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Construction workers at risk of electricity-related injury and death


Workers on construction sites have the right to safe working conditions, including adequate training and other protections from electrical risks.

Electrocution was the second highest cause of construction worker employment-related fatality in 2014 at 74 deaths total nationally or 8.2 percent, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency reports further that electricity poses these specific risks to construction workers: explosions, fires, electrocution, shock and burns.

Electrical injuries

The symptoms and physical damage these dangerous electrical events can cause include:

  • Shock injuries can include loss of physical control, respiratory arrest, tissue damage, fractures, hemorrhage, muscle damage, renal damage, pain, muscular contraction, deformity, nerve damage, cardiac arrest and even death.
  • Burns include electrical, arc or flash burns and thermal contact burns and may cause tissue damage, swelling, pain, nerve damage, numbness, difficulty breathing, blistering, infection, scarring and more.
  • Explosion can cause the body to be blown apart or thrown through the air, which can cause a wide variety of injuries, including fractures, head trauma, internal injury and death.

Treatment of electrical injury does not end with physical healing. Burns may require long-term scar treatment and, according to Science Daily, neurological and neuropsychological symptoms may also continue such as memory loss, depression or fatigue, as well as ongoing pain symptoms.

Electrical risks of construction sites

Risk of electrical accidents and fires on construction sites is high for many reasons:

  • Use of major power tools and other machinery
  • Improper maintenance of electrically powered tools and machinery
  • Lack of appropriate fire extinguishers
  • Presence of portable generators
  • Installation or replacement of electrical systems
  • Generation of hot, airborne particles in welding and similar processes
  • Inadequate temporary electrical systems
  • Work too close to power lines and live wires
  • Improper grounding or insulation
  • Inadequate guarding, labeling or warning signage
  • Use of worn cords
  • Build-up of static electricity
  • Inadequate training and supervision
  • Lack of circuit protections
  • Improper lock-out and tag-out procedures
  • Assignment of electrical work to unqualified workers
  • Accidental contact with overhead lines

Construction employers, as well as general contractors and owners of job sites, have the duty to provide safe workplaces that comply with federal, state and local electrical safety rules, as well as with current best practices in the industry to keep workers safe from electrical injuries. These duties include proper worker training, the use of qualified electricians when appropriate, safe practices regarding containment of live electrical current at construction sites and provision of protective safety equipment, including proper insulation, eye protection, industrial-grade helmets and gloves.

Unfortunately, some owners and general contractors try to cut their expenses by hiring unqualified workers to perform electrical work, rather than hiring qualified union electricians. By placing profits ahead of safety, they jeopardize the lives of their workers.

Any New York construction worker injured by contact with electricity on the job should speak with a personal injury lawyer who understands the construction trade and can assess potential legal remedies.

The personal injury attorneys at Manhattan-based Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C., have represented many hundreds of injured New York construction workers

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