Dig it safely

During the first quarter of 2012, electric co-ops, the members of Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange, have experienced 21 public contacts with five fatalities. The most recent public contact fatalities were the result of three vehicle-into-pole incidents, a line contractor contact, and a CB antenna contact with an overhead line.

Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange is an active member of Safe Electricity, the safety outreach program of the Energy Education Council, a non-profit organization with more than 400 electric cooperative members and many others who share the mission of educating the public about electrical safety and energy efficiency. The program started here in Illinois with the support of Illinois’ electric cooperatives and other utilities.

Summer is an active time for all of us and accidents can happen to anyone, even the most experienced professionals. Tom Dickey knows that all too well. It’s why he and Safe Electricity® urge everyone to plan ahead before digging this summer or anytime of year.

One day, at the end of a major project, Tom’s client asked to have an additional section for conduit dug — after his safety gear had already gone back to the shop. Instead of saying he’d have to come back and do it the next day, he made a decision in favor of time and efficiency instead of safety and agreed to dig the 40-foot section.

This decision almost cost him his life. As an experienced professional he knew all of the correct procedures, but while kneeling on the ground, he made a small slip as he used a shovel to adjust the conduit’s path. As a result, he came into contact with 7200 volts from underground power lines. He survived, but he spent months in the hospital, endured multiple surgeries, and still lives with pain every day.

Tom and his family are working with Safe Electricity’s “Teach Learn Care TLC” campaign to share

his message, “Please, safety first,”

to help prevent others from having

accidents with underground

utilities. Tom’s story can be seen at


Tom stresses that even a homeowner who puts a shovel in the ground risks his well-being and damage to underground utilities if he has not gotten utility lines marked. The first step in safe digging is to call 8-1-1, the national “Call Before You Dig” number, to have underground utility lines marked. The service is free and could prevent a tragedy.

“People have got to understand that when you deal with electricity and you do silly things, it changes your life. It changes the people’s lives around you,” says Tom. “I’m lucky to be alive. Please, safety first.”

“We commend Tom and his family for their willingness to share the lessons learned from their difficult experience in hopes of helping prevent tragic accidents with underground utilities,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Safe Electricity program. “We encourage everyone to visit SafeElectricity.org to see the video of Tom’s story and learn all of the vital information both contractors and homeowners must know before starting any project that involves digging.”

For more information, visit SafeElectricity.org.

Molly Hall is Director of Safe Electricity. E-mail molly-hall@SafeElectricity.org. Safe Electricity is a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council. www.EnergyEdCouncil.org