How dangerous is a blown Speedotron power pack?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Robert Kennedy, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    So, while buried by my studies, my university announced that their Speedotron powerpack had "arced" along the 1200w connectors and blown them out, as well as frying the cord attached to said connectors.

    Now, this powerpack is only barely known to me. I use monolights as I find them more to my liking. I do know it has a 400w, 800w and 1200w set of connectors and looks like it came from the mid 1970s.

    Here is my concern.

    In their ummm...."wisdom" the photo department has deemed, somehow, this powerpack to be "100% safe if you use the 400w and 800w plugs." So they are saying students should use the powerpack despite the fact that it is severely damaged. This REALLY worries me. I mean the thing partially MELTED. Now, worse of all, since there are big signs saying "NO SHOES ON PAPER", most students are in there barefoot.

    Barefoot + Electricity = A Visit From The Skinny Guy In Black Who Has That Old Timey Weedwacker.

    So I turn to APUG font of all knowledge....

    Is this rig safe? I'd be inclined to assume "NO!" because who knows WHAT has been damaged. And I KNOW that no factory guys have looked at this thing. It seems that such damage could mess up the whole thing, possibly creating an "imminent failure" situation.

    Any legit concern there?
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Well, I'd definitely have it looked at before plugging it in again. Even if it's just the result of arcing and not blown capacitors, you never know what kinds of shorts the arcing may have caused internally.
     
  3. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    OK, this is just my opinion, but I wouldn't even plug it in, much less use it, until it's been fixed.
     
  4. Thomas Wagner

    Thomas Wagner Member

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    As one of those that has had to repair and maintain those things. (AV Specialist, local college) I offer the following.

    A lot of times there will be no problem with equipment that is partially disabled. But, it has to be disabled internally so that the switch position or plug will not work even if it is accidently used. Then appropriately labled! Any good AV Specialist can do that, but if they just say don't use that position it is not good enough. Lets face it budgets at universities and colleges do not allow for everything to be replaced. So, some "safe" corners have to be cut.

    And that brings up a chance to mention my favourite peeve during that part of my service. I would like to shout this from a rooftop... "if a piece of equipment has a grounded plug, it must not be tampered with" Cutting off the ground on any equipment caused it to be immediately removed from service till repaired. Equipment that is designed to be used in a grounded plug can be bloody dangerous if modified. If you must absolutely positively use it, use an adapter. That way the next person will not suffer from some fool's mis-use.

    And you can flame me on this one. During my years at the college we never had one single person hurt by defective equipment.

    Tom
     
  5. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Sounds like someone yanked a NOT "arc-proof" plug while the unit was charged. An "Old" Speedotron, with melted / fused ... anything. No. I wouldn't use it - not even on a bet!!!
    In fact, I'd run like hell is anyone within 5 meters was trying to use it!! There is a LOT of energy stored in those - any - Power Pack.
    Someone around there must have a dazed look, and probably, burned fingers.

    I love my DynaLites and their arc-proof connectors.
     
  6. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    This thing can & will knock your ass across the room! If you're lucky you'll still be alive. If they don't have it fixed they'd better have some mighty good insurance!
     
  7. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    They are REFUSING to admit that there might be ANY problem. Which is baffling to me. They claim that the system is "100% safe", and that nobody can get hurt by it.

    Which is pretty damn odd considering the thing still smells like burnt plastic! This thing arced BIG TIME!
     
  8. eric

    eric Member

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    The reason that I am afraid of 'electric things is cause of the speedotrons. I've been blown by them twice while trying to plug something into it. I discharged it and the red light was off and I plug the darn thing in and booom! I went across the room. I'll have to go back to therapy now that you brought up some latent memories :smile:
     
  9. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    Hmmm... They insist it's safe? Good - have THEM turn it on! :smile:

    I'd stick with the monolights and use faster film if I had to, but I wouldn't go near a 30 year old Speedotron...
     
  10. Thomas Wagner

    Thomas Wagner Member

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    Sounds to me like they have a defective technical department too....

    One of the reasons I am no longer in the loop so to speak is that they deemed that technicians are no longer needed. I took early retirement. Plug and play is the answer. So,there is no one left that can actually fix anything. You are dealing with a hell of a lot of juice fully charged. And as eric says we assume that they discharge when the light is off. Unfortunately that light off means the unit can still be 75 -80 % of full charge. Your only way of knowing for sure that it does not hold a huge charge is turning it off immediately after manually flashing it. It takes a few seconds to recharge, and in that time you can be assured that it is safe. I am not sure about the speedotrons but some units can be manually flashed after they are turned off to completely discharge them. Either way, you should not have to put up with the line they are giving. If they cannot assure that they have disabled the high power section you can be sure they have not!

    If you do have to use it, keep one hand in your pocket while you plug and unplug the heads. That way your shock will not be lethal...
     
  11. Thomas Wagner

    Thomas Wagner Member

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    BTW, I forgot to mention, the most dangerous time for the unit is when the heads are unplugged! That is when they arc.

    Tom
     
  12. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    If it really bothers you, call OSHA. You can do so anonimously, explain the situation and tell them as a student required to use these lights you dont feel comfortable. This might burr under their panties.
    I understand University budgets are tight, but this is being penny wise and pound foolish. All it is going to take is for one student to get seriously hurt, hell not even seriously, and for his parents to call a lawyer and they are up shit creek without a paddle.
     
  13. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    That is EXACTLY my point here.

    Me, I'm safe because I use my trusty Alien Bees monolights. Which are MORE adjustable, safer to use, cheaper to use (a new flash bulb is like $30.00) and durable.

    I just hate the smell of burned flesh. :smile:

    Apparently he is claiming "the company says it is safe since the breakers flipped".

    Which is kind of like saying "my air bag deployed so my car is fine".
     
  14. DKT

    DKT Member

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    just my opinion here...but Jorge has a point--call the safety person for the school and explain the situation. If that gets you nowhere, then call OSHA or the labor department equivalent. Granted, a student is not an employee, but you still have rights and it would be in the school's interest to not have a lawsuit on their hands if someone is hurt....

    I worked in a lab once that had no ventilation, and when complaints were filed with management, we were told we didn't need any ventilation. The labor dept was called in with OSHA to do a spot check, and guess what? We got ventilation, not to mention eyewash stations and were cited for improper respirator use as well--they found all sorts of violations on this vist as they combed the entire facility.

    The school probably has, or at least they should have a "hazard communication" plan in place. For the photo area, it would handle all the accidental spill stuff and the MSDS sheets, but it would also handle the emergency stuff like fire escapes, and tornado drills and all that. If they don't have the hazard communication compliance for the school's darkrooms, and studio...well, they won't be happy when OSHA shows up. it could cost them more money actually than probably a new power pack....they probably wouldn't be fined on a first visit, but they would have to act on the recommendations to avoid a penalty.

    BTW--I wouldn't touch that pack of yours though, without sending it off to get checked out. It doesn't matter if you use the 400 or 800 watt outlets, because if the pack is on combine, it's all 2400...You could always call Speedotron yourself, though, ask them if it's safe to use the pack. The person who arced the pack though--they should lose privaleges to the studio for awhile....the safe use of the speedo packs needs to be hammered into everyone who comes near them, and if they can't handle it, then tough--they don't get to use them. Sorry to be a hardass, but we have blackline packs that are almost 20 yrs and have never had these problems...fwiw, I use dynalite packs myself, and just out of habit, I turn them off & discharge the pack before plugging or unplugging a head. It's a habit you force yourself to learn, otherwise it's like using a tablesaw or something and getting too comfortable.....s*** happens, you get lazy and you get hurt.

    my opinions only, not my employers.