- The National Fire Protection Association, after conducting an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, has determined that construction workers represent a “significant share" of contract worker deaths as a result of electrocution from 2012 through 2016. Contract workers are either employees of another firm or are self-employed independent contractors, which represented 13% of electrocution deaths.
- In all, 8% of contract worker deaths were from electrocution and 68% of the workers represented in that figure were in the construction and extraction fields. Almost 30% of construction contract worker deaths from electrocution took place on a construction site, and construction trade workers represented 57% of fatal electrical accidents, followed by electricians (31%), construction laborers (11%), roofers (5%) and supervisors (5%). Direct exposure to electricity greater than 220 volts was responsible for 42% of the deaths, followed by indirect exposure (37%) to the same voltage.
- The use of contract workers in the construction industry is commonplace, but as the demand for them increases, the NFPA suggested their safety training might not be as thorough as workers on the payroll of the company that hired them for the job. What could also explain the number of deaths by electrocution is the pressure on staff to complete projects according to schedule and either on- or under budget, forcing workers to produce at a faster pace or work too many hours, both of which can create safety hazards. The NFPA said that contract workers might have to take more responsibility for their own safety.
OSHA has also made electrical safety a priority. In October, the agency cited Pennsylvania contractor Insight Pipe Contracting with two serious and three willful violations, which came with proposed fines totaling $331,101, after a worker died from electrocution.
OSHA said Insight employees were making a sewer repair when the employee was killed. Two others were injured after they tried to assist the first employee. OSHA said Insight had not instituted proper procedures for entering a confined space; had not trained its employees on the potential hazards of entering, exiting or working in confined spaces; did not conduct atmospheric testing before letting employees inside the sewer line; did not use a retrieval line and did not pull the right permits.
Some OSHA tips for electrical safety are:
- Locate underground power lines before starting work.
- Keep people, tools, vehicles and equipment at least 10 feet away from overhead lines.
- De-energize overhead and underground lines before work begins.
- Ground all power supply systems, electrical circuits and electrical equipment.
- Make sure electrical equipment is free from defects prior to each use.