Electrocution on Construction Sites
According to The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocutions are among the “Fatal Four” causes of private sector workplace fatalities. Ranking second after falls, work site electrocutions make up about 143 construction worker deaths each year. This is significant considering construction workers make up only 5% of New York’s population but account for 27% of workplace fatalities.
Nothing can prepare an individual or family for the instantaneous effects of an electrocution or electric shock. However, the attorneys at Aronova and Associates in New York City are committed to helping victims and their loved ones obtain the compensation they deserve after such a life-changing event.
Electrocution v. electric shock
Though someone may survive an electric shock – which occurs when an electrical current flows through the body, electrocution is, by definition, always fatal. Factors that lead to death by electric shock include:
- Electrical voltage
- How long the exposure lasts
- Path the current takes through the body
At greatest risk of these tragic deaths are not just construction workers, but also installation, maintenance, repair crew members, and even workers in the agricultural industry. There are numerous safety regulations designed to prevent this type of accident because they can – and should – be prevented.
Who is at risk for an electrocution?
An electrocution can occur in practically any industry but more than half of this country’s electrocution deaths occur in construction – leading some people to wonder, why are so many construction workers being electrocuted?
Among construction workers, power line installers are statistically the most likely to face electrocution. Though they account for a low overall number (17 deaths between 2008 and 2010), their rate of electrocution (16.1 per 1,000 full time equivalent workers) is far higher than the next most dangerous position – electricians. Electricians, by comparison, accounted for 69 deaths in that same time frame, at a rate of 2.3 per 1,000 full time equivalent workers. Also in the zone of danger are carpenters, roofers, non-electrical supervisors, and other trades.
Common electrocution hazards on construction sites
The most common causes of electrocution accidents on construction sites include:
- Electrical equipment and wiring, including ungrounded wires
- Overhead power lines
- Inadequate or faulty machinery, appliances, or tools
- Unclear designations of construction zones
- Site flaws like inadequate lighting
In some cases, accidents occur when a worker touches an energized item. In others, a metal object touches an energized object, leading to an incident such as a ladder or scaffolding electrocution.
Safety steps to prevent electrocution on construction sites
Many electrocutions occur because those on site do not take proper precautions.
Both state and federal law set forth safety standards to protect workers. For instance, OSHA requirements touch every corner of the construction site and even spell out the distance that an employee must keep from overhead power lines based on their current.
Workers can help protect themselves by observing reasonable precautions, such as:
- Follow lock out/tag out procedures to ensure de-energized wires are not actually live
- Check that power cords are in good condition and that machinery and tools are grounded
- Wear all recommended personal protective equipment
Injuries from electrocution
Electrocution is fatal but some people instead experience non-fatal electric shocks. Looks can be deceiving though; even if an electrical burn looks minor, there may be serious unseen damage. The effect of electricity coursing through a body can generate energy and heat that cause severe internal injuries.
Some of the injuries suffered by workers who experience an electric shock include:
- Electrical, arc, or thermal burns
- Tissue damage, including destruction of muscles and nerves, from the passing current
- Cardiac arrest
- Physical injuries from falls, twitching, or flailing
Liability for workplace electrocutions
Victims of scaffolding electrocution or electrical shock on building sites may have several legal options that can be outlined by a knowledgeable attorney.
Regardless of who was at fault, a construction worker is usually eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim to pay for medical expenses. In certain cases, though, an injured worker or their family may file a personal injury lawsuit if the accident was caused by an employer’s or subcontractor’s negligence. OSHA violations related to electrical operations may indicate that the employee or someone else at the site was negligent.
Consult with NYC construction accident attorneys
Whether you have suffered a serious electrical injury or lost a loved one to electrocution, you need someone on your side to help navigate the legal process. Call Aronova and Associates to set up confidential consultation with a NY construction accident lawyer who is committed to helping you through. From our Garden City and Manhattan offices, we proudly assist injured workers throughout Nassau County and Long Island.
Additional Resources on electrocution accidents:
- United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Commonly Used Statistics, https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html
- Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health, Why Are So Many Construction Workers Being Electrocuted?, http://www.elcosh.org/document/1599/d000539/Why+Are+So+Many+Construction+Workers+Being+Electrocuted%3F.html?show_text=1
- The Center for Construction Research and Training, Fatalities from Contact with Electricity in Construction, https://www.cpwr.com/sites/default/files/publications/CB%20page%2045.pdf
- Medline Plus, Electrical Injury, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000053.htm