Workers on construction sites are at risk of accidents while performing their work, including electric shock and electrocution. In most cases, injuries are severe and require lengthy rehabilitation. In fact, according to the Construction Research and Training Centre, electrocutions are among the leading causes of death on construction sites.
This type of accident occurs when a current passes through a person’s body in direct or indirect contact with an electrical installation. By 2003, around 150 construction workers died annually from electrocutions, and current figures suggest that the number has doubled.
How a worker can be exposed to this type of accident on a construction site
Workers can be exposed to different types of accidents, including those related to electrical installations, for different reasons. However, the most common causes behind electrocutions and electric shocks fall into two groups: personal factors and work factors.
Personal factors include inadequate physical capacity, stress, inadequate mental capacity, lack of knowledge, lack of skill and poor motivation. In addition, workers on construction sites may be at increased risk of electrical accidents due to factors directly linked to the actions of the company or contractor.
Among the most common work factors are the following:
Prior to commencing work at any construction, demolition or excavation site, the employer shall determine the voltage levels of all energized electrical lines and electrical installations around or near the site. Where two or more voltages are available at a job site, all electrical equipment and circuits shall be properly identified. Such identification shall include voltage level and phase.
Research and alerts
Before beginning work, the employer shall determine by enquiry or direct observation, or by means of instruments, whether any part of an electric power circuit, exposed or concealed, is so located that the performance of the work may place any person, tool, or machine in physical or electrical contact therewith. The employer shall post and maintain adequate warning signs where such a circuit exists. He shall inform his employees of the location of such lines, the hazards involved and the protective measures to be taken.
Protection of employees
No employer shall permit an employee to work so close to any part of an electric power circuit that he may come in contact with such circuit in the course of his work unless the employee is protected against electric shock by de-energizing the circuit and grounding it. or by protecting such circuit by effective insulation or other means. In work areas where the exact location of underground power lines is unknown, persons using hammers, bars or other hand tools which may contact such power lines shall be provided with insulated protective gloves, body aprons and footwear.
Protection of circuit breakers or other circuit interrupting devices
If protection for employees consists of disconnecting circuits, employers shall cause open circuit breakers or other circuit interrupting devices to be guarded against inadvertent closing until such employees are no longer exposed.
Notification to the utility company
At least five normal working days before work begins within 10 feet of any live overhead power line or before any excavation work is performed that may contact or disturb a live underground power line, the employer shall notify in writing the utility whose power line may be affected.
Portable electrical power generators on any construction, demolition or excavation worksite shall have the frames and one pole of the electrical outlets grounded.
Any wiring that has cracked insulation or the insulation has deteriorated in any other way shall be immediately removed from service and discarded.
Temporary electrical power circuits on construction, demolition or excavation sites.
Temporary electrical wiring
All temporary wiring should be supported by suitable insulators and not coiled on nails or supports. Bare wires or other unprotected current-carrying parts must not be placed less than two and a half metres above any surface where a person can work or pass, unless fully protected by a fence or other barrier.
Electrical hazards that workers are likely to encounter
Workers in the construction industry can face a variety of electrical hazards on any construction site, whether residential or commercial. Among the most common and serious occupational hazards are the following:
- Failure to warn workers about power lines.
- Poor maintenance of electrical or wiring systems.
- Non-compliance with regulations and safety measures, including parameters defined by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance.
- Power tools operated through wires or plugs that have not been properly insulated or grounded.
- Electrical wiring not in polarity.
- Improperly grounded electrical equipment.
- Overloaded electrical circuits due to lack of suitable fuses or circuit breakers.
- Lack of earth fault circuit interrupters.
- Wet conditions in the workplace, such as rain, puddles or sweat, causing electrical materials to come into contact with liquids.
- Overloaded or non-approved voltage cables.
- High voltage lines improperly insulated or without de-energisation lines.
- Underground power lines hit with metal tools or equipment if excavation processes are carried out.
- Clandestine electrical connections.
- Installation of scaffolding, antennae or signs near power lines.
- Trimming trees near power lines.
What to do if you suffer an electric shock
After suffering an electric shock, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and, of course, talk to a lawyer.
The most common symptoms are mild to severe burns, broken bones, loss of consciousness, visual or hearing problems, cardiac arrest, severe spasms, tingling sensations or loss of sensation in the extremities, nerve damage, difficulty breathing, convulsions, among others.
You should ensure that your injuries are documented in detail, with photographs if you can obtain them. This way, you will be able to better illustrate your incident and its consequences. It is also important to seek help from a construction accident lawyer to obtain maximum compensation.
Why Gorayeb is the best choice for this type of cases
If you or a family member has suffered an electrocution or electric shock, do not hesitate to call us. In Gorayeb we specialize in construction accidents and we provide the help you need to execute the processes for compensation for your injuries, for your recovery, peace of mind and welfare.
Our lawyers have extensive experience in accidents involving electrical installations on construction sites and in other sectors of industry, making us your best allies in successfully overcoming your workplace accident.
If you or someone you know has been injured on a construction site call Gorayeb & Associates at 646-906-9897 for a free consultation.