The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services noted two code violations in an investigation of the workplace death of Robert Brown, a Douglas County maintenance worker.

According to the Aug. 2 report by DSPS Division of Industry Services, Brown was on the ceiling grid in the gym of the Douglas County Jail to replace fluorescent lightbulbs with light-emitting diode bulbs, which required removal of the ballast from the fixture.

A custodian was assisting Brown, watching and assisting with materials from the floor.

During the Douglas County Sheriff's Office investigation into Brown's death, the custodian told officers that Brown didn't say why the lights were not turned off.

Brown had successfully worked on two fixtures, which were lit, and was working on the third fixture when the custodian heard an inhale and saw Brown’s leg twitch. The custodian called to Brown, but there was no response. The custodian immediately called for help on the radio and intercom and a nurse and jailer responded, followed by emergency medical technicians.

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An electrician from Stack Bros. was called to address the uncertainty of live, exposed wires and advised the sheriff's office that Brown was working with 277 volts.

“Per the Jailer Log and photos, Brown was grasping electrical wire between his forefinger and thumb of both hands,” the DSPS report stated. “Brown was pronounced dead by the county medical examiner at the scene; preliminary findings indicate electrocution.”


Douglas County Administrator Ann Doucette said she did not have results from Brown's autopsy.

According to the DSPS report, state officials found the electrical panels supplying the ceiling light for the gym were not locked and tagged out, live parts to which an employee may be exposed were not de-energized before work began, and energy control procedures were not followed.

Douglas County has a lockout and tag policy, as well as numerous other safety-related policies, Doucette said.

The state agency ordered Douglas County to take corrective action by ensuring compliance to de-energize parts before work begins, as well as compliance with energy control procedures.

Douglas County has until Sept. 13 to comply.

"The county is working with the state updating and grouping the policies in the form the inspector was looking for," Doucette said. "We are waiting for their conclusion."

This story was updated at 10:22 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8 to include information from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office investigation of Brown's death. It originally posted at 1:40 p.m. Sept. 7.