NYC Utility Workers Face Numerous Daily Hazards
Whether working directly on building construction sites or adjacent to them, utility workers must exercise great caution when carrying out various tasks. In fact, many of these contractors and subcontractors work directly with electricity – or around natural gas and various toxic chemicals. Other utility workers handle water mains or underground communication infrastructures that involve radio and microwave equipment.
On most days, New York City utility workers are either installing new equipment, replacing older materials and wiring, performing routine maintenance tasks – or conducting safety checks as they search for weaknesses or flaws in various systems.
To provide a better understanding of the dangers that challenge utility workers, this article first reviews some of the general locations where they often handle their tasks, and then notes the serious injuries they most frequently sustain.
Many utility workers face challenging work locations
- Inside raised boom lifts, (“cherry pickers,” or basket cranes). These familiar devices are used by utility workers and other outdoor professionals, including fire department personnel. On any given day, New York City utility workers climb into these enclosed work platforms to repair damaged utility lines and equipment. Boom lifts are constructed of a hydraulic crane with a raised and enclosed platform. (Workers often sustain serious neck, spine and back injuries when they fall out of these devices);
- Inside trenches and other confined spaces. Brand new buildings and others undergoing renovations will always need utility subcontractor crews that can install new equipment down in trenches – while carefully protecting any utility devices already present that may simply need to be upgraded. Given the deadly dangers often posed by trench collapses when walls aren’t properly supported – extra safety protocols must be established and followed;
- Outdoor locations often prove very taxing. Utility workers are often needed during widespread storms that may involve heavy rains, lightning and even freezing temperatures. Extreme heat during the summer months also poses special hazards. Depending on the time of year, utility workers can suffer heat exhaustion, heatstroke, dehydration, hypothermia, frostbite and other weather-related ills;
- Older building renovations. While working in these environments, utility workers are often exposed to harmful chemicals and substance like asbestos that may have still been legal when the structures were first erected. Utility workers also face special dangers when called upon to make repairs following major explosions that can occur in both older and newer buildings. It’s their job to restore power after such catastrophic events:
- Overhead line work. High-voltage wires often pose deadly safety threats to all who work on them – and any other construction workers who accidentally work too close to them;
- On crowded roads and highways. Utility workers must often drive job equipment vehicles to reach various project sites.
Most common utility worker injuries – depending on assigned tasks and locations
- Electrical burns. In many cases, these prove to be quite serious, if not deadly;
- Fractured and broken bones. Heavy lifting is often required when utility workers help position new equipment poles in the ground or lift large containers filled with utility cables or wiring;
- Serious or deadly falls. Utility contractors not only work with underground equipment, they must also work on high platforms while handling assigned tasks. Too many of them often fall out of boom lifts;
- Spinal cord injuries. These can often occur while workers are helping to move new (and often heavy) equipment into place – or after serious falls from high levels;
- Traumatic brain injuries. Workers often suffer these after falls from great heights – and they can develop them after heavy materials fall from above, striking their heads;
- Hand injuries and repetitive stress. Utility workers must regularly use a wide variety of hand tools, many of which create strong vibrations while drilling into cement and other hard surfaces. Utility contractors also suffer serious injuries to their elbows, knees and wrists;
- Neck and back pain. Daily project assignments constantly require utility workers to strain numerous muscles as they seek to install and repair different utility devices;
- Respiratory illnesses. Given the presence of asbestos in older buildings and toxic chemicals that aren’t always readily apparent, utility workers must wear full protective gear when performing all their duties – especially in confined areas with inadequate ventilation;
- Amputation and crush injuries. Utility contractors are most likely to suffer this type of painful and disfiguring harm while working in trenches and other confined spaces.
Unfortunately, many utility subcontractors are often required to work extra weekly shifts and on holidays when so many power failures occur. These long hours add a tremendous amount of stress and fatigue to a job that’s already very physically demanding.
What past annual statistics reveal about reported utility worker injuries
Unusually high numbers of utility workers often report suffering the following injuries.
- Serious medical problems caused by direct contact with an electrical current;
- Falls to lower levels of a job site;
- Being hit while in a job vehicle or while working as a pedestrian near a highway;
- Getting caught in between two objects — or getting crushed between hard surfaces;
- Being struck by a falling object;
- Suffering an injury during an explosion – or while making repairs following one;
- Being unable to obtain adequate oxygen;
- Incurring bodily harm while working with machines, tools or electric parts.
Strong likelihood that utility worker accidents will keep increasing
Since New York City’s utility infrastructure (and that of the rest of the country) has been judged to be in very poor repair, we’re likely to see a major increase in utility repair projects during the next decade. Unless strong safety protocols are created and properly followed, we’re likely to see a large increase in annual injuries suffered by utility workers. Industry experts also warn that there may not be enough qualified personnel to keep filling all the new positions for these workers.
If you’ve suffered serious physical injuries as a utility worker, you need to contact our New York City utility worker accident law firm. We have the necessary experience to fully investigate the facts of your case and then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available for you. We’ll help you recover for all your pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses and other losses.