WCM reported within hours of Erwin Sørensen of Odense, Denmark a few months back and his lucky escape when his Reach-iT pole caught overhead power lines carrying hundreds of volts.
We report today of another near miss this time in the UK, when Adam Cosway, 26 from Cornwall took a hit when using his Gardiner SLX pole. Here is his story.
WCM: Hi Adam, thank you for talking to us. Give us your details….
Adam: My name is Adam Cosway, I’m 26 and I own AJ’s Window cleaning in the heart of Cornwall. I have been window cleaning since 2006. I have always used the water fed pole system as this is the safest and most effective way to clean windows.
WCM: What happened dude! Where were you?
Adam: I was working in Mevagissey on a dorma bungalow, it was coming to the end of the day with the last few houses remaining. I was cautious of the power lines that were close to this bungalow. I believe I had been close to hitting them a few months prior. Since then I began cleaning the windows from another angle making sure I was away from the lines.
However, on this occasion I just wanted to get the job finished and get home, so I cleaned the window and then pulled the pole back quickly, hitting the power line. I heard crackling and saw that the first section of my pole was on fire and smoking.
I immediately pulled it away from the lines and dropped the pole onto the customer’s garden. Nick, my employee, was cleaning around the back of the house at the time and could hear the crackling and said he thought someone was strimming their garden.
The smell of burning was very strong and I was worried it may have affected the electric supply. Upon collecting the money from the customer, I saw that their TV was working and so I left.
WCM: What was the voltage?
Adam: I’m not sure, but I believe they are somewhere between 230 and 430 volts.
WCM: Were you injured?
Adam: I didn’t feel a thing, which was surprising considering the amount of voltage. It could have easily blown my pole apart and given me some kind of shock.
WCM: You had a Gardiner SLX pole. How do you find them? How long have you used the SLX for?
Adam: I have used an SLX pole since Gardiner Poles have been selling them.
WCM: Do you prefer the SLX more than any other Gardiner pole and if so, why?
Adam: Yes I do. I find them light, rigid and good value for money.
WCM: Describe the pole damage….
Adam: The damage is just to the first section. It is evident that I hit the bottom two lines out of the 5, as it has shredded the carbon in two places. I must of pulled it away before it burnt it’s way through the section. The pole still works and it hasn’t snapped yet.
WCM: Why do you think that you were not injured more? Do you think you could of died?
Adam: I wasn’t injured at all, really. Alex Gardiner told me that the poles are insulated, which is the reason why I didn’t receive a shock. From a search on the internet, I believe it could have easily been a lot worse.
WCM: Did you do a risk assessment?
Adam: No I didn’t.
WCM: Do you think this could happen a lot in the UK?
Adam: There is potential for this to happen a lot, due to the amount of electric lines that run through residential areas, however if the window cleaner is aware of the danger this would reduce the risk. I have learned a very valuable lesson and I will not be cutting corners again to save a few seconds.
WCM: Did Gardiner Pole Systems get you a new pole? How long did you have the damaged SLX for?
Adam: The pole was only a few months old. I did not get a new pole, however I wouldn’t expect a replacement as I did not have the pole insured and it was clearly my fault as I was the one that damaged the pole. The pole does have a warning to not use the pole in thunder storms and to keep away from power cables, therefore all of the necessary warnings were in place.
WCM: You carried on working ???? Are you hard core or what??
Adam: As I was not injured, there was no reason to finish work after this incident. I do have a good reputation as being one of the most reliable window cleaners in the area as there is very little that will stop me from getting the job done.
WCM: Glad to hear it. And glad your safe.
Lee Burbidge comments….
“To me, despite some industry leaders opinions on this subject that there appears to be sufficient awareness of this type of hazard, I would argue that there is not. Clearly in both Erwin’s and Adam’s case a risk assessment was not carried out. Why? Because they were aware of the hazard. But, I think the current small numbers of such incidents breeds a complacence that is certain to kill…… More awareness is NEEDED!”
WCM talks to Alex Gardiner for his views on this recent ‘shocking’ news…..
WCM: Alex, thank you for talking to WCM. How did you learn about the accident?
Alex: I bumped into him at our premises a few days later when he was collecting some resin and he happened to mention it in passing.
WCM: This was only 5 minutes from your home??
Alex: No idea where it was, but it must of been local.
WCM: The voltage is lower than the Erwin shock. Still very bad. Should we worry about this in the UK?
Alex: 240v can kill you – I would be worried!
WCM: Did you replace Adam’s pole?
Alex: No! If you crash your new car, VW do not replace it for you. Carbon fibre conducts electricity very well and will always come off worse from high voltage – This is not a design or manufacturing fault but a fact of physics. From a business point of view it would look a little desperate if we did, almost as if we were after promotion or worried about losing a customer.
WCM: Why do you think Adam did not sustain serious injury?
Alex: Simply because the handle section on his SLX pole has an insulative layer. This is the 3rd client to do this and each time the operator has had no injury at all.
WCM: Do you think there is enough awareness on this hazard?
Alex: I think so, most clients are aware of this fact about overhead wires as they had to be when using aluminium ladders previously in the industry. Also every pole we sell has a warning printed on it.
WCM: What would you recommend people do in light of this incident?
Alex: Look where they are moving their window cleaning pole.
WCM: LOL as simple as that…. thank you Alex for your input. WCM looks forward to speaking with you again.