Electrical Injuries at Work
May 2, 2019
For more than 45 years, the Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled statistics about injuries, illnesses and fatalities on the job in the U.S. According to a recent survey of the last 25 years of data, U.S. workers are getting injured less and... continue reading
September 4, 2018
A recent Massachusetts labor report revealed an alarming truth: Construction workers are six times more likely than other workers to die from overdose of an opioid prescribed after an on-the-job injury. This finding shows that companies in dangerous injuries such as construction need to do more to... continue reading
Jobsite accidents and workplace hazards occur within all industries. It is estimated that more than 2 million people are injured every year on the job, many so severely that they require ongoing medical care and cannot return to work.Electrical injuries are estimated to cause approximately 500 to 1,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and are the fourth leading cause of work-related traumatic death. The top industries for fatal electrical accidents are construction, transportation, utilities, mining and manufacturing.
Electricity Mishaps: Burns, Heart Attack & InjuryAn important form of energy, electricity is so integrated into our daily lives that it’s easy to take it for granted. What shouldn’t be taken for granted is its potential to be dangerous. The effect of an electric shock varies depending on the voltage size, the body parts involved, the length of time the current flows and whether the person is wet. As little as 50 volts applied between two parts of your body can cause a current to flow that can block the electrical signals between your brain and muscles, resulting in muscle spasms, improper heartbeat and respiratory arrest. Electric shocks are dangerous because as the current passes through the human body, it heats the tissue that it comes into contact with. The resulting burns can require major surgery and be permanently disabling. The muscle spasms that accompany electric shocks can be strong enough to break bones or dislocate joints. This loss of muscle control may cause a person to fall or be thrown backwards, resulting in further injury. Some electrical equipment gets very hot in ordinary use, as do those that are overloaded, faulty, or incorrectly maintained. People who touch such heated objects are at risk for receiving thermal burns. Electrical equipment also can generate sparks that are strong enough to cause an explosion in certain environments where aerosols, vapors, gases or dusts exist.
Even static electricity can cause an explosion if the atmosphere is right.
Electrical Accidents on the JobThe occupations of electrocuted workers vary widely, as do the situations in which they come into contact with electricity. The general regulation regarding electricity set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is that employees are not permitted to work near any part of an electrical power circuit unless they are protected. Nevertheless, the most frequent causes of workplace accidents and electrical injuries include:
- Contact with Power Lines — Fatal electrocution is the main risk, but burns and falls from elevations are also hazards. On average, almost half of all occupational electrical fatalities every year can be attributed to contact with overhead power lines.
- Lack of Ground-Fault Protection — A fault, or insulation failure, in the wire used to create a path to ground can send current through a worker’s body.
- Missing or Discontinuous Path to Ground – Even properly grounded power systems can instantly change from safe to hazardous because of extreme conditions and rough treatment.
- Equipment Not Used in Manner Prescribed – For example, using equipment outdoors that is labeled for use only in dry, indoor locations or using circuit breakers or fuses with the wrong rating for over-current protection.
- Improper Use of Extension Cords and Flexible Cords — Cords that are not 3-wire type, are not designed for hard-usage, or have been altered, increase the risk of contacting electrical current.