A 59-year-old Mt. Oliver man who worked for the Eaton Electrical Company was killed a week ago while doing electrical work at Carnegie Mellon. The University, while expressing its condolences, offered little information about the electrocution except to say that it was an unfortunate industrial accident.
According to press reports, Eaton Electrical Company was a contractor on campus. The incident occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 22, in a second-story electrical distribution room at Wean Hall, which CMU’s website identifies as the home of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Engineering and Science Library.
A 911 call was placed regarding a possible electrocution at 10:20 a.m. Tragically, a half-hour later, the man was pronounced dead on the scene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating, as is typical in serious or fatal industrial accidents, and an autopsy was to be performed the day after the tragedy.
OSHA’s acting director said that the agency planned to interview representatives from both CMU and the electrical contractor to determine, if possible, the cause of the electrocution. He said the primary focus would be on Eaton Electrical, although the company has not been cited by OSHA for any major safety violations recently.
It is also possible, of course, that bad wiring or another hazard at the university caused the fatal electrical accident, however, which may be one reason for CMUs decision to release no details to the public.
At the time of the accident, university officials sent a text alert to the student body reading, “As you may be aware, a number of emergency first responders are in Wean Hall responding to an isolated incident involving an individual working with an outside contractor. There is no cause of evacuation or other precaution.”
Later on the day of the worker’s death, CMU’s vice president for campus affairs sent an email specifying only the location of the accident and expressing condolences:
“I know you join me in keeping the victim, his family and friends, and his colleagues in our thoughts and prayers,” he wrote.
The OSHA investigation will take some time, but hopefully it will result in answers for the man’s friends and loved ones. Should CMU turn out to be at fault, his family could bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the university. Otherwise, his family should be entitled to death benefits through workers’ compensation. Our hearts go out to all those affected by the tragedy.