Contract linemen who died on the job don’t feature on list of dead personnel

Even as Mangalore Electricity Supply Company (Mescom) winds up its one-week awareness programme, it is confronted with an ever-increasing number of fatalities, due to electrocution. The latest being the death of a farmer who touched a faulty fuse on his pumpset near Vittal on Wednesday.

Between April and December, 52 persons, including one official, died in electrical accidents involving Mescom connections. By sheer extrapolation, the financial year 2013-14 will record the most accidents for the public utility company – which serves Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Shimoga and Chikmagalur – in the recent years.

Reasons

Officials offer a bevy of reasons, the prime being sagging wires, bent poles – either due to trees or branches falling during the monsoons, or damage to poles during ploughing or construction work – improper grounding due to stagnating water, illegal construction close to electric lines and illegal irrigation pumpsets among others.

Employee deaths are attributed to “overconfidence” in not creating a ‘safe zone’ while repairing live wires, or “procedural lapses” arising due to pressures of attending numerous complaints during the monsoons.

“During the rains, the porcelain insulators may develop hairline cracks, and as water seeps in, the insulators conduct electricity. If the lineman, who has to climb up each pole and see the insulators, is not observant, he may end up touching a live insulator,” said an official. A rainy night may see a team of linemen attending four to five calls, adding to the possibility of procedural lapses, he said.

Though at least two linemen have died in service in the district, since April last year, they do not feature in official records of Mescom personnel dead in the district – the number remains zero. The reason being, said officials, that linemen on contract are not considered “employees of Mescom”.

“For the regular linemen they get facilities of rehabilitation from Mescom. For the contract workers, you have to haggle with the contractor for additional funds,” said Shivkumar, president of the Mescom non-permanent workers association.

The process of dispensing compensation also seems to be problematic for the public utility company. Out of 202 fatalities in the past four years, compensation amounting to Rs. 70.63 lakh, has been given in 52 cases.

While saying that a report from his department – which fixes responsibility for accidents – was sent within one month of the accident, Srinivas Murthy, Deputy Director, Department of Electrical Inspectorate, said it was Mescom’s duty to ensure compensation was given in all incidents.

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