David Perecman, Founder and Lead Trial Attorney at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., provides guidance on how to prevent on-the-job electrocutions.
With private companies working in construction, manufacturing and natural resources and mining industries accounting for nearly three-quarters of fatal electrical injuries, it is vital for workers in these sectors to be aware of the risks of electrical hazards and take steps to mitigate on-the-job, electrical injuries.
A key element of preserving a safe working environment is risk awareness and prevention. The most common forms of electrical injuries include electrical shock and electrical burns. Electrocution is always used to describe a fatal electrical injury.
Safety First At All Times
Although electrical safety is important for workers in many industries, it is particularly relevant for workers in the construction and electrical industries. Electrocution is one of the most common workplace injuries and is deemed one of the Occupational Health & Safety Administration’s (OSHA) “Fatal Four” leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Both employers and workers must take precautions to protect themselves and others around them at all times.
Employers should take steps to prevent on-the-job electrocutions that can lead to serious injuries, including:
- Ensure that workers are knowledgeable of emergency protocols and procedures should an on-the-job electrical injury or accident occur.
- Employers should provide appropriate personal protective gear (PPE) to workers and issue frequent warnings of electric power circuits, line and hazards.
- Employers and site managers should ensure that federal, state and local laws and regulations relating to worker safety are followed at all times on job sites.
- Employers should ensure that electricians and trade professionals are fully qualified for the task at hand.
- Guard open switches and circuit-interrupting devices.
- Enforce OSHA standards for proper lockout/tagout procedures on job sites.
- Walk sites to identify potential electrical hazards and determine voltage levels.
Best practices for employees and all personnel on worksites include:
- Always use the proper tools, fuses, cords and other equipment that is appropriate for the circumstances (i.e. rated for the level of amperage or wattage).
- Regularly inspect all testing devices. Always test the circuit before workers physically touch it. Each year, many workers suffer injuries from circuits they believed were safety turned off.
- Always look up to identify potential electrical hazards overhead, such as powerlines. Prior to digging or excavation, know what’s below. Workers can call 811 or use their state’s 811 center’s website a few business days before digging to confirm no utility lines below pose danger.
- Workers should never attempt to perform any electrical job that they are unqualified or unfamiliar with. Always have electrical work completed by qualified, experienced technicians.
Legal Remedies and Steps to Take After An Electrical Injury
While the severity of electrical accidents ranges from mild to fatal, these injuries have the potential to hinder a worker’s ability to perform their job, secure their livelihood and live their life in the same manner they would prior to the accident. With education on how to identify electrical hazards in conjunction with proper safety standards, most electrical injuries can be avoided.
If an electrical accident occurs, it is crucial to contact emergency services and seek medical intervention for injuries immediately. Once the injured worker’s health condition is stable, an accident report should be filed. With most on-the-job injury cases, employees cannot sue their employer for damages they sustained during work duties. However, employees can seek to recover losses, including total and partial disability, medical costs, and lost wages, through a workers’ compensation claim. If a worker suffers a electrical-related injury due to the negligence of a third party outside of their employer, they may be able to secure remedies for damages sustained through a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits can provide financial compensation for losses suffered by victims due to negligence.
Electrical injuries can have deadly effects that can cause serious physical harm to victims. In an ideal world, electrical accidents would not occur. Unfortunately, these incidents are all too common, so it’s important for employers and workers to be aware of potential electrical risks and take steps to prevent accidents in the workplace. Workers who have suffered on-the-job electrical injuries can secure legal remedies for damages through a workers’ compensation claim or personal injury lawsuit if the injury was caused by a third party’s negligence.