What Are Electrical Hazards in the Workplace?

December 7, 2021

electrical hazards

Any time employees are repairing or working around electrical wires and devices, there is always the chance of an electrocution accident. Electrical hazards are in many construction jobs, manufacturing plants, and mechanical repair jobs. One of the most dangerous jobs in the United States is utility line work, merely due to the risk of electrocution. 

Electrocution injuries are usually extremely serious and can cause workers to be totally disabled. In many cases, electrocutions cause fatalities. This is why there are many regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to working with electrical systems and devices. There are many rules that workers who work in and around electrical components have to follow.

Electrocution is in the top 10 causes of workplace deaths in America. Construction workers and electrical maintenance/installation workers are the top two groups suffering the most fatal electrocution workplace accidents.

A major electrocution risk in the construction industry involves the use of heavy equipment, like backhoes and cranes around power lines. The issue is when the heavy equipment worker inadvertently has the machine make contact with the power line.

Electrical hazards and injuries can be found in almost all industries and types of jobs. Even with working in an office environment, you might come in contact with a loose, stray wire that has current running through it where you get shocked. The top workplace electrical hazards are listed below.

Exposed Electrical Wires and Parts

An exposed electrical wire can happen in almost any work setting. An electrical wire can become exposed and not sheathed with a protective rubber coating. This can also happen when working on an electrically charged machine for repair purposes. 

Often, machines that are being repaired should be locked out and tagged out. This is a standard safety procedure where the machine is locked by the person working on it, which prevents another employee from turning on the machine while the repair is ongoing. There are many workplace injuries every year due to not following the proper lock out/tag out procedures. Any time the protective covering of a power cord is exposed, there is an electrocution risk. Electrical panels and temporary lighting are other sources of hazards if there are exposed wires or inadequate protection.

Overhead Power Lines

Overhead power lines are a major concern in the construction industry, especially when there is large machinery working in the area of power lines. The risk of contact with the power lines is great. Long-distance transmission lines contain hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity. This creates a huge risk of electrocution fatalities in the construction industries, utility industries, and anyone that has to work around power lines. 

Not only is there a risk with overhead power lines, there is also a danger when working around buried power lines. Most neighborhoods in the United States have overhead power lines, but over the last 30 years, it has become increasingly common for neighborhoods to bury their power lines. There is a danger of coming into contact with the lines whenever there is any excavation in and around buried power lines. 

Insufficient or Damaged Insulation

Electrical power lines have to be properly insulated for everyone’s protection. Insulation can be accomplished by a physical covering of the line or wires, but it can also be accomplished by isolation. If people cannot reach the line due to its positioning, then they cannot be electrocuted. However, insulation can become damaged and worn, exposing wires with dangerous current. Also, insulation by isolation sounds like a reasonable position, but mistakes can be made, and people can still come into contact with isolated wires.

Improper Use of Equipment and Cords

Unsafe use of extension cords or electrical cords can increase the risk of electrocution. If extension cords are in areas of high traffic they can become damaged and have their wires exposed. If an extension cord is not rated for the way it is being used, there could be a risk of an electrical fire, spark, or another electrical explosion.

Wet Conditions

Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Due to this, electrical equipment and wiring become more dangerous in wet conditions. Exposed electrical currents in and around wet and watering environments creates a huge risk of electrocution. 

Even if you think you are at a safe distance from an electrical hazard, if it is wet and there is standing water, you may still be in danger. An electrical current could still carry through water and shock anyone standing in the area.

Power Supply Not Grounded

One of the most misunderstood concepts of electrical safety is the concept of grounding a live electrical wire. Grounding power ensures unwanted voltage is eliminated by returning it to the earth. All electrical equipment on any jobsite should be properly grounded so that employees are safe from electrical dangers.

What Are Common Work-Related Electrocution Injuries?

Electrocution injuries in the workplace are not just being shocked by an exposed wire. They can be extremely serious and cause permanent disability and even death. There are four types of injuries related to electrocution:

  • Flash: Flash injuries are caused by an electrical arc flash, and they are typically associated with superficial burns, as no electrical current travels past the skin. The skin is burned due to the heat from the flash, not the electricity itself.
  • Burn: Burn injuries occur when an arc flash ignites an individual’s clothing or the surrounding area and causes a secondary fire that can also burn the worker. With burn injuries, the electrical current may or may not pass the skin.
  • Lightning: These injuries involve short, but very high-voltage electrical energy flowing through the individual’s entire body. This can cause serious internal injuries to the heart, brain, and nervous system. With this type of injury, the worker can also experience burns of the skin caused directly by the electricity running through their body.
  • True: True electrical injuries involve an individual becoming part of an electrical circuit. In these cases, an entrance and exit site are usually found. You often see this phenomenon with people struck by lightning. There is usually an entry point of the electricity as well as an exit point. With this type of injury, the worker can also experience burns of the skin caused directly by the electricity running through their body.

Any type of work-related electrocution injury is serious and should be reported. Reporting the injury will start the Workers’ Compensation process.

Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Help Clients Suffering From Severe Work-Related Electrocution Injuries

If you have suffered from an electrocution injury while at work, it could cause serious physical problems. Our Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law can help you get the benefits you deserve. Complete our online form or call us at 856-414-0010 to schedule a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.