is to lower the fines WOI was dealt as a
result of citations after the WOI accident. Basically, the reasoning in the letter prevailed, and fines to WOI were lowered.
However, the lesson contained might give all employees and freelancers more reason to be careful. Part of the lesson appears to
be that if you are injured in an ENG accident, your station or broadcast group can say that anything which can be described as
communication can be considered training, effective, comprehended, or not. Good corporations have good lawyers to lower
fines, rid the station or broadcast group of any liabilities, and save the company money. That's what their relationship with the
station is all about. WOI's attorney is one of those good lawyers, and undoubtedly many corporations have similar great talent
on their side in the corporation's legal "spin control" office. Above all, the law works to save the employer, as the employer
serves a greater good than most any single individual. When there is an incident and the company acknowledges that it feels
sorry, has learned a lesson, and will improve, it is enough to hold off, or lower, hefty fines.
First of all, the fines to WOI were based on the following, per IOSH:
Item #1) No certification of training maintained. Serious Violation. $1375.00
Item #2) Safety related work practices were not employed to prevent electrical shock or other injuries resulting from either
direct or indirect electrical contacts, when work was performed near or on equipment or circuits which were or could be
energized. Serious Violation. $1375.00
Item #3) Vehicles or mechanical equipment capable of having parts of its structure elevated near energized overhead lines
were not operated so that a clearance of 10 feet (305 cm) was maintained. Serious Violation. $1375.00
Total fines $4125.00.
Excerpts of the letter which eventually affected the fines are as follows. With all due respect to Capitol Communications,
WOI's parent company, WOI, and their attorney's, the text is edited to its more salient points, as the letter is just over 5 pages
long. There is no intent to alter the reasoning involved, but simply to portray the point of view that, in a manipulated sense of
law, an ENG operator's last clear chance to avoid an incident is one in which the penalty of not, might be a lifelong ordeal with
From the letter:
"Based on our telephone conference with [IOSHA] this week, IOSHA and WOI-TV seem to agree that Citation number 1,
item 1 should be classified as other-than-serious and that Citation 1, Item 2 should be withdrawn. We therefore address
Citation 1, Item 3, which states: Vehicles or mechanical equipment capable of having parts of its structure elevated near
energized overhead lines were not operated so that a clearance of 10 feet (305 cm) was maintained.
"IOSHA cannot prevail on a citation based on violation of clearance distances."
"IOSHA's position seems to be that, because the mast of the live van contacted the power line, there must be a violation of a
clearance distance requirement for which WOI-TV, as the employer, is responsible. This approach reflects nothing short of
strict liability, and is contrary to the federal and Iowa OSH acts.
"To prove a prima facia case, IOSHA must prove that WOI-TV had actual or constructive knowledge of its employees'
violative behavior. (non-TV industry case cited).......This requires proof that WOI-TV actually knew, or with the exercise of
reasonable diligence, could have known of the actions of its employees at the accident site.
"Applying these principles to the facts here, it is clear that IOSHA cannot prevail. No supervisor was present when Mr.
Bingham and Ms. Arms parked the live van under plainly visible electric power transmission lines and then inexplicably raised
the mast (which you witnessed moves very slowly) into contact with those lines. Mr, Bingham and Ms. Arms were not
supervisors. They had no authority to hire, fire, or direct the work of other employees. Nor was one even "in charge" of or
meaningfully senior to the other. They had identical job descriptions as photojournalists and were to work together. As
photojournalists, their roles were interchangeable: They were equally capable of performing as "talent" before the camera or of
serving as a photographer.
"There was no requirement or need for a supervisor to be present. First, Mr. Bingham and Ms. Arms were on a routine
assignment. They were set up for a "live shot" to be broadcast during WOI-TV's 6:00pm. newscast. They arrived at the site at
5:15p.m., in plenty of time to establish a link with the station's signal-receiving tower in Alleman and prepare for the broadcast.
As discussed below, they were thoroughly trained, experienced, and qualified for their work, so there was no reason for
WOI-TV to anticipate that they needed on-site supervision.
"It is well settled that there is no per se rule that employees must be supervised at all times. In New York State Electric and
Gas, the company was cited because two employees operating a jackhammer failed to wear safety glasses. The company
contended that it lacked knowledge of the violative conduct, because neither employee was a supervisor.
"The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) did not decide whether the employees were
supervisors, but held that if neither one was, then the Company's safety program was per se defective because adequate
supervision was lacking. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected this analysis, and remanded the
case to OSHRC with directions to analyze the employers defense "without applying a per se rule that a safety policy is
inadequate unless employees are under constant supervision." 17 BNA OSHC at 1659. "Insisting that each employee be under
continual supervisor surveillance is a patently unworkable burden on employers," the court said. Id at 658. The court further
stated: [Under the Act...the Commission [may] only require a reasonable policy and...does not impose absolute liability. The
Commission may not, however, infer that the employer's safety policy is inadequate because an employee worked at a field site
where no supervisor was present.
"Thus, Mr. Bingham and Ms. Arms' knowledge of their own violative behavior in elevating the mast into power lines is NOT
imputable to WOI-TV. To sustain Citation 1, Item 3, therefore, IOSHA must prove that WOI-TV had constructive knowledge
of the violative behavior. This IOSHA cannot do. As we will show at trial, if necessary, WOI-TV had a sound safety program
that promoted compliance with the station's rules about avoiding power lines, not to mention raising a mast near power lines."
The letter goes on to describe how WOI-TV had "a sound safety program aimed at assuring avoidance of all overhead
obstructions, including power lines." It also describes how [the] Chief Photographer is very experienced in live van operation
and went through "every step, start to finish, involved in raising the mast. He also ensured that Mr. Bingham and Ms. Arms were
observed to see that they performed all functions correctly and safely."
Again from the letter: "More importantly, [the Chief Photographer] stressed during the training that the question of whether a
mast may contact a power line should never arise because parking sites should be selected that are free of all overhead
obstructions. He made it clear that WOI-TV news policy is that it is better to give up a live shot than to risk parking in the
vicinity of overhead obstructions.
"WOI-TV reinforced these messages in several ways. On August 6, 1997, that station issued a written safety rule directing
employees to avoid overhead power lines. Thus, in a document titles "Mission Statement - Live Van Operations guide,"
WOI-TV stated: "Always avoid power lines and overhead obstructions."
"Also, three weeks before the accident, the Chief Photographer distributed an article from the national photojournalists'
association magazine reporting on an accident in Mississippi involving a mast contacting a power line. He placed a copy in the
mailbox of each photojournalist and discussed the article with each of them as well as others in the newsroom."
"...WOI-TV reasonably believed that its employees would act in accord with their experience and training. The hazard was
obvious and easily avoided; raising the mast was uncomplicated; and there was a safety rule requiring the avoidance of
overhead power lines. Both employees had hands-on training, and successfully operated the mast on prior assignments.
"In sum, it is difficult to foresee how IOSHA can prevail on item 3. We hope that upon reflection, IOSHA will accept
WOI-TV's settlement offer."
Result of the letter to IOSH? Items 1 and 2 were "vacated," and item 3's fine was reduced to $1000.00. Total of all fines:
$1000.00. The station probably sold an equivalent value in news spots because of the extra attention to the incident, and their
corporate attorney, predictably, proved himself competent in his role of defending the corporation. It might be important to an
observer to note that Kimberly was not questioned about her knowledge of safety or training, before or after this letter was
prepared, regarding the effectiveness of her training. There also was no documentation, as per IOSH's "vacated" charges.
Everybody who will operate an ENG truck should be educated in power line safety. WOI-TV employees were not, and a
line in a manual which states "Always avoid power lines and overhead obstructions." is weak and non-specific. Citing federal
regulations regarding clearance laws, which stand as in place to avoid such accidents AND implementing policy to comply with
them will prevent such accidents. Nobody who has been injured or killed in an ENG accident has had documented training in
The statement that the Chief Photographer distributed the NPPA's magazine article (regarding the Mississippi electrocution
death of Andrew Austin) might stand as something bold in terms of safety in the eyes of an attorney's argument. However, had
the Chief Photographer sat down at a computer and sought out the ENG Safety pages, the addresses of which were within the
same article, www.waga.com/ENG or www.world.std.com/~bell, (updated for this article) he would have been able to
distribute a much better quality of information, and perhaps adopted a more effective policy for the station.
It appears as if WOI has positioned the Chief Photographer as their supervisor and manager, as no other names were
mentioned as responsible for training. It is doubtful that the Chief Photographer, who is probably typical of other news-types
who have spent their careers in learning "photography," ever had any electrical safety training. Such training might be more
typical in an engineering department domain. Looking at the injuries and deaths so far in the industry, one cannot help but notice
that the majority of injured and killed were not operating having any documented guidance or training from an engineering
If you are involved in an ENG operation, especially in a role of training people, scrutinize your company's safety program as if
you were your news department's investigative team. If it doesn't have one, it means operators need to take it upon themselves
to understand the guidelines of safe operation, or YOU need to, then train them.
Typically, as per the experiences of those who have been injured, employees and workers work together for the benefit of
each other. Accident victims and their employers do anything but. The victims, and families of the victims, are stuck with the
scars and challenges of the injuries forever. The employer hires another employee.
If there is anything apparent regarding ENG safety from this paper it is that the accidents certainly happen, they are serious by
circumstance and result, and their consequences last a lifetime. Even those not super-seriously injured in mishaps not discussed
in the paper (there have been many close calls) have burn scars or, at the very least, very scary memories of their incidents.
Aside from the lesson learned, no close call has ever been related as a pleasant circumstance worth repeating.
There have been a few incidents which have gone through the court system, and "awards" have been given. Because
employees cannot sue their employers, these awards have been given as a result of product liability. In other words, in some
way shape of form, the manufacturer of the trucks have been blamed for accidents, then assessed some sort of product liability
One award known was for injuries to a person whose accident took him out of work for almost a year, and left him with
scarring on his hand and foot, with possible full or fractional loss of the use of his foot. The award was approximately
$200,000.00, most likely made up of settlements from a variety of manufacturers. His accident occurred in the first week of
work at his station and he had no previous ENG experience. He AND the person teaching him were not properly trained, nor
had they ever had access to training literature provided by the manufacturer. Vehicle staff assignments and training was handled
by the news department, independent of the engineering department, until after the accident.
In product liability suits, joint-and-several liability laws apply, meaning everyone who may have any connection to the incident
would be named in a suit. As time goes on, many may be removed for one reason or another, leaving those who cannot
disassociate from liability. On a mast, for example, there would be a few companies involved, such as the manufacturers of the
van, mast, pan and tilt head, microwave antenna, mounting bracket, and other accessory manufacturers.
Kimberly has filed suit, at least against the manufacturer of the truck she and David were operating at the time of their
accident, and most likely to several other manufacturers as well. It is her only way of getting any compensation for the fact that
she will be undergoing a tremendous amount of medical treatment in the foreseeable future. She will probably be unable to work
for a while longer, and her career is, no doubt, affected, potentially forever, as her burns caused a great deal of scarring on her
head and face. Described as a 25 year-old newlywed in accounts of her accident, it may be said that there is no end to its tragic
nature. She was also described as gifted in her personality and intellect, and all interviews by this author would substantiate that.
Kimberly is a wonderful person with the world ahead of her, who was involved in a predictable, foreseeable, and tragic event.
Can money make up for what she has lost? The companies which manufacture the trucks are not very large. Chances are
there wouldn't, or couldn't be a massive payoff if a product liability charge could be substantiated, and an affirmative judgment
received. The companies would hopefully settle out of court, so the accident victim would not have a lengthy trial and possible
appeals adding more trauma and tension to the already traumatic ordeal. Either way, is there any such thing after all is said and
done as a "win?"
When asked about safety, one veteran Chief Photographer might have said it best when he said safety is an issue to
management when employees make it an issue. Consistent with that point of view, it is up to every person in any professional
environment to understand the dangers of their environment, then work with their management to create a knowledge base for
information which will protect the employee, AND the station, broadcast group, or corporation.
Remember Stephen Myers, the young adolescent who put out the fires on David's and Kimberly's bodies? As written, the
professional electric industry observers who have analyzed that incident can only attribute the fact that he was not electrocuted
from the actions he took to luck. Just as with Kimberly, additional people who approach bodies of the electric-shock-injured
people has led to more injuries. Had Stephen been injured or killed, without the protection of employer-employee relationship
laws which prevent employees from suing their employers, such as workman's compensation laws, the liability of the station and
subsequent lawsuit would have been potentially huge for the station, and its parent corporation. Really huge.
Remember the "step and touch" rings of voltage which emanate from grounded conductors in electrical incidents? (This may
have been a factor in Kimberly's accident) One electrical accident on record in Brazil killed 29 people and injured more than 50
when a utility pole fell and its power line hit rain soaked ground. It was reported that the "rings" were measured up to 450 feet
from the point of contact. People 90 feet away from the grounding site, touching a metal fence, were part of the number of those
There is no doubt that training, starting with familiarity with principles of electricity in compliance with federal regulations, then
following through to specifics of operation of EVERY station's remote vehicles, is paramount to diminishing the possibility of
accidents. It is an issue of which every employee should make the highest priority, as it is one of the highest penalty. As
completed cases have proven, and might continue to show in the future, there is no easy financial pot of gold at the end of the
injured-on-the-job rainbow if you are injured. As more and more cases are being settled in the courts, it is ever more apparent,
as stated earlier, the person with the last clear chance to save themselves (YOU!) is the best resource for a campaign of
The support given to the cause for ENG Safety from the NPPA and Miller Freeman/PSN Publications from 1994 to the
present has been remarkable, and appreciated. It has saved lives. With so many incidents where it is apparent that luck has
been the primary safety mechanism, it is hoped that both will continue the quest for safety; The NPPA by granting space for the
subject at its annual Workshop, creating and distributing safety videotapes, and maintaining a forum for discussions of safety
among its membership, and Miller Freeman/PSN for continuing to spread the word through print, which will live forever.
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