Construction is notoriously one of the most dangerous industries in both the state of Kentucky and across the nation. We are well aware that the perils skilled laborers on construction sites face are numerous. But just how common are electrocutions and electrical injuries on jobsites?
After learning more about the statistics of electricity-involved injuries that happen on construction sites, reach out to Thomas Law Offices to learn more about the legal options for injured victims and their families.
Electrical Injury Statistics
Electrocution is considered one of the “Fatal Four” or “Focus Four” hazards—the top four most common causes of fatality in the construction industry as defined by OSHA. Electrocutions, in combination with falls, struck-by accidents, and caught-in or caught-between accidents, are responsible for more jobsite deaths than any other construction safety hazard.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics research data shows just how common electrocution in construction is. Electrocution on construction sites accounted for 77% of all electricity-related deaths that occurred in the U.S. during the period of research.
In another study, it was found that workers in the construction industry are roughly four times as likely to be electrocuted than those who work in all other industries combined.
On construction jobsites, electrocution deaths per year outrank deaths due to respiratory illness, industrial truck accidents, fires, motor vehicle collisions, toxic chemical exposure, and exhaustion, heat, and overexertion.
Not all jobsite electrical injuries are fatal electrocutions. Those who survive but are injured in electricity-involved jobsite accidents often experience a range of painful, crippling, and debilitating effects of the injury. Electrical injuries can include cardiac arrest and heart problems, muscle, nerve, and tissue damage, contact burns, and injuries sustained in falls after an electric shock.
Research showed over 24,000 non-fatal electrical injuries to have occurred on construction sites during the most recent 10-year research period. Sadly, there was almost no change in the incidence rate of non-fatal electricity-related construction injuries over the past decade—indicating that more work needs to be done to improve jobsite safety for workers.
Types of Electrical Hazards Workers Face on Jobsites
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the four main types of electrical injuries on jobsites are:
- Fatal electrocution
- Electric shock
- Electric burn
- Fall caused by contact with electrical energy
Electrical injuries can result from direct contact with hazardous electric sources, such as unintentional contact with live powerlines or high-voltage equipment, or from the repercussions of an electricity-caused accident, like a fall or an explosion. OSHA’s “BE SAFE” acronym was created to help workers and site managers recognize, avoid, and protect against electrical hazards. The BE SAFE terms are:
- B = Burns. Burns are the most common type of shock-related injury, and may be the result of electrical, arc flash, or thermal contact.
- E = Electrocution. Electrocution is a fatal exposure to a lethal amount of electricity.
- S = Shock. Shock happens when an electrical current enters the body at one point and leaves at another point.
- A = Arc Flash. When there is a breakdown between conductors and electrical energy is released into the air, an arc flash gives off intense light and heat up to 35,000 °F.
- F = Fire. Most electrical fires are caused by faulty outlets, old wiring, or problems with cords, plugs, receptacles, or switches.
- E = Explosion. Explosions result when a source of electricity is too close to and ignites a flammable material in the air like an explosive gas.
Preventing Common Jobsite Electrical Injuries
Considering how common electrocution in construction has long been, the federal guidelines for electricity safety protocols on jobsites are strict. However, on OSHA’s list of Top 10 most frequently-cited safety violations, a failure to properly control hazardous energy sources, especially electricity, ranked as the 6th most frequent in 2020.
When workers are servicing or maintaining machinery or equipment, energy sources must be controlled so as to prevent the worker from being injured or killed. OSHA provides the example of a worker servicing a piece of factory equipment, who is shocked when the internal wiring short circuits, as a common incidence of this type of workplace safety violation.
Electricity accidents cause far too many preventable injuries and deaths on jobsites. The following safety tips from OSHA, the CDC, and the American Safety Council can help prevent electrical injuries on jobsites:
- Look for, identify, and keep a safe distance from overhead and underground powerlines when operating any equipment.
- Always use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
- Disconnect the plug of a power tool or piece of machinery before servicing or repairing.
- Before servicing equipment, use lock-out/tag-out practices to make sure circuits are de-energized.
- Only operate portable electrical tools when they are grounded or double-insulated.
- Before using, inspect all tools and extension cords for cuts, damage, or faulty insulation.
- Keep all metal objects a safe distance away from any live electrical circuits or parts.
- Never use tools in a way for which they were not designed.
- Be especially alert to electrical hazards when working at heights, like on ladders or scaffolding.
- All workers must be thoroughly trained, comply with, and follow all applicable OSHA and NFPA safety standards.
We at Thomas Law Offices are firm in our belief that our role places on us a duty to not only protect the individual clients we serve, but to work toward creating safer working environments for all skilled laborers on construction sites. When you partner with our firm to hold those responsible for jobsite negligence accountable, you take a step toward holding the construction industry as a whole to a higher standard of safety.
We are proud to represent our clients who stand up for their rights and work to make sure that justice is served. We know that the time period after an accident is always challenging. Injury victims and their families face the sudden and unexpected burden of pain, disability, emotional anguish, a loss of income, and ongoing medical expenses.
At Thomas Law Offices, we strive to lighten that burden and ensure that your financial security is not compromised by another party’s negligence. Reach out to schedule a free case evaluation with our firm to learn more about your legal options after a jobsite electrical injury.