Addressing Electrical Hazards in the Workplace
October 20, 2022
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long-recognized electricity as a significant work-related hazard. To mitigate known risk factors, it is critical that organizations determine useful strategies to ensure that every worker gets home safely at the end of the day.
Electrical Hazards in the Workplace
Employees are exposed to occupational dangers every day. When it comes to electricity, some of the primary hazards that workers face includes electric shock, electrocution, burns, falls, fires and explosions. OSHA reports that the most frequently cited causes of electricity-related injuries in the workplace are:
- Coming into contact with power lines. Both overhead and underground (buried) power lines on job sites are dangerous because of the high voltage they carry. Not only do overhead and buried power lines pose potentially fatal electrocution risks, but they create significant fall and burn dangers for workers as well
- Lack of ground-fault protection. The continuous, rugged nature of construction work leads to the wear and tear of electrical equipment, which can result in insulation breaks, exposed wires and short-circuits. Without adequate ground-fault protection, an electrical current can travel through a worker’s body, causing an electrical burn, explosion, fire, or death
- Path to ground missing or discontinuous. If the power supply to the electrical equipment on a worksite is not grounded or its path is broken, a fault current can travel through the worker’s body, causing electrocution or death. Even if the power system is properly grounded, the equipment can change from safe to dangerous due to extreme conditions or rough handling
- Equipment not used in the proper manner. When individuals use electrical equipment in a way it was not designed for, they can no longer depend on safety features that the manufacturer built in. Improper handling of equipment can cause damage to the equipment itself and/or injure workers
- Improper use of extension and flexible power cords. Every day, normal wear and tear on extension and flexible cords on jobsites can loosen or expose wires, causing hazardous conditions. Cords that are not 3-wire type, that are not designed for hard usage, or that have undergone modifications increase a worker’s risk for coming into contact with an electrical current
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a non-profit organization committed to improving electrical safety in the workplace, there were 2,220 non-fatal electrical injuries involving days away from work in 2020 (17% higher than the year before). That same year, there were also 126 fatal occupational electrical injuries. Workers in the mining and construction industries faced the highest risks for sustaining deadly injuries on the job.
Electrical Safety Solutions
While electricians and electrical workers face an array of hazards day in and day out on the job, there are several steps that employers can – and must – take to safeguard them. Per OSHA’s federal standards and regulations, every employer has to provide workers with a safe workplace that is free from recognized hazards. Part of that obligation entails the implementation of effective control measures that either reduce or eliminate the risk of injury associated with electrical work. Here is a list of safety measures that employers can take to reduce the chances of electrical injuries from happening:
- De-energize high voltage power lines. Disconnect equipment or devices from their energy source
- Prior to use, inspect power cords to ensure they are not worn, torn, or frayed
- Operate electric power tools away from combustion engines or other areas where there may be dust, flammable gas or flammable liquids
- Develop and teach adequate lockout/tagout procedures
- Provide and require employees to wear personal protective equipment, or PPE
- Insulate tools and other equipment
- Establish safety guards, signage and physical barricades around high-voltage equipment
- Mark all work equipment and devices with high-voltage warnings
- Have a qualified electrical expert conduct regular inspections and maintenance of electrical-related equipment and installations
- Install GFCIs, or ground fault circuit interrupters
- Ground low-voltage equipment, tools and other devices in order to provide an added layer of protection
- Establish safety protocols and make sure to provide comprehensive and regular training to workers
What Should I Do if I Sustain a Work-Related Electrical Injury?
When an individual sustains an injury in the workplace, he or she should file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides injured workers with wage replacement and medical benefits after an occupational injury, illness or accident occurs. However, depending on the circumstances that surround a worker’s injury, he or she may also want to consider filing a third-party liability claim. Third party liability claims are legal claims that seek compensation (such as for pain and suffering) from other responsible parties. One of the most common types of third-party liability claims involves a design, manufacturing or marketing defect of a product or equipment that individuals use in the workplace.
At Galfand Berger LLP, our attorneys are fiercely dedicated to representing injured workers. In one instance, our client sustained an electrical shock while working under unsafe work conditions. The shock caused him to develop reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD. Our team successfully settled the matter on the second day of trial for $535,000. The settlement also included a complete waiver of a workers’ compensation lien in the amount of $83,000. To read more about this recovery here. In another case, our firm represented a worker’s family after their husband and father was fatally electrocuted in the workplace. Learn more about this record-setting recovery, here.
If you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation or a third-party liability claim, someone from our firm can help. To speak with someone, please contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you have a question about filing a legal claim, contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.