Electrical injuries or death from electrocution can occur at work or home but are most common on job sites. Every year, more than 1,000 people are harmed in accidents involving electricity. Construction workers are especially susceptible to electrical accidents due to the nature of their jobs. Electrical injuries are the fourth leading cause of injury and death among construction workers.
There are many causes of construction accidents that involve electrical injuries. These include facilities or workplaces that fail to upkeep and maintain electrical equipment, systems, and devices in the workplace. A person or company other than the injured worker’s employer could also be responsible for electrical accidents and injuries. These liable parties include building and property owners, contractors, subcontractors, manufacturers of defective or unsafe equipment and any other third party contributing to causing the electrical shock or electrocution because of misconduct or negligence.
Most employees who suffer an electrical injury can file for Workers’ Compensation benefits but also have the right to file a legal claim against a third party. If you are injured at work, take advantage of a free consultation with a Philadelphia construction accident lawyer. They can review your case and present options for seeking fair and just compensation for your injuries.
There are generally three broad categories of electrical accidents on construction sites. The most frequent type is contact with overhead power lines. The second type is when workers contact transformers and live wires. The third most common type occurs when contact is made with electrical currents while working with tools, machinery, and other appliances.
Hazards that put workers at risk for electrical injury include the following:
Construction workers use many different tools and equipment in their jobs. They also are often in close contact with live wires and other high-voltage equipment. Types of electrical injuries that can occur on construction sites include the following.
An arc flash is when an electric current leaves its intended path and travels through the air from one conductor to another or the ground. A worker can be severely injured or killed if they encounter an arc flash or when the flash ignites a worker’s clothing. A fire erupting throughout the building is not uncommon from an arc flash. Heat, pressure from the blast, and flying debris can also severely workers.
Many hazards can cause an arc flash injury, such as:
Three factors determine the severity of an arc flash injury: proximity of the worker to the hazard, temperature of the arc, and the time it takes for a circuit to break. Injuries from an arc flash are almost always severe and require lifelong treatment. They may also render the worker unable to return to their job or work in the same capacity.
Shock injuries are sustained from electricity passing through the body when current enters the body at one location and leaves at another point. As a result, internal injuries can occur, including cardiac arrest, heart damage, aspiration problems, internal organ damage, and injuries to the central nervous system.
An electrical shock has enough energy to knock a worker off balance. This is especially dangerous when the worker is on a roof, scaffolding, ladder, driving equipment, or using dangerous tools.
Burns can come from an arc flash or improperly grounded power tools that cause a shock. Severe burns can come from electrical equipment sparks that ignite gas fumes emitted by generators or other combustion engines.
Various types of burns can occur:
Explosions or fires from electrical problems are usually extremely powerful. Workers near the explosion can experience bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and other serious impairments.
A construction worker can die from a lethal amount of electrical energy exposure.
Electrical-related injuries on construction sites are preventable. When not fatal, an injured worker is often left with injuries that prevent them from returning to work or working in the same capacity they did before the accident.
Workers should get to the bottom of why the accident happened. A lawyer can help determine the liable party.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), burns are the most common type of electrical injury on construction and other work sites.
Burns will cause horrible scarring and disfigurement. Hands, head, and feet are the most common contact points for arc burns. A worker may require reconstructive surgery, such as skin grafting and ongoing physical therapy.
Electrical burns commonly cause tissue damage that is susceptible to infection, potentially leading to limb amputation.
Shock and electrocution can cause respiratory arrest, heart attack, and damage to the central nervous system and internal organs.
Workers who suffer severe burns often endure months of painful treatment, triggering anxiety and depression. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also common among construction workers.
Explosions from electrical arcs are generally deafening, creating pressure waves that can damage the inner ear and collapse a lung.
Electrical shock causes involuntary muscle contractions, resulting in permanent damage to muscles and ligaments.
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a type of muscular disorder that can develop due to electric shock. Also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), RSD occurs when blood vessels contract but fail to reopen, causing ongoing pain and extreme coldness.
Most electrical injuries in the workplace are preventable. The pressure to meet deadlines can compromise safety if workers or managers take hazardous shortcuts, such as not de-energizing electrical circuits to avoid downtime in other areas.
When a worker is injured or killed by electrocution, the employer must find out the cause and correct the problem. Protective measures employers can take to prevent electrical accidents include:
If employees must work on circuits that are not de-energized, the employer should develop and enforce safety practices to prevent all workers from direct or indirect electrical contact. These practices could include the following:
Workers’ Compensation insurance shields employers from liability for work-related injuries. An employee who receives Workers’ Compensation benefits after a workplace injury cannot sue their employer. However, in many instances, third parties can be sued and held liable for electrical injuries, including:
The law states that employers have a duty of care to keep workers safe while on the job. This includes ensuring the job site is safe from electrical hazards as well as educating workers on the dangers of working with electricity.
In Pennsylvania, the Workers’ Compensation program operates on a no-fault system, which means that employees injured at work do not need to prove negligence to receive benefits. Instead, being injured at work entitles employees to subsidized medical treatment and a partial replacement of lost wages. Receiving benefits means that an injured employee gives up the right to file a lawsuit against their employer. However, a lawyer can still help them negotiate a settlement with Workers’ Compensation.
When a third party is responsible for injuries, a worker can file a lawsuit for damages against the liable party. Third-party liability examples include:
A lawyer will use their skills to determine who is responsible for your injuries. They will collect compelling evidence and testimonies to build a solid case. If successful, you might receive compensation for the following:
Hiring a construction accident lawyer can potentially add thousands of dollars to your settlement. If a third party is liable for your injuries, a lawyer will negotiate or litigate to get you what you are owed.
If you have been injured in a construction accident and have an electrical injury, we are happy to review your case. Our Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can advocate for you. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form for a free consultation. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg, from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.