Electrical workers and other construction workers come into contact with electrical equipment and electrical wiring on job sites daily. Although the number of electrocution fatalities is decreasing, exposure to electricity still kills nearly 150 construction workers annually and most deaths are preventable.
Direct and in-direct contact is problematic
From control panels and junction boxes to circuit breakers and power transformers, electricity is commonplace on construction sites and exposure is likely in some form or another. The risk of death by electrocution ratio is 16.1 deaths per 1,000 FTEs, which is extraordinarily high. For comparison, the ratio of one death per 1,000 FTE is considered a high risk job.
The number one hazard for electrocution on construction sites is contact with power lines, both overhead and underground lines. Other causes for concern include in direct contact with a power line, a lack of ground fault interrupters and working too close to energized electrical equipment. It is important to note most of these risks are easily prevented by following lockout/tagout procedures.
OSHA lockout/tagout and de-energizing procedures
OSHA’s lockout-tagout procedure was designed to protect employees from the release of hazardous energy and unexpected equipment startups. When following OSHA standards, the employer must make sure the maintenance is being performed by an authorized employee. The employee must disconnect the equipment from a power source, and de-energize the device if needed, and then lock or tag the device before performing any service.
A lockout device ensures the equipment stays in the off or safe position and prevents the equipment from unexpectedly starting up. The lockout device can only be removed with a key or other type of unlocking mechanism. A tagout device is a highly visible warning tag fastened to a device to alert other employees not to energize the equipment while it is under service. Used together, the lockout/tagout system provides both a warning and a safety lock to prevent the use of electrical equipment.
A culture of non-compliance
Failure to follow lockout/tagout procedures and address job site hazards leads to unnecessary risks and injuries that could have been prevented. Additionally, some employers even encourage electricians to work on energized equipment, believing it is the nature of their job to be exposed to some level of risk.
Construction is an inherently dangerous line of work and when safety is not considered important, workers are injured. Employees should not be subject to unsafe working conditions and should never be asked to sacrifice personal safety in order to expedite the workflow.
When a worker is injured or even killed while working there are financial implications along with the emotional loss to consider. From medical expenses to lost wages, the burden of a workplace injury is significant. Working with an experienced attorney can help a worker or the surviving family to collect damages.