Employee Receives Electrical Shock

March 31, 2004

What Happened?

A university employee was changing ballasts above a drop ceiling in a department reception area. The employee received an electrical shock from a 277volt circuit and was knocked off a step stool that she had placed on top of the reception desk. She fell from a height of 46.5 inches, but received only minor injuries and returned to work the following day.

What was the cause?

  • The power source was not locked and tagged out. Instead, the light switch was turned off.
  • The ladder to be used was too large to work from behind the reception desk, so a small step stool was borrowed and placed on top of the reception desk.
  • Reception area employees were not informed of what specific work was being done. When a department employee noticed the reception area was under lit, she instinctively turned the light switch on.

Lessons Learned

  • Ensure that affected employees are trained in and use Lockout/Tagout procedures.
  • Always use the proper equipment when working from heights. Train affected employees to use ladders, scaffolds or aerial work platforms.
  • Instruct anyone impacted by the work being done on how to safely avoid hazards if the work area cannot be isolated.
  • Supervisors are responsible for ensuring employees are properly trained, equipped, and are aware of the ramifications of working unsafely.


Contact EH&S for Lockout/Tagout, ladder, scaffolding, and aerial work platform (manlift) training. Supervisor and employee safety responsibilities can be found in your departmental Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (IIPP).

Campus guidance and policies related to this incident include:

open panel in ceiling, the location of ballasts being changed

Ballast Location

an open ladder next to an open step ladder sitting on a countertop

Step used