During the years 1992-2002, there were 46,598 US workplace injuries (last available figure) caused by electrical accidents. These types of injuries can be very severe and may make a consultation with a workers’ comp attorney essential. The following information on the causes of electrical injuries is provided by The Fire Protection Research Foundation:
- Overhead power lines: 46%
- Wiring transformers and other electrical components: 29%
- Current from appliances, light fixtures, and machine tools: 18%
- Other: 7%
Is Your Workplace Safe?
It’s possible for all workers to be exposed to unsafe electrical conditions. For example, equipment may have worn or damaged electrical cords or come into contact with a damp surface. As the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states, “Almost all American workers are exposed to electrical energy at some time during their work day, and the same electrical hazards can affect workers in different industries.” The following are the various categories of electrical injuries.
The heart is a pump which is operated by its own electrical system. This natural system can be disturbed by an external electrical shock. The heart may beat irregularly, too fast, or too slow. In the most severe situations, a heart attack may occur. In addition, tissue in the muscular inner layer of the heart can be destroyed.
Contact Injuries (Internal)
A current of electricity shooting through the human body can cause extreme internal damage. The current will burn nerves and muscles along bones, and leave behind charred flesh at its entry and exit points.
In addition, internal muscular damage caused by electrical burns can prompt the discharge of a pigment called myoglobin. Too much of this substance in the bloodstream can lead to acute kidney failure.
Arc Flash Burns (External)
Severe external electrical burn injuries can result from arc flashes. An arc flash happens when an electrical current travels through the air. This occurs when isolation between electrical conductors or insulation is no longer sufficient to handle the applied voltage. Arc flashes can be extremely violent, and can be the cause of chemical explosions.
Actions By The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Lockout and Tagout (LOTO): Locks and tags are required to be attached to devices to prevent them from being switched from their safe/off positions. LOTO procedures must be executed when a worker:
- Circumvents or removes a guard or other safety device.
- Is required to position a body part where it could be injured by running machinery.
- Works on or near to exposed electrical conductors.
- May be harmed in an accidental startup.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI): A GFCI monitors electrical pressure and tracks leaks. Leakage over the safety level limit causes the GFCI to automatically trip and halt the current.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) advises the use of a flash protection boundary (FPB) and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) within this area.
If you live in the Greensboro/Winston-Salem area, have been injured in a workplace electrical accident, and are having difficulties collecting workers’ compensation, please talk to us. We can assist you in obtaining the benefits that are rightfully yours.