Gas and Utility Workers
The men and women who maintain gas and utility lines have a crucial job that keeps us supplied with power, heat, and water. Even regular maintenance puts gas and utility workers at high risk for work accidents and injuries.
Gas and utility workers often perform work under emergency circumstances, such as when storms knock out power lines, adding the risks that come with severe weather to an already dangerous profession.
Utility workers install, repair, and maintain gas lines, electrical lines, pipes, transformers, fuses, meters, voltage regulators, power line poles, and towers. They can be called to work at any time of the day or night and they often work at elevated heights. The work is dangerous, physically demanding, and can result in serious injuries. Fatalities are unfortunately a reality in the industry.
Common Causes of Injuries
- Electricity – Working with electricity is highly dangerous and can cause electrical shocks and burns, as well as electrocution. Electrical burns are more damaging than thermal burns because the electricity travels through several layers of tissue causing subcutaneous damage that is difficult to heal.
- Explosions – Gas leaks that meet an ignition source can cause powerful and dangerous explosions that can release toxic chemicals into the surroundings.
- Falls – Working at heights, whether in cherry pickers or on utility poles, is a dangerous business. Weather conditions can increase the risk of falls for utility workers.
- Slip and Falls – Because so much utility emergency work is due to snow, ice, and rain, slip and falls are common for utility workers doing repairs.
- Caught In/Between Accidents – Cave-ins and the collapse of trenches and tunnels are caught in/between accidents, which are highly dangerous for workers and typically caused by a lack of proper shoring or support system.
- Improper/Outdated Markings for Gas Lines – When utility companies do not keep current information for where gas lines are concealed, workers are the ones who pay the price, sometimes in deadly explosions when gas lines are punctured.
- Defective Tools – Tools that are defective or not properly maintained are a danger to the workers who use them.
- Weather Conditions – Extreme weather causes many of the problems that gas and utility workers are charged with fixing. Exposed to these conditions they can suffer hypothermia and frostbite from the cold, and heat stress injuries like heat stroke.
- Repetitive Stress – Long hours performing the same kind of work takes a toll on the muscles involved, as can vibrating tools. The damage from repetitive stress can leave a worker unable to perform daily tasks.
- Vehicle Accidents – Traveling to reach power lines downed by bad weather can itself be a risky undertaking. Many workers are injured in vehicle accidents due to bad road conditions.
- Severe burns – both thermal and electrical—potentially with permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Head injuries – including traumatic brain injury from falls and being struck by falling objects
- Back and neck injuries
- Sprains and Strains from overexertion working long shifts in cramped and awkward conditions
- Repetitive Stress injuries – such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Occupational illnesses – such as asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma from exposure to carcinogens and asbestos
- Broken bones and fractures
Every employer has the responsibility to ensure a safe workplace for their employees. Utility companies can do this by implementing OSHA safety standards and protocols and providing training and personal protective equipment for employees.
Workers who are injured on the job have access to Workers’ Compensation benefits that pay for medical care, lost wages, and disability. Families who have lost a loved one are eligible for death benefits. Consulting an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney can help ensure your claim will be successful.