Many workplaces in Louisiana have dangers that can cause personal injuries. Still, some industries and careers have a greater risk of being hurt or killed by electrical hazards than others. Construction, utility and manufacturing jobs are a few industries that record the most electrical accidents each year. In fact, about 9% of fatal injuries on construction sites are from electrocution, and there are several electrical hazards construction workers are exposed to regularly.
Employers are responsible for following federal and state regulations to protect their employees from injuries. Safety training, job certification and education, protective equipment and devices, routine equipment and site inspections, and other steps can reduce electrical hazards at work.
For jobs that involve working near or around electrical lines, the Louisiana Overhead Power Line Safety Act (LOPLSA) exists to keep employees safe by requiring approval for work near power lines. In addition, all utility companies are required to follow the minimum standards outlined in the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC). The NESC includes maintenance guidelines for all of the equipment electric utility companies use, height requirements for positioning of power lines, and how close they can be to different types of structures.
Electrical hazards can cause shocks and electrocutions, explosions, and fires. The injuries from an electrical accident could be minor, severe, or catastrophic, and there is a range of short- and long-term health struggles a worker may experience.
Workplace electrical injuries include burns, neurological and nerve damage, cardiac arrest, muscle spasms, organ damage, and hearing loss. These accidents can cause physical disability and disfigurement and emotional and mental distress. Knowing what workplace hazards exist, the safety standards businesses must meet, and employee rights can help reduce the risk of accidents involving electricity.
However, even with safety standards and practices, electrical accidents happen, and most of them are preventable. Those injured by an electrical hazard on the job may have grounds for a personal injury claim to help cover medical costs, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. If the worst happens, surviving families of someone who suffers a fatal electrical injury in the workplace may be able to make a wrongful death claim.
Common Electrical Hazards in the Workplace
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are around 12 workplace injury fatalities every day in the U.S. Unfortunately, electrical accidents cause numerous personal injuries and result in some deaths each year.
The top workplace electrical hazards include:
Exposed Electrical Wires and Parts: Workers may suffer electrical shocks and burns when there are exposed electrical wires. Safety checks of all equipment and regular site assessments can identify these dangers. Checking power cords is important because workers could be injured if the cord’s protective layer is damaged, exposing the wires within. Electrical panels and temporary lighting are other sources of hazards if there are exposed wires or inadequate protection.
Overhead Power Lines: Power lines carry an enormous amount of electricity. Long-distance transmission lines contain hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity, which makes any work around or on these power lines extremely dangerous. The Louisiana Overhead Power Line Safety Act limits how close someone can be or work near a power line. The owner or operator of the utility line must be notified if a worker or their equipment will be within 10 feet of the power line, must agree to how the work will be performed safely before work starts – but these requirements aren’t always met.
Also, some electric utility companies don’t properly maintain or assess their power lines as often as they should. This adds to the risk of overhead power lines because they can sag and lower closer to the ground and the insulation on the lines deteriorate. When this happens, workers are at greater risk of electrical injury.
Insufficient or Damaged Insulation: By law, electric companies must ensure their power lines are fully insulated or insulated by isolation (the lines are high enough that they’re unreachable). However, line insulation can be damaged over time, presenting dangers to anyone working near or on them. The exposed power line’s wires can cause shocks and electrocution if it’s damaged.
Improper Use of Equipment and Cords: When equipment isn’t used properly, there’s the risk of an electrical accident. Improper use of extension and flexible cords can result in exposed or loosened wires, which can cause electrical shocks. Also, if an extension cord isn’t rated for the way it’s being used, the electrical danger is even greater. Proper training and safeguards help employees and employers recognize and limit workplace electrical hazards to ensure those who operate equipment do so in a safe manner. This ultimately limits the risk of personal injury from contact with electricity.
Wet Conditions: Electrical equipment and wiring become more dangerous in wet conditions. Damaged insulation becomes an even greater hazard when it’s raining or snowing or when leaks on job sites occur. Wet conditions can lead to electrocution when working near or with electricity, and a current could carry through water and shock anyone standing in the affected area.
Power Supply Not Grounded: Grounding power ensures unwanted voltage is eliminated by returning it to the earth. All electrical equipment on any job site should be properly grounded so that employees are safe from electrical dangers. But sometimes equipment isn’t grounded, causing electrical injuries that can be fatal.
Workplace Electrical Injury Claims
Electricity is a serious workplace hazard that directly results in minor to catastrophic injuries each year. In 2019, there were 166 electrical fatalities in the United States, with 8% of all electrical injuries fatal. The highest electrical fatality rate was in the construction industry, with utility workplaces the second highest.
It’s important to contact an experienced electrocution personal injury lawyer to review your case when a workplace electrical accident occurs. At Herman, Herman & Katz, our personal injury lawyers are highly experienced in electrical injuries and have helped clients in New Orleans and other cities in Louisiana recover significant compensation for their pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages, and more. We’ve also helped families of a loved one who died from an electrical accident in the workplace. Contact us online for a free case review or call 844-943-7627.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.