According to an article in the Tennessean, a Nashville man died as a result of electrocution when a drilling rig he was operating came into contact with power lines. According to the paper, the man was in the process of moving the drilling rig through a cornfield when it contacted with the power lines. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter upon arrival at Gateway Medical Center.
The operation of heavy equipment near power lines has been the subject of recent product’s liability litigation focusing on the ways and manners in which the manufacturer of heavy equipment can design and manufacture their equipment to eliminate, or at least lessen, the risk of this type of tragic accident. The litigation is separate and apart from any claim that the deceased is entitled to under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act for injuries sustained on the job.
Some of the issues that arise regarding the operation of tall, heavy industrial equipment near power lines look to the probabilities that the equipment could contact power lines and the things a manufacturer can or should do to avoid this. There have been many instances where heavy equipment has come into contact with power lines resulting in death and/or serious injury. It can be argued that the risk of death from this type of event is so great that the manufacturer has a duty to do what it can to prevent its equipment from being operable near power lines.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers turn a blind eye to the problem and do not develop or incorporate available solutions into their equipment. One potential solution is the incorporation of signal alarms that sound an alarm when the equipment gets within a certain distance of live power lines. Another solution is the inclusion of a shut-off device that is activated when the equipment gets within a specified distance of live power lines. A final solution would be to incorporate into the equipment an operator’s platform that is insulated against electrical current from the mast or other part of the equipment that potential may contact power lines or to develop an operation system that allows the operator to work the equipment by remote control.
These cases fall under the category of product liability litigation. Product Liability actions can sometimes be very expensive and complicated cases that involve technical questions and need the input and participation of experts in the field. At the Higgin’s firm we represent individuals and families of individuals in Tennessee that have been the victims of either faultily designed or manufactured products.