Workers in construction, transportation, production, and certain maintenance and repair jobs are at high risk for non-fatal and fatal electrical injuries. Approximately 1,957 workers are injured each year from electrical injuries on the job.
Electrical Work Increases Risk of Injury and Death
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 739 workers suffered fatal injuries from exposure to electricity between 2012 and 2016. More than 50 percent of the fatalities were suffered by workers in construction and extraction occupations. Another 22 percent of victims worked in maintenance and repair jobs, and 12 percent worked in building and grounds maintenance.
Exposure to electricity can cause a variety of non-fatal injuries including serious burns, as well as death caused by electrocution. Most fatalities are caused by direct exposure to electricity, such as touching a live wire. “Direct exposure to electricity” is defined as direct contact with a power source such as a live wire, power line, or electrical arc. “Indirect exposure to electricity” refers to injuries or deaths resulting from contact with water, pipes, or some other material that unintentionally conduct electricity. Between 2012 and 2016, 417 workers died from direct exposure to electricity from electrical parts, tools, and machinery in the workplace, while 308 workers died from indirect exposure.
Workers who work around high voltage lines and certain chemicals can be seriously injured or killed by arc flashes produced when electric current flows through an air gap between conductors. Workers who touch a test probe to the wrong surface or drop a tool can be seriously injured or killed. Arc flashes generate large amounts of heat that can burn skin and clothing, damage eyesight, cause ruptured eardrums and hearing loss, and concussions and head trauma. An arc blast can throw a grown man across the room with little effort.
Workers who are exposed to electricity must be made aware of the dangers and risks for workplace injuries and fatalities. Working with unsafe electrical wiring, equipment with damaged cords, and overhead power lines can result in serious burns or electrocution. Electrical injuries can be reduced or eliminated by using proper safety equipment, safety procedures, workplace controls, PPE, and training programs. Fatal accidents caused by electrical equipment, power tools, extension cords, faulty wiring, and portable lighting can be prevented through regular inspections. To prevent electrical injuries and deaths, employers must control electrical hazards and rigorously follow all safety practices to ensure a safe work environment.