Washington County demonstration sparks interest in electrical safety

Photo by Janelle Patterson Blake West, right, demonstrates with Jamie Hummerich, left, and Ron Weber, why electric companies caution first responders to wait to touch vehicles involved in accidents beneath downed power lines as sparks fly from a metal toy car at a demonstration at Washington Electric Cooperative Wednesday.

MARIETTA — Residents Wednesday learned about electrical safety in a program organized by the Washington Electric Cooperative.

“From a training perspective we have multiple industries which deal either directly or indirectly with electricity,” said Tony Huffman, adult technical training director for the Washington County Career Center. “But whether that’s electrical, HVAC or industrial maintenance they all learn about lock out, tag out, this just reiterates why that’s so big in all our programs.”

Washington Electric Cooperative in Muskingum Township hosted about 125 members of the Mid-Ohio Valley Safety Council, of which Huffman is a board member, Wednesday along with nine fire departments Wednesday evening for demonstrations on the dangers of live power lines.

“We’re showing people who maybe aren’t as familiar with the dangers of live wires what can go wrong,” said Blake West with Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative. The central Ohio co-op was hosted by Washington Electric to perform live what happens when everyday items from cars in an accident to balloons and kites from children come in contact with live electrical lines.

“We have a great friend and partner out of New Concord working with us and helping with this demonstration,” said Jennifer Greene, executive director of Washington Electric.

And with rubber gloves, boots, and long poles both West and Washington Electric’s Jamie Hummerich, set off sparks in the co-op’s warehouse to demonstrate the dangers of power line contact.

He cautioned those present to assume all downed wires are energized and remember that electricity will use the human body as a conductor.

“That’s why if there’s a car touching a downed line, unless the car is on fire, wait to pull the people inside out until you know the line has been de-energized,” said West.

“It’s an important refresher for everyone whether in a business setting or as parents or first responders,” said Gary O’Brien, president of O’Brien’s Safety Services in Marietta. “But especially this time of year as we’re getting more storms and there’s an increase in downed power lines. This drives the point home of what live electricity can do to a human body.”

Many in attendance also saw credits towards worker’s compensation rates for continuing their company education at the event whether they were representing industries along Ohio 7, nonprofits which contract with area laborers or private companies working with industrial equipment.

“We talk about the personal protection equipment we use, too, so as they watch they realize you can’t see, hear or smell voltage,” said Rob Weber with Guernsey-Muskingum Electric. “We do this program in schools, too, burning a hot dog and showing what happens when a car is energized so maybe people will pause and think through their own actions when there’s a downed line near them.”


Electricity Tips

* Remember: electricity will use the human body as a conductor

* If someone is touching a fallen power line do not touch them, efforts to pull a shock victim away could make you a victim

* Stay clear of wires until you are sure the power is shut off

* Assume all downed wires are energized

* Never fly kites or model airplanes near overhead power lines