Colorado Work-Related Electrocution Injuries
Electrocuted at work? Learn if you’re eligible for workers’ compensation for electrocution injuries.
The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health reports that exposure to electricity is a major cause of construction worker deaths. The most serious concern is electricians working near or with live wire without employing the proper procedures.
On average, 143 electricians die due to electrocution each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that approximately 350 fatalities per year are electrical-related. That amounts to nearly one death per day due to an electrical accident at work.
Additionally, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports electrocution ranks #3 in the cause of death among 16 and 17-year-old workers. That figure accounts for 12 percent of workplace deaths.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury at work due to an electrical malfunction in Colorado, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Most common electrocution injuries at work
The most common types of workplace electrical injuries reported are electric shock, burns and falls.
- Electric shock. Electric shock occurs when a person comes in contact with a power source that contains enough current to pass through their body in an attempt to ground itself. Depending on the strength of the current, the outcome can vary from not being harmed at all (just uncomfortably shocked) to being seriously injured or killed. Factors such as the type of electrical current, the amount of current, and the pathway the current takes through the body can affect how serious an injury is. In general, low voltage electricity (less than 500 volts) will not cause significant injury to an average adult. However, exposure to voltage greater than 500 volts is likely to cause mild to serious injury.
- Burns. Exposure to an electrical current can cause burns to a person’s skin, hair, internal organs and body tissue. At times, an electrical current can flow through the body and cause serious internal damage without leaving a significant mark from the outside. When a person is suffering from burns due to an electric shock, they usually suffer two visible wounds at the entry point and exit point, with the more severe burn being at the electric current’s entry point.
- Falls. When a worker is located in a high position and comes in contact with electricity, the result can be a serious fall. Electrocution can cause severe muscular contractions which result in broken bones, torn ligaments or strained muscles. Falls can result in fatalities from broken necks and backs, or irreparable neurological injuries.
Common causes for occupational electrical injuries
There are 4 common causes of work-related electrical injuries and/or fatalities.
- Direct contact with a powerline. Any worker who is exposed to an overhead powerline is at risk of electrocution if the powerline is faulty in some way. People most at risk include tree trimmers, phone line workers and sign technicians.
- Indirect contact with a powerline. Workers who are operating lifts, cranes or heavy trucks are also at risk of electrocution if their machinery comes in contact with a powerline. The risk of injury can be reduced by following proper OSHA regulations.
- Direct contact with electrical equipment. Hazardous electrical currents can be emitted from any piece of electrical equipment used on a jobsite. Proper procedures must be followed prior to servicing, assembly or disassembly of such equipment to avoid potential danger.
- Improperly installed or damaged electrical equipment. Electrical equipment that is flawed in some way poses a risk to workers. This includes damaged wiring, improper grounding and the presence of moisture. Faulty equipment can lead to other serious injuries such as amputations, traumatic brain injuries, eye injuries and spinal cord injuries.
Most dangerous occupations and industries for job-related electrocution
Electrocution is a leading cause of injury among workers in the United States. The top groups of workers most likely to suffer from electrocution are those in construction and those in maintenance, installation or repair fields.
Electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries each year. Even though the construction industry comprises a mere 8 percent of the United States workforce, nearly 45 percent of job-related fatalities occur in this field.
An estimated 52 percent of all occupational electrocutions take place in the construction industry annually. These accidents are often caused in one of 2 ways:
1. Overhead Power Contacts. When a piece of heavy machinery makes contact with an overhead power supply source, it can result in electrocutions. The most common types of machinery to be involved in an overhead power contact are:
- Cranes (56.5 percent)
- Drilling rigs (7.7 percent)
- Dump trucks (6.7 percent)
- Bucket trucks (6.7 percent)
- Backhoes (4.9 percent)
2. Contact via Carried Items. Electrocutions can also occur when an item carried by a worker makes contact with a power supply source. Items often involved in such incidents are:
- Ladders (12.9 percent)
- Direct human contact (10.2 percent)
- Scaffolding (2.2 percent)
Approximately 62 agricultural workers are killed each year due to electrocution in the United States. Overhead powerline contact is the most common reason for these injuries or deaths. The majority of these events are preventable if utility companies and contractors are willing to use the proper preventative measures. These include inspection, maintenance and proper repair techniques to ensure safety among those who work alongside electrical equipment on a daily basis.
Overhead line workers, electricians and engineers also top the list of professionals most exposed to workplace hazards associated with electricity. Daily tasks put them at greater risk as they install and repair electrical systems, test equipment and fixtures and inspect and maintain electrical activity.
Lastly, power workers and utility linemen not only work with electricity, but they do so high above the ground. One wrong decision can result in a fatal crash landing or death by electrical shock. Linemen who hang out of helicopters to complete jobs also have an extraordinarily high risk of danger.
How to prevent electrocutions in the workplace
Avoiding workplace electrical hazards includes careful and frequent maintenance, followed by prescribed safety steps when dealing with dangerous equipment powered by high voltage. The most basic preventative measure is the proper grounding of equipment. It’s also important for employers to replace old, exposed, or frayed wire as needed.
Employers are required to provide safe work environments for their employees. Some ways to avoid electrocution on work sites include:
- Wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ensuring that proper grounding and guarding is in place
- De-energizing electrical equipment before inspection or repair
- Properly maintaining electrical equipment
- Exercising caution when working near energized power lines
Routine maintenance begins by ensuring the disconnection of pneumatic, mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical power sources.
Your right to workers’ compensation in Colorado
Workers’ compensation insurance is required of most employers in Colorado. This insurance pays for partial wage replacement and medical expenses when an employee suffers an injury on the job or develops an occupational illness. Employers are entirely responsible for the cost of insurance. There are no wage deductions from employees.
The date of injury is the basis of the benefits. Laws change and benefits depend on when an employee suffers from an injury or disease. Proper filing and documentation is important, and there are limitations on the number of days to file a claim (known as the “statute of limitations”).
If you or a loved one suffers an electrical injury at work, it’s important for you to understand your rights. The best Colorado lawyer specializing in workers’ compensation and worker rights can provide the help you need to secure payment from your employer or their insurer. Let the Babcock Law Firm help you get the maximum compensation you deserve.