The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 28th

Officials Investigating Electrocution Death

Larry Oakley, a Piedmont Electric employee of 14 years, died Thursday in a work-related accident while repairing electrical lines in Dogwood Acres.

Oakley, a lineman for the company, lived in Hillsborough and is survived by his wife and twin sons.

Richard Mabbott, spokesman for Piedmont Electric, said the accident -- the cause of which has yet to be determined -- came as a surprise considering the company's history of taking precautions. "We've got an excellent safety record," he said.

Mabbott said Oakley's equipment had recently been tested and that workers had attended three informational meetings that day explaining the job's procedures. "We have an ongoing process of keeping employees informed as information becomes available," he said.

Piedmont Electric is part of a statewide chain of customer-owned and customer-governed co-op electricity providers that was organized in the 1930s.

This group of co-ops is guided by the N.C. Electric Cooperative.

Jane Pritchard, head of corporate communication for NCEC, said the corporation was nationally recognized for its safety procedures.

In the past five years, there have only been three worker fatalities in the NCEC system, including Thursday's accident.

One death involved a line that fell, and the other was traffic related, Pritchard said. "No one is put out there before they are qualified."

The safety training department of NCEC organizes programs for all state co-ops, including a safety program that allows linemen to experience simulated situations they would encounter on the job. Pritchard said Piedmont Electric actively participates in this program.

Tommy Greer, statewide safety director for NCEC, said bi-weekly safety meetings are mandatory for a co-op like Piedmont and address 300 to 400 different safety topics during the course of a year.

Carrboro Fire Chief Rodney Murray said Thursday's incident posed no danger to residents but that they should be aware of electricity hazards.

But Mabbott said Piedmont Electric will discuss further safety measures that can be taken once the cause of Oakley's accident is determined. "You really can't talk about prevention until we get the results," he said. "We need to assure the public that the system is safe and we're going to strive to keep it safe and the safety of our employees is of our utmost concern."

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