Nearly one in five workplace accidents occur on construction sites. Studies by the United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) show that most of them are caused by what they’ve called “The Fatal Four.” Those are:
- Struck by object
- Caught in or between collapsing structures
Of those four, electrocutions are among the most common. According to a study done by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) based on data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) over 60% of all deaths on construction sites in 2015 were due to electrocution.
Despite this, experts consider construction worksite injuries due to electrocutions as one of the easiest to avoid. A little foresight by both workers and employers can prevent the bulk of injuries or deaths due to electrocution.
If you’ve been injured on a worksite and need legal representation to get the compensation you need, give the attorneys at The Weinstein Group a call at 212-741-3800 for a free consultation.
OSHA Says BE SAFE
As part of their effort to make workplaces safer, OSHA has grouped injuries from electrocution into six categories. They are:
- B – Burns
- E – Electrocution
- S – Shock
- A – Arc Flash/Arc Blast
- F – Fire
- E – Explosions
Of the six dangers, burns are the most common injury. This can mean electrical and thermal contact or arc burns. What makes arc flashes/blasts unique is that they are caused by a sudden release of energy due to a high-voltage gap and a breakdown between conductors. The resulting flash gives off a blast of light and a high level of heat – up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s also the danger of the arc rapidly heating the air, causing pressure waves and a blast, resulting in further injuries.
While the other four dangers may not require as much explanation, they are just as dangerous. Shock results when a body completes an electrical circuit. For example, a worker who allows an aluminum ladder to brush against power lines will cause electricity to enter the body and exit through a ground path. Shock is the body’s reflex to that type of energy surge, and it often results in loss of or damage to motor control.
Death from electrocution is often caused by the stoppage of the heart. The amount of voltage that causes death varies from case to case. Most electrical circuits used in workplace labor carry between 15 to 20 amperes of current, which is 300 times the amount needed to cause death.
Fires usually occur from issues with “fixed wiring,” such as faulty outlets or old wiring in poor repair. They can also result from problems with cords, particularly overloaded extension cords, as well as plugs, receptacles, and switches.
Finally, Explosions occur when electricity ignites a pre-existing explosive mixture in the air, such as gases or exhausts from machinery.
Protecting Workers On the Job Site
Electrical injuries occur from three common sources. It’s either improper use of cords (extension or flexible), contact with overhead power lines, or contact with other energized sources. That includes live parts, damaged or bare wires, and defective tools and equipment.
Therefore, the proper use and maintenance of tools, equipment, and wiring will eliminate a lot of electrical dangers.
It is imperative for site bosses and company owners to make sure all workers and contractors are properly trained in the use of electrical equipment and are aware of all safety measures.
Equipment should be kept in proper working order and repair. It’s less expensive in the long run to purchase new equipment than to pay out increased worker’s compensation premiums. Make sure everything is properly powered and grounded, whether it’s permanent or temporary equipment.
Furthermore, New York has among the highest amount of state and federal regulations, and heavy fines and penalties will come with any violations. It’s also important to use the proper voltage for the proper tools. The websites for both OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have plenty of information for conscientious bosses.
And laborers, whether salaried or contract, must pay attention to the rules, regulations, and common sense advice offered by the organizations.
Use Proper Precautions, Such as Lockout/Tagout
Sometimes it’s just bad luck, but most accidents in the workplace can be prevented by being careful, being aware, and not cutting corners. Construction work of all types is among the most dangerous in the country.
When it comes to electrical hazards, most potentially dangerous equipment or tools use a tag/lock-out system. This means whenever they’re being maintained, they must be locked to prevent accident activation, and that locking must be logged.
Tags should also be applied to any restricted electrical source or equipment. The tag must clearly explain expected procedures and who has the authority to remove the tag to access the energy source of equipment.
Other common-sense practices include:
- All electrical equipment should be properly grounded. If it’s double-insulated, even better.
- All tools and equipment should be inspected for use, as well as power or extension cords. Wear-and-tear happens, but remove them from service when they’re damaged. If a plug is missing a ground pin, for example, do not wait to replace it.
- Do not work with electrical equipment around wet areas or if that equipment is wet.
- When using live electrical circuits or parts, keep metal objects away from contact. Outside metal can short out the equipment or even cause an explosion. If possible, use non-conductive tools.
- Be aware of all power lines and maintain a safe distance from them. Do not store tools or equipment near power lines or sources.
- Any electrical equipment that isn’t in use or being serviced should be unplugged.
- Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). This is a device designed to interrupt ground fault circuits to protect people from shocks. They operate much like a circuit breaker does for a house, and can be portable or part of the equipment.
- Use and store equipment properly. Don’t yank on cords, switch off tools before unplugging them, store in dry places, report damaged equipment immediately, etc. Deplete built-up energy by grounding or bleeding.
When Accidents Happen, Call Our New York Construction Accident Lawyers
Unfortunately, no matter how careful a worker is or how well a boss maintains a worksite, accidents will happen. Whether you’re navigating a third-party claim, worker’s compensation, or both, an experienced New York construction accident attorney can provide benefits during every step of the process.
The Weinstein Law Group has over 30 years of experience working in this field, and we treat each case with the importance and dedication it deserves. We will work with you to get the compensation you need to get on with your life after a workplace accident. We will also work to help you understand the legal basis for your claim and the step-by-step process you can expect.
Hire a lawyer who cares. Call us today at 212-741-3800 or contact us online for a no-risk consultation.