Electricity is woven into our daily lives so tightly that we take it for granted. But if your job requires you to work around electricity or you have a home project that involves electricity, taking it for granted can be deadly.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocution is one of the “Fatal Four” – the four top causes of job-related deaths in the construction industry. In 2012, electrocution caused 8.1 percent of all construction fatalities, OSHA reported.
Out of 4,175 worker fatalities in private industry that year, 806 were in construction. Electrocution accounted for 66 of those deaths.
The other top causes of construction fatalities are falls (34.6 percent), struck by an object (9.8 percent) and caught-in/between (1.6 percent).
Construction sites often contain high-voltage areas. Anyone working in those areas may encounter dangerous situations involving electricity.
Contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, improper grounding of electrical equipment, failure to follow manufacturers’ instructions and improper use of extension and flex cords can lead to death or injury.
Installation and repair of electrical power lines are one of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ top 10 deadliest jobs, ranked seventh below logging, commercial fishing, aircraft piloting and engineering, roofing, iron and steel work and trash and recyclable collection, according to Forbes.com. Rounding out the top 10 are jobs involving driving, farming and construction.
Types of Electrical Injuries
Electrical injuries can range from a mild, unpleasant shock to massive tissue damage or death. There are four classes of electrical injuries, Medscape.com says:
- True electrical injuries in which an individual becomes part of the electrical circuit. These injuries have an entrance and exit site.
- Flash injuries or superficial burns with no electrical energy traveling through the skin.
- Flame injuries, which occur when an energy arc ignites clothing.
- Lightning injuries, which occur at extremely high voltage for a short period of time and cause the majority of electrical flow over a victim’s entire body.
The severity of injury depends on how long a person was exposed to electrical current, the amount and path of current flowing through the body, the electrical voltage and the overall health of the individual receiving a shock.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International offers safety tips for anyone who works with electricity:
- Communicate your job plan with your co-workers.
- Follow safety requirements and recommendations.
- Understand all aspects of your electrical equipment, including construction, operation and hazards involved.
- Identify all possible energy sources where you are working to avoid hazards.
- Disconnect load circuits and make sure this action does not create other hazards.
- Use personal protection equipment appropriate and correct for your specific job.
- Before using your electrical equipment, test it to make sure it is de-energized.
- When your job becomes more hazardous than you anticipated, stop and revise your plan.