Electrical hazards may exist in many work environments, including construction job sites and in other locations. During one recent electrical accident in August of 2019, two men lost their lives. They were working on Mount Peter in Warwick – roughly sixty miles northwest of New York City.
An online ABC news report states that although both men had extensive experience handling electricity, they were still fatally injured when they began working on a guy wire (that was still energized) at the base of a transmission pole. The work was being performed on behalf of Orange and Rockland Utilities – on lines crossing over a mountain.
The accident involved a surge of electricity that measured about 69,000 volts. In addition to killing the two men, a small brush fire broke out – and the men’s all-terrain vehicle nearly melted all the way down to its frame.
What follows is a brief overview of the types of job sites where electrical accidents can occur, along with detailed OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) information about the types of injuries that are often sustained besides electrocution. The article ends with some general OSHA safety tips on working with electricity.
Construction sites remain among the most dangerous places for electrical injuries
Overhead power lines always pose a serious threat to everyone working on a construction site, regardless of a worker’s skill level. Supervisors must take daily precautions to be sure all power lines have been de-energized before any workers are deployed nearby.
All outdoor workers on scaffolds, inside bucket trucks – or climbing up and down ladders are at risk if even one live wire isn’t properly de-energized before they have contact with it. Plumbers, painters, bricklayers and welders must all wear proper gloves and boots to provide themselves with added protection against all power lines or potentially live wires in their vicinity.
While handling their daily tasks, these workers should also watch out for the following hazards that may be present either before construction begins – or after numerous building activities have gotten underway.
- A fallen telephone pole may still be present with active, energized lines running to it;
- Commercial equipment installed on the site may suddenly malfunction, injuring workers with wayward electrical currents;
- While renovating a building, construction workers must watch out for older electrical outlets that can unexpectedly malfunction and cause very serious harm.
Other job settings where workers can suffer electrocutions
- Healthcare settings. Nurses and medical technicians must regularly monitor patients with high-tech equipment that must stay plugged in throughout the day. If a plug connected to any type of medical monitoring device becomes frayed or defective, a serious shock or even electrocution can occur;
- Utility workers. As the accident referenced at the start of this article indicates, even wires that are supposed to be de-energized can never be fully trusted. Great care and proper testing must occur before starting work on all outdoor wiring;
- Office workers. Extensive computer equipment, printers, copy machines and other devices can easily overheat and should always be plugged into surge protection devices. If any of these plugs become frayed or are pulled out suddenly, the person touching the device can suffer a serious shock or electrocution;
- Exterminators and others working outdoors under houses and other structures. When crawling under people’s homes or office buildings, workers can suddenly come across exposed wiring that hasn’t been properly de-energized in advance;
- Mechanical repair and maintenance shop workers. They must always wear proper protective equipment since they’re regularly exposed to many different levels of electrical currents;
- People whose work involves handling all kinds of outdoor or theatrical lighting.
Important OSHA information about electrical shocks and burns
- What controls the way a specific shock affects a person’s body?
Workers in every environment must keep in mind that electric shocks can range from mild body tingling to sudden cardiac arrest. How severe the shock may be will depend on the amount of current that is sent through a person’s body, the exact path taken by the current, the frequency of the current – and how long the person’s body remains in the circuit. (See OSHA’s publication entitled, “Controlling Electrical Hazards.”)
Normally, circuits flow through a conductor. Unfortunately, the human body can serve as a highly effective conductor of electricity. When this happens, the person’s body becomes part of the electric circuit — and an electric shock can occur. When someone receives a shock, the electricity will usually either flow through parts of their body – or travel down the body to a ground or the soil or earth below.
- What types of burns can electric shocks cause?
a). Electrical burns. These are usually the most serious types and usually require
immediate medical attention;
- Thermal contact burns. These are created when a person’s skin touches the extremely hot surfaces of electric conduits, conductors or other equipment that’s still energized. These types of burns can also develop when a person’s clothes catch on fire;
(c) Arc or flash burns. When electric arcs are present due to high temperatures or when
an explosion has just occurred near someone’s body, these types of burns can be
sustained. They must always be treated right away.
When workers appear to physically “freeze” after an electrical shock, what has occurred?
People’s muscles tend to contract after a shock and this effect can make it even harder for the person to pull away from the electrical circuit – worsening the harm they sustain. Should you be nearby when this “freezing” effect occurs, you must immediately shut off the electrical current.
If that cannot be done, you must try to carefully use some type of non-conducting material like a large piece of wood to help the person pull away from the electrical current.
Keep in mind that the longer the exposure to an electrical current, the greater the risk of serious injury. And remember that even long-term exposures at low voltages can still cause very serious harm.
Besides burns and shocks, what other injuries are often caused by electrical currents?
- Serious cardiac arrythmias or heart attacks
- Neurological injuries that may become permanent
- Ongoing pain in a person’s hands or feet
- Possible changes in vision or hearing
- Actual electrocutions that cause death
General OSHA safety tips for working with electricity
- Always assume that all overhead wiring is fully energized with lethal levels of voltage. Don’t be fooled by anything that may initially look like adequate insulation;
- Stay in your vehicle if an overhead wire falls on it while you’re driving. Be sure to keep driving away from the wire, if you can. If your car or truck stalls, stay inside. You must wait and ask someone to call the local utility company to come help you;
- Never try to personally repair frayed electrical cords or equipment – unless you’ve been fully trained to do so;
- If equipment has become wet or damp, first have a fully qualified electrician inspect it before energizing it;
- Never operate any type of electrical equipment when you’re standing in water – no matter what types of boots or other gear you may be wearing.
Have you suffered a serious electrical injury or lost a close loved one due to a job-related electrocution? If so, you need to contact our New York City electrocution accident law firm. We’ll carefully investigate the facts of your case and then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available to cover all your pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses and other losses.