Electrocution is exposure to a lethal amount of electrical energy. Electrocution hazards present a serious risk to many types of workers and in the few cases where a worker survives, it is only with serious burns and injuries. In fact, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classifies electrocution as one of the Fatal Four accidents responsible for most worker fatalities in the construction industry.
The following groups of workers are at higher risk for electrocution accidents:
Contact with overhead and buried power lines are the main hazard associated with electrocution accidents. Overhead power lines are not only a risk to crane operators and utility workers, but also to workers on ladders and truck drivers operating movable truck beds that meet power lines when fully extended. Workers may not realize that the coverings for power lines are mainly for weather protection and that contact with a power line, covered or not, will most likely be fatal due to the high voltage carried. Accidents that are not fatal can result in the worker being thrown from heights and sustaining head, back, or spinal cord injuries, along with burns from electrical shock.
Contact with energized sources is another cause of electrocution accidents, including live parts, damaged or bare wires, and defective equipment and tools. When a worker meets both live wires of an electrical circuit, a metal part that has become energized by contact with an electrical conductor, or one wire of an energized circuit and the ground, then the body becomes part of that electric circuit resulting in an electrical shock. The length of exposure, amount of current, and whether the skin was wet or dry, are some of the factors determining the severity and effects of the electrical shock. Wet conditions and wet skin allow the electricity to flow more easily, allowing the worker to experience anything from faint tingling to cardiac arrest and severe burns. Burns from electricity are some of the most severe because they cause much more damage to the tissues underneath the skin.
Extension cords and other flexible cords are also an electrical hazard when used improperly. They are used widely for power tools and are more susceptible to damage than fixed wiring because they are exposed, flexible, and unsecured. Normal wear and tear can expose wires creating the risk for shocks, burns, and fire. Cords can be damaged by the edges of a window or door, from being fastened or stapled, or abraded by other materials. A cord connector laying on wet surfaces can leak electric current, creating a danger to anyone who picks it up.
There are many safety measures that employers can use to prevent electrocution accidents. OSHA has many safety guidelines, one of which is a list by voltage of safe distances to be maintained from overhead power lines. The higher the voltage, the greater the distance. Additionally:
Employers should also:
When electrical accidents are not fatal, they can cause severe injuries that have long lasting effects and require substantial medical care and rehabilitation. An experienced attorney can help injured victims of electrical accidents recover compensation for medical treatment and lost wages.
At Gross & Kenny, LLP, we have been helping injured workers for more than 20 years. If you have suffered injuries in a work-related electrical accident, let us help you obtain the benefits you deserve. Call us today at 267-589-0090, or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers.