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Electrocution Hazard to Workers
Servicing Overhead Fluorescent Light Fixtures

September 1996

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is alerting employers and workers who service or work near overhead fluorescent light fixtures.

Since 1990, the NJDOH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Project has received reports of seven incidents where workers were electrocuted as they were working on or near the lights. A summary of these incidents follows (unless otherwise noted, all lights were 277 volts):

Case #1:
In May 1990, a 25-year-old electrician was electrocuted while installing wiring for additional lights in a large retail store. He was working on a personnel lift when he contacted the energized circuit while running wires in a junction box.

Case #2:
In March 1991, a 60-year-old glass contractor died as he was working on an electrical cable that ran through a metal door frame to the overhead fluorescent lights. He had cut the cable and was taping the ends of the wires when he was electrocuted.

In March 1992, a 60-year-old electrician was killed as he was installing new overhead fluorescent lights. He was working from a ladder when he contacted the energized circuit while wiring the cable to the fixture.

Case #4:
In August 1993, a 33-year-old construction laborer was electrocuted during the renovation of a public school. The incident occurred in a vestibule where an overhead fluorescent light was found hanging by its cable. It is not known how the victim contacted the electricity.

Case #5:
In December 1993, a 27-year-old sheet metal worker was electrocuted while he was replacing an overhead fluorescent light fixture he had accidentally damaged. He contacted the power as he tried to remove the electrical cable from the junction box.

Case #6:
In July, 1995 a 28-year-old school maintenance worker was killed while removing a section of wall to construct an alcove. He had removed an electrical cable leading to the light switch and was electrocuted as he stripped an energized wire.

Case #7:
In August, 1995 a 36-year-old electrician's helper contacted 460 volts as he was replacing the ballasts to the overhead light fixtures in a retail store. He was working from a ladder and contacted power as he cut an energized wire while leaning against a grounded door frame.

Recommendations to Prevent Injuries

  1. Always de-energize and test electrical circuits before starting work. All electrical circuits must be shut off at the breaker box and tested at the work site to be sure that the power is off.

  2. Only trained and authorized workers should be permitted to service electrical systems. Employees without the training and experience to safely work with electrical circuits should NEVER service overhead fluorescent lights. The OSHA Standards 29 CFR 1910.330-335 (general industry) and 29 CFR 1926.416-417 (construction industry) require safe work practices for all electrical work.

  3. Always use a lock-out/tag-out procedure. After shutting off the power, the breaker box must be locked to prevent others from turning the power back on. The OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.147 (general industry) and 29 CFR 1926.417 (construction industry) require a lock-out/tag-out program for servicing electrical systems. Public sector employees in New Jersey must meet the requirements of NJAC 12:100-11, Control of Hazardous Energy Sources Standard.

  4. All electrical workers should be trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Employees trained in CPR can start immediate life-saving resuscitation if a worker receives an electric shock
For more information, call or write to:
Federal OSHA offices in New Jersey
(973) 263-1003 Avenel
(732) 750-3270
(609) 757-5181
Hasbrouck Heights
(201) 288-1700
New Jersey Department of Labor
Office of Public Employees Safety
PO Box 386
Trenton, NJ 08625-0386
(609) 292-7036
New Jersey Department of Health
Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Project
PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
(609) 984-1863

Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Project
The New Jersey Department of Health, in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is currently conducting a research study of work-related fatal injuries. This project, known as FACE (Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation), seeks to identify the factors that contribute to fatal falls and machine related fatalities. The FACE study will help in the development and use of improved safety measures for preventing fatal injuries in the future. We hope you find this informative and that you will share it with others. If you have any comments or questions, please call the FACE Project at (609) 984-1863.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 17-Jul-12 14:12:44