The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health (ELCOSH) observes electrocutions are the fourth leading cause of death among construction workers in the United States. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, construction workers account for nearly half of the overall work-related electrocution deaths in the United States.
Risks of injury are increased when jobs require workers to use electricity. Studies show that, on average, 143 construction workers are killed each year by electrical contact, and even more are injured in electrical accidents. Working near overhead power lines and cables is also a risk. Understandably, California requires employers to provide workers with the information, training, instruction, and supervision they need to work safely.
At the O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm, we have seen a number of cases where employees suffered injuries based on the inadequate workplace safety to which they were subjected to.
Most electrical accidents occur when individuals:
- Work on or near equipment which is thought to be dead but is, in fact, live.
- Are without adequate training or appropriate equipment, or they have not taken adequate precautions while working on or near equipment which is known to be live, misuse equipment or use faulty electrical equipment.
Steps to Eliminate or Minimize Electrical Safety Risks
The risk of injury from electricity is strongly linked to where and how it is used. As an employer, you must assess the risks associated with electricity and find out if there are any ways to eliminate or minimize them.
As part of ensuring health and safety on the site, at the start of everyday employers should check for new workers, new risks, new equipment, and any changes to the site layout. You must provide workers with the information, training, instruction, and supervision they need to work safely. This includes suitable training on electrical risks on site so that everyone knows how these risks can be eliminated or minimized.
You and the contractors on site must ensure any electrical equipment you use or provide is operated safely and maintained so that it remains safe. You should take into account the nature and the conditions of the work.
What Causes Construction Electrical Injuries?
A NIOSH report observes five major categories of construction electrical accidents, from a study of 244 fatalities:
- Conductive equipment contact with energized powerline (16%)
- Improperly installed or damaged equipment (17%)
- Boomed vehicle contact with an energized powerline (18%)
- Direct worker contact with energized equipment (21%)
- Direct worker contact with an energized powerline (28%)
These incidents can have grave effects for the construction workers who suffer them. Even if not resulting in death, there can be serious lifelong health impacts that result.
While it is significant for an employee to maintain the safety standards, it is a duty for employers to do so.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates electricity in the workplace from the installation to the use of electrical equipment to the maintenance requirements and safety equipment.
More detailed information can be found on OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov.
If you or a loved one has suffered any injuries or harm due to inefficient workplace safety, contact the O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm as soon as possible.