PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The deadly accident that claimed the life of an APS electrician has shaken many who work in the industry.
“My first thought is it’s a fellow construction worker, electrician, journeyman, field guy with a family with people that expected him to come home that day,” says Miguel Garcia, preconstruction manager with Switch Electric.
The contractor does a lot of work with underground electrical vaults. Garcia says there are many safety checks designed to prevent tragedy.
Underground vaults can start at 4 feet high, says Garcia, and some are multi-tiered and tall enough to stand in. He says before any employee steps foot inside, they send a camera in to search for hazards.
“We do that first to make sure the conditions in the vault are safe,” says Garcia. “Is the vault filled with water? [Is there] any existing conditions of the previous install that seem sketchy to us or don’t look correct?”
Garcia says the inspection videos are then reviewed, and once the vault is deemed safe to work in, Switch requests an outage to shut off all power before employees get to work.
“We take our profession very seriously, and we try to mitigate risk as much as we can,” says Garcia.
On Sunday night, APS electrician Ricardo Castillo was with a coworker performing planned maintenance in an underground electrical vault downtown when a fire broke out. Castillo was killed and his coworker suffered burns.
APS is investigating what went wrong.
“We all have been thinking about it all day,” says Garcia.
He says electricians go through many hours of training as well as specialized training for confined spaces before working in a vault. They also wear fireproof suits whether the vault is live or not. Safety precautions aside, Garcia says, the job is inherently risky.
“You’re dealing with high voltage,” says Garcia. “Anything can happen.”