Home » Women in Construction » IBEW Loses Sister Katharina (Kat) Engnell

IBEW Loses Sister Katharina (Kat) Engnell

The IBEW loses Sister Katharina (Kat) Engnell, a licensed journeyman electrician from Local 46 in Seattle, Washington. Engell was electrocuted and died on the job on November 20, 2008 at the Saint Gobain glass plant.

Kat Engnell was an amazing woman. Originally from the South, Kat moved to Seattle after receiving her Masters Degree in Fine Arts. She bought a beautiful home in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood and then decided to become an electrician. She started attending the PSEJATC Apprenticeship program in 2000.

Kat was a most humble, hard working, serious electrician. Diversity and full inclusion in the electrical industry were passions of hers. The fact that a scholarship for those seeking to become Union Trades people is being funded in her name testifies to that. If you would like to donate, please make checks or money orders payable to the Katharina Engnell Memorial Schollarship Fund, Account 471001014441 at Key Bank.

Her interests included kayaking, raising hens, collecting antiques, creating and teaching art, politics, unionism, and rocking out to hippy music. If there was a party, Kat was there having a good time. She was a fantastic mechanic, intellectual, and a bohemian all in one. All who knew her can say that her kindness and generosity were boundless. She will be missed but will live on in the memories and stories of her, and in the kindness and care we show to each other in this truly dangerous field.

There is a memorial at the job site and a memorial service will be held at the IBEW Local 46 Hall in Kent, Washington on Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.

For me, the loss of any worker on the job is tragic. But the loss of an electrician is personal.

My personal condolences to Kat’s friends and family. My thanks to Nicole Grant for this information.

Ms Sparky
IBEW Local 48
Portland, Oregon

Update: The following info was taken from IBEW Local 46 website.
This item was posted on the IBEW Local 46 web site
http://www.ibew46.com/kat.html :

IBEW Local 46 Electrician, Kat Engnell, was killed at work, Thursday,
November 20, 2008, during the day shift at the Saint Gobain glass plant. Kat
was up on a metal platform, like a catwalk, doing lighting maintenance. It
is normal to work on equipment up there while it is still ‘hot’,
unfortunately, while Kat was changing out a 500W 120V fixture, after making
sure that the ground and neutrals had both been made up, she was
electrocuted and died. She was found by a Local 46 Brother working on sight
who stayed with her body until the fire crew got her down and took her away.

The following comment was left via email by a Safety professional:

I suspect that she was not wearing rubber insulating gloves, considered by
most electricians as unnecessary and too cumbersome for this type of low
voltage work.

According to 1910 subpart S
1910.333(a)(1) “Live parts to which an employee may be exposed shall be
deenergized before the employee works on or near them….” (does not apply to
circuits of 50 volts or less)
1910.333(a)(2) “If the exposed live parts are not deenergized (i.e., for
reasons of increased or additional hazards or infeasability) other
safety-related work practices shall be employed …”
1910.335(a)(1)(i) Employees working in areas where there are potential
electrical hazards shall be provided with, and shall use, electrical
protective equipment that is appropriate for the specific parts of the body
to be protected and for the work to be performed.

NFPA 70E 2009 – Table 130.7(C)(9)
Panelboards or other equipment rated 240 volts and below
Work on energized electrical conductors or circuit parts, including voltage
testing requires the use of Rubber Insulating gloves and Insulated or
Insulating Tools.

my image


  1. Comment by Blue's Mom:

    My condolences to Kat’s friends, family and union brothers and sisters.

  2. Comment by YEP:

    Our deepest sympathies.

  3. Comment by NEC Consultant:

    My heart goes out to her family. They are in our prayers this season.

  4. Comment by jdc:

    sorry to hear about sister kat. our thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
    Jesse Campau
    ibew 441 o.c. cal.

  5. Comment by Barney Fife:

    They should have given her a toolie.
    This could have been prevented.
    Lets get rid of the state run safety program here in Washington.
    LnI DOSH
    The standards exceed the federal standards.
    But people who run that office are too easily paid off.

    Ms Sparky’s Response:
    Yes..I agree, a toolie is always better. My question is, Why was it still energized?

  6. Comment by mack:

    Yes..I agree, a toolie is always better.My heart goes out to you & your family.Our prayers are with you.Preventable yes. Could have happened to anyone one of us whose been in the field for awhile . So sorry .

  7. Comment by 4sbofmine:

    I do agree a toolie would have been a good idea. Any time someone works something hot they usually aren’t alone. And none of us can’t say we haven’t done it before. What happened to Kat was terrible. She always tried so hard to do her job no matter what. She was a great lady who also put herself fully into whatever she did. I just would like to tell her family and all of her close friends how sorry I am for the loss of Kat. Rest in Peace.

  8. Comment by christine:

    My condolences to Kat’s friends, family and my fellow union brothers and sisters.

    Sister Christine Hendriks, Brockville ON
    Local #115

  9. Comment by susanroth:

    I knew Kat as a gung-ho kayaker and great person. I am disappointed that there are no more details as to her death. Are the standard practices not really acceptable? Rock on Kat………Susan

    Ms Sparky’s Response:
    I can’t sit here and honestly say I’ve never worked anything hot when I could’ve turned it off. In this day and age we all know what the safety protocols are. Right or wrong, good or bad, sometimes we choose to work it hot anyway. But, this is why we shouldn’t.

  10. Comment by runsalot:

    Let’s face it, most of us are “required” to work on energized equipment because no one will accept written liability in the event of something tragic like this were to happen…and to be honest, our jobs are on the line should we refuse to do so or require the circuit to be de-energized which would prove to be “inconvenient” to the customer or client. What client is going to authorize wiremen to shut down a panel in order to land wires on a breaker or pull wire into a hot panel, etc.? To be honest, safety is our sole responsibility, so I suggest insulated gloves be part of each and every local’s required journeyman tool-list. Apprentices should never be required or asked to work things hot because they just haven’t got the experience to do so. Hot kits should be in every jobbox, every service truck, every jobsite where T.I. is being performed…but contractors are scared their tools will disappear if they stock them. Perhaps they need to get sued up their asses for loss of life a few times before they wise up. Our hearts and prayers go out to Kat’s family.

  11. Comment by seattlesparko:

    As a couple of points of clarification: Kat *was* using insulated tools, as per the relevant code sections. I know, I bought them for her. She also did have a tool partner at the time, as well as an insulated mat. All the safety precautions, were just not enough that day; a wet glove and that was all it took. We all know this is a dangerous business, and whenever you think you can cut corners, remember that if it could happen to Kat, it could happen to anyone. I never had the chance to say goodbye to Kat, or to tell her many other things I wish I had been able to say. Please, be safe every day. No job is worth the heartache of never seeing your family and friends again.

    Ms Sparky’s Response:
    Thank you for clarifying. I was hoping someone would update me after the investigation was over.

    I’m sorry for your loss. Anytime loss of an IBEW Sister or Brother is felt by all. We know on any given day under the right (or wrong) circumstances it very well could be us.

  12. Comment by Jennie:

    Such a tragic event. My thoughts are with her family. It is a sobering reminder that we indeed have a dangerous profession.

    Jennie Kordenat
    IBEW Local 970

  13. Comment by Barbara Adams:

    I worked many times on hot circuits, always because the boss required it of me, if I did take the time to shut things down all I got was a big lot of feedback from the clients, the boss and my co-workers, calling me sissy etc. Of the times I worked stuff in close quarters like a switch or even florescent light fixtures with the transformers in them, despite them being “only” 120volts, if you get anywhere near the other end of one of those feed wires that have been multiplied by thousands of watts by that transformer it will blow you away. Not worth the trouble, or you could get blown off the ladder, neutral connected or not, that is some powerful stuff and you could die just from the fall from the ladder. I used to work traffic signals in Seattle, those ped signals have transformers in them, and yeah, only 2 lousy little light bulbs, but you can get knocked off your can with those things! No turning off the traffic signals when working on them, it’s just not done, you would literally stop traffic and that is just impossible to do. You just have to be careful and you have to ignore everything else when you are working hot, and you need a toolie to watch your back while you are doing these things. I have even taken a rope around someone’s waist while they are working hot and they laugh, but it could save a life.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      Who is the one who dies if you are electrocuted. Your boss? Your co-workers? What about your family. What will they say? She died because she was being harassed by her tool buddy? Your obligation is to your self and your family.

      At some point or another about every electrician has worked a circuit hot. But %99.99 of the time it’s by choice. A boss can not make you work something hot. And is your boss providing you will the appropriate PPE? I would rather be laid off and heading to the food bank or my spot under the bridge than trying to recover in a burn center or going through physical therapy because of serious nerve damage or worse, leaving my family alone all because someone badgered me into working it hot.

      When I started my apprenticeship in 1979, we worked 480VAC hot nearly everyday. We’ve come a long way since then. Let’s not back step.

  14. Comment by Roger Engnell:

    The family of Kat just found this information over the last month. Needless to say we are shocked and saddened to hear this news. Kat and I were cousins and the same age. I remember spending every other summer or so with her and her brother Eric.
    Thank you for posting this information and making sure that there is clarity around the accident.

    Roger Engnell
    Hanover, Minnesota

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *