Electrocution, electrical shock, and electrical fires are common workplace risks that can seriously injure or kill workers. Electrocution on the job is the second leading cause of worker fatalities in the United States. in 2014, 74 workers were electrocuted while performing their job duties.
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Understanding Electrocution & Electric Shock
Electrocution occurs when an electric current passes through the body. As it does, the muscles, bones, etc. creates resistance. This resistance generates heat that can cause severe burns. The electric current also disrupts the body's natural electrical signals that regulate organ and muscle function. This can occur when an individual comes into contact with 100 amps or more of electrical current. As the muscles tense, the individual loses control over muscle function. In many cases, the electrocuted individual will also lose control over neurological function. When this occurs, loss of consciousness and death are likely to follow.
While not as severe as electrocution, electric shock can have serious long-term consequences. Electric shock occurs after contact with lower levels of voltage or amperage, but it is no less serious. Electric shock can cause burns at the point of contact. Common points of contact include the hands, feet, and head.
Electric shock can also cause secondary injuries. As the individual's muscles tense, they can often be "thrown across the room." As the body moves uncontrollably, it can come into contact with furniture, equipment, or other obstructions that can cause broken bones and spinal cord injuries.
Common Electrical Risks
Contact with Live Power Lines - Construction workers including crane operators and employees of the power company can come into contact with overhead power lines while performing their jobs. Over 90% of fatalities in this regard are suffered by people who come into contact with the overhead distribution conductor.
Electrical Faults - Bare wires, or wires that have become damaged can create dangerous faults that current can flow through. When exposed wires come into contact with metal such as belt buckles, watches, etc., the current is distributed directly through the body. Electrical faults may also cause fires when they conduct electricity directly into a combustible substance.
Misuse of Extension Cords - This includes overloading extension cords or exposing electrical cords to saw blades, vehicular traffic, etc. These activities can damage the cord which can lead to electrical shorts or fires. Such damage can also create faults that can electrocute workers who come into contact with the cord.
Faulty Equipment - Wiring within machinery can come lose and create dangerous electrical shorts. These shorts can initiate sparking which can lead to fast growing fires if they come into contact with gasoline or other fuel sources. Moreover, the wire can come into contact with other metal components and transfer current directly into an operator's body.
Workers Who Face the Greatest Risks
Roughly 52% of occupational electrocutions in the United States are suffered by construction workers. Of these, 22% occur when the load a worker is carrying comes into contact with an overhead wire. For instance, 13% of fatalities are caused when workers walk into a wire while carrying a ladder. Direct contact with overhead wires accounts for 10% of total fatalities.
Other labor trades at considerable risk of electrocution are roofing/sheet metal contractors who suffer 9% of total fatalities, and tree trimming contractors who suffer 8.5% of fatalities. These trades are followed by plumbing/pipeline personnel who suffer 8% of fatalities and painters who suffer 7% of fatalities.
One industry that is often overlooked as facing a considerable risk of electrocution is agricultural workers. It's estimated that 62 farm workers are killed by electrocution each year in the Untied States.
Examining Electrical Injuries
Workers who have suffered an electrical injury should seek immediate treatment and examination. It is imperative to determine the extent of the injuries and the potential long-term consequences. Tests should include ECG's to check heart function, an analysis of the complete blood count, a urine test to check for muscle enzymes, and X-rays and CT scans to determine damage to bones and organs. Algonquin workers' comp lawyers can use this information to show the impact the injuries will have on a worker's career and quality of life.
Long-Term Effects of Electrocution & Electric Shock
Individuals who survive their contact with electricity aren't out of the woods the moment they leave the hospital. Algonquin workers' comp lawyers can help seek damages for the long-term health effects of electrical injuries that can linger long after the incident. Workers who have been electrocuted can have burns that won't heal, random periods of unconsciousness, numbness, tingling, or paralysis.
Other injuries include damage to hearing and speech, as well as difficulty breathing, periods of confusion, and seizures. These symptoms can persist throughout an individual's lifetime. These injuries can make it difficult to continue working within a career and they may require lifelong medication and treatment.