As a law firm known for helping workers after job-related injuries, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. is proud to support National Electrical Safety Month!
Throughout May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and other trade groups work to educate workers and the public about common electrical risks and essential safety practices.
In addition to providing many resources for electrical safety and awareness, ESFI has also launched new campaign materials tied to this year’s theme: Energy Resilience. These materials cover how new technologies such as photovoltaics (solar-powered items), electric vehicles, and energy storage systems provide resilience to homes and businesses. You can learn more on the ESFI Electrical Safety Month site.
Electrical Risks Posed to Workers
Although this year’s theme is dedicated to energy resilience, the core focus of Electrical Safety Month remains on keeping workers safe from electrical hazards, which are a common cause of serious and fatal injuries.
Whether you’re an apprentice or a journeyman, treating electricity with a healthy respect is the only way to effectively manage risk and keep yourself and those around you safe.
Electric shock injuries involve electrical current passing through the body, which can harm muscle, nerves, tissues, and organs. Injury severity depends on factors such as:
- Current Type & Intensity: AC is more dangerous than DC because it can cause continuous muscle contraction and prevent victims from releasing themselves from an electrical source.
- Current Path: Current traveling from the fingers to the hand, arm, and body may injure the heart and cardiovascular system. Current that travels from the head can affect the brain.
- Resistance: The lower the resistance, the more severe the injury. Gloved or calloused hands are more resistant than soft, wet, or cut / broken skin.
- Exposure Duration: The longer the period of exposure, the greater the risks for more serious injuries (which is partly why AC is more dangerous than DC).
Though some electrical injuries aren’t outwardly visible, injuries like burns are. This includes:
- Flash burns, which cause superficial burns as no current travels through the body.
- Flame burns, which occur when arc flashes ignite or cause fires.
- Low-voltage burns, caused by contact with power sources of 500 volts or less, that typically affect the body only at the site of contact.
- High-voltage burns, caused by direct contact with high voltage supply, which can cause severe damage beneath the skin and throughout the body.
Electrocution is a term used to describe fatal electrical accidents: it always means death.
As one of OSHA’s “Fatal Four,” electrocution is a leading cause of death in the construction industry. In fact, according to OSHA, roughly half of all workplace electrocution fatalities occur in construction.
Other Electrical Safety Risks
In many electrical accidents, electricity is not the only cause of injury or death. In some cases, workers can be harmed due to accidents that occur after electrical exposure or when poorly managed worksites create other types of hazards. Some examples include:
- Falls from heights, scaffolding, and ladders
- Falls on flat surfaces, especially with loss of muscle control or unconsciousness
- Falling objects resulting from workers who were shocked and dropped tools or heavy items
- Trips and falls over exposed wiring, extension cords, and other hazards
- Faulty machinery or defective products
- Fires and explosions caused by electrical hazards
Tips to Avoid Electrical Injuries on the Job
Employers and workers should ensure they’re taking precautions to keep work sites safe and comply with regulations for electrical hazards (NY Code § 23-1.13).
Some best practices for employers:
- Walk sites to identify potential electrical hazards and plan projects around them.
- Provide PPE and necessary safety equipment to employees who work with and near electricity.
- Post warnings for live electrical circuits and install physical barriers around electrical hazards.
- Implement policies for guarding open switches, de-energizing equipment, and lockout / tagout.
- Ensure electrical work is performed by qualified electricians and that workers know when to stop if they are not qualified or familiar with projects or tasks.
- Establish and ensure workers know emergency protocol if an electrical accident occurs.
Electrical accident prevention tips for workers:
- Before starting work, inspect tools, extension cords, and equipment for potential hazards.
- Use fuses, cords, and equipment appropriate for the circumstances (i.e. rated for the level of amperage or wattage).
- Always test circuits before you touch. Thousands of workers are injured each year by circuits they believed were safely turned off.
- When using ladders and scaffolding, survey surroundings for overhead power lines.
- Make sure you know what’s below before performing any excavation or digging project.
What to Do After an Electrical Workplace Accident
- Call 911 or local emergency services and alert supervisors and other workers on site.
- Turn off the source of electricity or move the source using non-conducting objects like wood, plastic, or cardboard.
- Don’t touch a fallen power line or someone still in contact with electrical current. If the accident involves high voltage lines or wiring, keep your distance.
- Seek medical attention and continue to follow up with doctors and specialists.
- Gather information, witnesses, and documentation (i.e. medical records, photos, etc.) if you intend to file a claim.
- Speak with an attorney about your rights and options for workers’ compensation or a civil personal injury claim.
Our NYC attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. are available to help workers and families looking to explore their options for paying medical bills and recovering needed compensation following work-related accidents, including those involving electrical injuries and construction accidents. To speak with a lawyer, call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online.