The electrocution of a painter. A fast-food restaurant electrical fatality. A brick worker gets electrocuted.
Hundreds of employees die yearly in America from electric hazards on the job, many while completing daily responsibilities, unaware of their work environment’s dangers. That’s according to Safety+Health, the online magazine of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit that works to eliminate preventable deaths.
Exposure to electricity killed 136 workers in 2017, accounting for nearly 3 percent of that year’s 5,147 fatal occupational injuries. The number of deaths from exposure to electricity in 2016 was 154, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention lists examples of workers in states around the country killed from electric hazards on the job. How can workers stay safe in the face of electric hazards on the job?
Here are common causes of electric-related deaths and injuries, and tips to stay safe, from Safety + Health:
These devices can be dangerous if used improperly. Generators produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas whose ingestion can lead to death, unconsciousness, headaches, dizziness, vomiting and chest pain. Someone who is sleeping or drunk can be poisoned by carbon monoxide and die before showing symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention:
- Generators are used often on construction sites and most are powered by gasoline or diesel.
- Good ventilation is key to using a generator safely and generators should never be operated indoors.
- Before refueling generators, workers should turn them off and let them cool down.
On-the-job injuries can occur if an extension cord is worn and its wires within become exposed. Cords that are not three-wire extension cords, are not designed for hard use or have been modified can lack durability and can increase the risk of electrical shock.
The safe way to use such devices is to work only with extension cords that have been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, use cords equipped with strain relief components and unplug by pulling on the plug, not the cord.
Make it a habit to use only equipment that’s in good condition. Insulation breaks, short-circuits and exposed wires can result from using electrical equipment that is worn. The dynamic and rugged nature of construction work, for example, causes wear on equipment.
Grounding is a fundamental part of using electricity. A grounding system is an auxiliary pathway, an alternate route for electrical current to follow into the ground in case of a problem in the wiring system.
Equipment that lacks ground-fault protection can pump electrical currents through a worker’s body. Use only equipment with proper grounding components.
Also, inspect equipment before use, operate with double-insulated electrical tools and remove from use any tools with missing prongs, frayed cords or cracked casings.
Engineers, linemen and electricians are among employees who work with electricity directly. Those who work with electricity indirectly range from mechanics and truck drivers to farmers, lathe operators and tree trimmers, according to federal agencies.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers have a right to:
- Work in conditions that are safe
- Receive information and training about workplace hazards
- Receive records about job-related illnesses and injuries
- Request, without retaliation, that OSHA inspect a workplace
Contact Paul McAndrew Law Firm in Iowa today if you’ve been injured from electric hazards on the job, suffered a workplace injury or have a workers’ compensation issue.