Construction workers are responsible for the labor that builds our commercial and residential structures. From exposed live wires on the ground, to flammable and combustible liquids near a heated source, construction workers face the risk of electrical injuries and explosions every day.
Construction sites and the companies managing them are heavily regulated, but that’s not always enough. When someone is electrocuted or an explosion occurs on a worksite, it is often because someone, out of careless or intentional negligence, did not follow the required safety procedures. In these situations, the victim or their family may be entitled to compensation for their losses.
When negligence results in injury or death, the effect can be devastating. With the experienced lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell on your side, you can find your way out of the situations created by this negligence, and earn the justice that will allow you to live the life you deserve.
How Electrocution Causes Injury
An electrocution injury occurs when an electrical current travels through the body. The voltage can interfere with the way the internal organs function and the jolt can actually cause the tissue to burn.
An electrical current passing through the body generates heat, which burns and destroys tissue. Burns can affect internal tissues, as well as the skin. While some electrical burns look minor, there still may be serious internal damage, especially to the heart, muscles, or brain.
An electrical shock can short-circuit the body’s own electrical systems, causing nerves to either stop or to fire erratically, which may result in:
- Cataracts that develop immediately or years later
- Disrupted brain activity (including seizures and loss of consciousness)
- Extreme swelling in limbs that may cut off blood supply
- Heart attack/cardiac arrest
- Muscles to contract violently
The Factors Involved in an Electrical Injury
The severity of injury can range from minor to fatal, depending on the following factors:
- Duration of exposure to the current – In general, the longer the person is exposed to the current, the worse the injury.
- Intensity of the current – Anything over 500 volts is considered high voltage. High voltage can jump through the air several feet, causing a person to be injured just by coming too close to a high-voltage line.
- Pathway the current travels through the body – The path that the electricity takes through the body tends to determine which tissues are affected.
- Resistance to the current – Resistance is the ability to impede the flow of electricity. The skin’s resistance decreases when broken or wet.
- Type of current – Direct Current (DC) tends to cause a single muscle contraction often strong enough to force people away from the current’s source. Alternating Current (AC) causes a continuing muscle contraction, often preventing people from releasing their grip on the current’s source. As a result, exposure may be prolonged.
Types of Electrical Injury
Electrocution can lead to one or more of the following injuries:
- Brain injuries
- Eye damage
- Fractures and amputations
- Heart attacks
- Lung trauma and inhalation injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Penetrating wounds
- Ruptured eardrums
Electrical Accidents on the Job
Electrocution kills an average of 400 workers a year and causes non-fatal injuries to many more.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocution is one of the leading causes of death in the construction industry. Construction-related electrocutions accounted for more than half of all occupational electrical deaths.
In 2016, more than 20% of workplace deaths occurred on construction sites. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths were the result of the “Fatal Four,” a group of high-risk accidents which include:
- Falls (39% of construction deaths)
- Struck by object (9%)
- Electrocutions (8%)
- Entrapment (7%) – Getting caught, struck, or crushed by equipment, structures, or materials
OSHA’s “Fatal Four” only measure fatalities. Countless others suffer non-fatal, but serious, physical injuries and economic losses after an electrical shock.
How Workplace Negligence Can Result in Explosion Accidents
Data from OSHA indicate that there are on average 36 fire and explosion deaths per year in the construction industry.
From underground gas lines, to temporary heating devices, to electrical systems, construction sites are full of hazards. A single spark, or mere dust in the case of an arc flash, can set off a construction site fire or explosion that injures numerous workers.
Some of the leading causes of these incidents include:
- Chemical tanks or drums
- Compressed gas cylinders
- Electrical malfunctions
- Explosives and blasting agents
- Flammable and combustible liquids
- Liquefied petroleum gas
- Temporary heating devices
- Vehicles and heavy equipment
The Precautions that Responsible Employers Take
Responsible employers must follow preventative regimens to avoid the risk of electrical injuries, and train their employees in safe practices as well.
OSHA says that most electrical accidents occur because of unsafe equipment or installation, an unsafe environment, or unsafe work practices.
Proper insulation should be employed on conductive surfaces to prevent accidental exposures. Employees should also be trained and held to the following standards:
- De-energize any electrical equipment before inspection or repair.
- Keep electrical tools properly maintained.
- Use extreme caution when working near live power lines.
- Wear appropriate protective equipment.
How to Identify the Responsible Party
Direct or indirect contact with live electrical equipment, wiring, overhead power lines, and machinery can cause severe injury or death.
Unfortunately, these accidents often have predictable causes. Improper grounding, miscommunication, defective wiring, and electrical systems, and working in close proximity to power lines are reliably at the source of most electrical accidents. And they often trace back to a failure to implement proper safety standards.
Site supervisors, product manufacturers, construction companies, and property owners may all have a share in the responsibility for an injury. Our attorneys can talk to you about your case to see who can be held liable, and how to move forward.
When to Consult with an Experienced Accident Attorney
While it’s possible for individuals to navigate some areas of personal injury law on their own, an electrical accident will often require the kind of expert and professional legal counsel that McEldrew Young Purtell specializes in.
At McEldrew Young Purtell, we are committed to helping you through the resulting difficulties, whether you suffered a workplace injury, or you are the loved one of someone who was killed by electrical shock or an explosion.