Copper wire theft is nothing new. It’s been an issue for years in many places, with stolen items ranging from scrap metal to giant spools. It can also be quite dangerous.
On Oct. 10 a worker with Nalcor Energy in Labrador received an electrical shock at work, due to missing copper wire near Churchill Falls.
Walter Parsons, vice president of transmission and community affairs with Nalcor Energy in Churchill Falls, said it has experienced copper theft from electrical sites in Labrador and on the island for some time.
Parsons said it was recognized copper theft could lead to an issue like this and now it finally happened. The worker was about 15 kilometres west of Churchill Falls, near the old Twin Falls plant, when he received an electrical shock when he came into contact with equipment that should have been grounded and safe.
“Because the ground wire was cut in several places and several pieces were stolen from the yard, the whole crew was put in harm's way,” he said.
He said the worker was in a tower when it happened and was immobilized for a few minutes after the shock. After about 15 minutes he was able to come down from the tower and be transported for medical care. He was cleared to return to work the same day, which Parsons said is really lucky.
“It’s only through good fortune that the injury was minor and that he didn’t end up with a very serious injury. Something like this could possibly lead to a fatality.”
He said while most people might believe it's safe to remove copper wire, it’s an integral part of the system and any time it’s missing it could put workers in danger. Parsons wasn’t aware of any other medical incident experienced because of this issue but stressed it could have been a lot worse.
“We want to get the message out there that it’s very serious and it’s only by luck that this worker was able to go home to his family,” he said.