Capacitors are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment our line workers touch. Capacitors store energy; they build up a charge and must be discharged before any work is done on them.
In early December, Line Mechanic-C Jeremy Barth was up in a bucket finishing the installation of a group of capacitors in Southwest Columbus. After completing the work he noticed a small wire connecting some of the equipment. It turns out that the small wire had a very big purpose: It was a preinstalled “shunt” joining two points of a circuit that needed to be removed before the capacitors were energized.
Had the shunt remained when the equipment was turned on, it would have been bad – something like a small bomb going off.
“I’m not sure what would have happened. I’m not sure I want to know,” said Chris Echard, a safety and health consultant for AEP Ohio. “It would have blown the fuse. There would have been a ‘big boom.’ And the shrapnel flying off would be incredibly dangerous.”
Employees on the AEP Ohio Safety Committee have voted Barth our December Safety Champion for demonstrating a questioning attitude and never putting equipment into service before it’s deemed safe. Barth’s discovery has led to an important new best work practice that will be sent to the state safety committee for review. As a short-term solution, a colored tag will be attached to the small shunt wire prior to installation as a visual reminder to remove the shunt before energizing the capacitor.
“Those tags will prevent someone from getting hurt,” Echard said. “And we can thank Jeremy for that. By staying focused on the job and committed to safety, he’s done a really good thing.”
Posted January 9, 2020
2 responses to “Small Wire, Big Danger: Jeremy Barth Stops a ‘Big Boom’”
Why is that wire installed like that to being with? Is there a non-conductive alternative that will not be disruptive/dangerous if incidentally left installed?
Hi David. Thanks for your note. Rest assured we have safety personnel looking into this issue right now. We’re investigating possible options and hope to find a solution that makes sense and keeps our employees safe.