Electrocution happens when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy.
On construction sites, an electrical hazard is defined as any electrical condition that puts a worker at risk of:
- Arc Flash/Arc Blast
- Fire Explosions
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, we have spent four decades fighting for the rights of injured construction workers in Southwest Florida. Electrocutions were to blame for 9 percent of the nearly 1,250 construction worker deaths in a recent year of analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The death rate for electrical injuries in the construction industry was recorded to be 1.1 per 100,000 full-time workers. That averages out to about 120 electrocutions of construction workers per year. Most of those who suffered fatality were earth drillers and electrical power installers and repair workers.
Although electrical accidents can occur in just about any industry, occupations related to construction had the highest number of annual deaths attributed to electrocution. In fact, electrocution is the fourth-highest cause of death among construction workers, after falls, transportation injuries and being struck by equipment or objects.
The greatest risk factors for electrocution on a construction site are:
- Contact with overhead or buried power lines
- Improper use of extension and flexible cords
- Poor condition of electrical equipment
- Improper or inadequate grounding (ground-fault circuit interrupters)
- Damaged power tools
- Wires not properly labeled
- Bad insulation of wires
- Exposed electrical parts
- Electricity not shut off before work starts
- Improper use of equipment
- Overloaded circuits
- Unidentified underground power lines
And of course, all of these hazards are made worse when conditions are wet or damp.
Most of these conditions can be broken down into one of three categories: Unsafe equipment or installation, unsafe environment and/or unsafe work practices.
Employers have a responsibility to ensure workers are safe on the job site. In general, they can do this through insulation, grounding, guarding, using protective devices on electrical components and ensuring proper training and safe work practices.
Insulation, for example, helps to reduce the flow of electrical current. Material effective for insulation includes glass, rubber, plastic and mica in order to coat the metal.
Grounding is a means of connecting an electrical system or tool to the earth to prevent a buildup of voltage that could result in injury. It won’t guarantee avoidance of a shock, but it could substantially reduce risk of serious injury.
Guarding is a method of enclosing electrical equipment to make sure workers don’t accidentally come in contact with it. That could mean posting large, permanent screens blocking entrance, bold signs warning of danger or placing the electrical system in an enclosure or on an elevated platform.
There are also many electrical accidents that could be prevented if workers used proper lockout/tagout procedures when working with electric-powered equipment and machines. The process involves locking the device or power source and preventing it from turning on during service or maintenance work. Workers are required to put a tag on the locked device that indicates it shouldn’t be turned on. When done properly, it can prevent electrocutions.OSHA’s New Rule to Prevent Electricity Hazards
Given the severity and pervasiveness of electrical accidents, OSHA initiated a final rule that updated 40-year standard for Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution, which largely went into effect July 10, 2014. Companies were expected be in full compliance by April 1, 2015. Previous standards were set in 1972.
The new rule includes new or updated requirements for fall protections, arc-flash protection, minimum approach distances and personal protection equipment. The agency anticipates the new standard will save 20 construction worker lives and prevent 118 serious injuries every year.
Some of the types of incidents regulators hope the new practices/rules will prevent include:
- A power line worker killed when a tractor trailer struck the aerial lift truck. The worker was thrown from the platform. The new rules would require trucks to maintain certain distances from power lines during active repair.
- A power line worker sustained severe burns that melted his rubber gloves and required him to undergo numerous surgeries after an electrical fault happened when a battery cable fell onto the terminals on one of the batteries he was replacing in a utility substation.
Companies that fail to adhere to these rules may be subject to a hefty fine from federal regulators.
For workers injured by electricity, there is usually workers’ compensation. Our experienced injury lawyers in South Florida help our clients to secure these benefits, and also work to determine whether there are other avenues of compensation via third-party negligence.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.
Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation