Working with electrical components in construction is a dangerous trade. In 2018, electrocution accidents accounted for 8.5 percent of all deaths in the construction industry and ranked as the third leading cause of death among the Fatal Four Hazards. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (O.S.H.A) at least 86 workers lost their lives due to electrocution injuries; most of these tragedies were preventable.
What are Electrocution Accidents?
O.S.H.A. defines an electrocution accident as an injury or fatality that is caused by electrical shock. Wires and powerlines serve as conductors that help electricity to flow and complete a circuit. When a human interrupts this electrical flow of energy, the body acts as an additional conductor, absorbing harmful amounts of electricity that can easily result in fatal consequences.
Types of Electrocution Accidents
Three major types of electrocution accidents lead to construction fatalities and injuries:
– Contact with energized sources: These types of instances result from defective wiring, tools or equipment, exposed wiring, and live parts. The use of Personal Protective Equipment (P.P.E.) will reduce the risk of most injuries but not all.
– Contact with powerlines: Powerlines overhead or underground pose a significant hazard to all construction workers, whether they are working directly with electrical components or not. Cranes, lifts, and other elevated trucks can collide with overhead wires when driving blindly or lacking support to guide them around a worksite. Workers in excavation will most often come across buried electrical wires that may split or break during trenching projects.
– Improper Use of Electrical Cords: Damaged wires and cords can expose workers to dangerous electrical current, mainly when they are present in common areas and high traffic areas. Extension cords and flexible cords pose the highest risk for electrocution injuries when explore. These materials can quickly become damaged by foot traffic, doors, window edges, staples, and abrasion from other surrounding materials.
BE SAFE Electrocution Hazards and Injuries
Workers can suffer from a range of fatal and nonfatal injuries due to electrical exposure:
- Painful shock;
- Loss of muscle control;
- Nerve damage;
- Respiratory issues;
- Muscle damage;
- Organ damage;
- Internal bleeding;
- Cardiovascular disorders; and
- Severe burns.
Construction hazards that expose workers to lethal amounts of electricity are often determined using the acronym BE SAFE: Burns, Electrocution, Shock, Arc Flash/Arc Blast, Fire, Explosions. Any area, equipment, or machinery that poses a risk of one or all of these hazards requires specific safety protocols, such as Lock Out Tag Out procedures, to prevent accidents.
Burns are the most common nonfatal injuries resulting from electrocution accidents but can still be severe enough to yield fatal results. Three types of burns can result from electrical exposure: Electrical (heat exposure), Thermal Contact (skin contact with overheated equipment), and Arc/Flash (exposure to electric arc or explosion).
Typically, when an injury is defined simply as electrocution, the result of the injury was fatal. Humans exposed to lethal amounts of electrical energy rarely survive. Even when using P.P.E., workers can only withstand a certain amount of electricity before the body surrenders.
Shock is a common electrocution injury that occurs when a worker’s body becomes a part of the electrical circuit. In these cases, electricity will enter and exit through the body, triggering a reflex response. Shock may not result in fatal injuries; however, severe damage can occur internally.
Arc Flash/Arc Blast
Arc flashes give off thermal radiation that can cause burns to any workers in range. An arc flash occurs when there is a breakdown between conductors, causing a sudden release of electrical energy through the air. While some arc flashes are spontaneous, others result from directly bridging conducting objects with electrical contacts. Dropped tools, corrosion, and dust buildup are common causes of arc flashes in construction. Arc blasts occur when arc flashes are high-voltage and produce pressure waves from the heat in the air– some arc flashes have reached temperatures of up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit!
Electrical tasks that involve rewiring and repair can result in fires if the wiring is old or faulty. Fires can also result from the improper use or overuse of extension and appliance cords, receptacles, plugs, and switches.
Explosions occur when electricity ignites hazardous chemicals and materials on a job site. Welding, sparks, drilling, faulty wiring, and the use of heavy equipment can all cause an electrical explosion to occur. Workers physically thrown due to the force of a blast are also at risk for impact injuries such as spinal cord damage, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and broken bones when forced from a ground or elevated platform.
Involved in a Construction-Related Accident
Electrocution accidents in the construction industry are preventable with training, safety planning, P.P.E., and supervision of worksite tasks. Construction companies and contractors are responsible for protecting their workers from foreseeable harm. It doesn’t matter how dangerous the electrical work can be; all employees deserve to be safe on the job.
If your construction accident resulted from employer negligence or other predictable means, you might be eligible for compensation. We recommend hiring a personal injury attorney to help you explore your options and find the support you need to get back on your feet after an accident.
Work with The Top NYC & Long Island Construction Attorneys
Our construction injury attorneys at the law firm of Siler & Ingber, have over 20 years of experience serving injured workers across New York City and Long Island. We protect your rights by maximizing recovery and securing the financial support our clients need to succeed on their road to recovery. Our winning attorneys know how to navigate the claim process using our experience as insurance defense attorneys. We are not afraid to take your case to trial to get a justified verdict over settling for less.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, our team at Siler & Ingber is here to help. With a 98% success rate, we have the experience and the know-how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 1-877-529-4343, or schedule an appointment using our online form anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you.