Electricians are workers who typically install, repair and maintain electrical power, communications, lighting and control systems in homes, businesses, factories and other locations. Electricians spend much of their work time at construction sites. Electrocution accidents at New York construction sites can lead to serious injuries for both electricians and other workers at the site. Construction sites have overhead and underground power lines that can be extremely dangerous as they tend to carry high voltages. This hazard is exacerbated when the power lines are defectively or inadequately insulated. Electrical shocks cause burns and internal injuries. New York law requires contractors to make workers aware of where overhead and underground electrical lines are located in order to prevent tragic, accidental electrocution.
What do Electricians Do?
At construction sites, electricians usually work on projects involving electrical power, communications, lighting and control systems that, for instance, must be installed in the building being constructed, as well as carrying out any repair or maintenance tasks required after installation. These electrical systems power the lights, appliances and equipment that make our lives easier and more comfortable. Electricians work on components such as transformers and circuit breakers. They identify electrical problems with a variety of testing devices. Electricians also repair or replace wiring, equipment or fixtures using hand tools and power tools. They are required to follow state and local building regulations based on the National Electric Code.
Most electricians work alone. But some electrical workers collaborate with others such as building engineers or architects to help design electrical systems for new construction. Some electricians may also consult with other specialists such as elevator installers or heating and air-conditioning workers. In larger companies, electricians work as part of a crew, directing apprentices to complete a variety of electrical jobs.
Electricians – Injury and Fatality Statistics
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a total of 42,882 occupational fatalities occurred between 2003 and 2010 and of these, 1,738 were due to contact with electric current. ESFI’s study found that the construction industry had the highest number of electrical fatalities (849) followed by professional and business services (208), trade, transportation, and utilities (182), natural resources and mining (154), and manufacturing (137). The following occupations in the construction trade experienced more than 32 percent of all electrical fatalities: electricians, construction laborers, roofers, painters and carpenters. Power line installers accounted for 8 percent of the fatalities and tree trimmers, about 5 percent.
The study also found that all the victims of the 163 electrical fatalities during 2010 were men. At the same time, victims who were self-employed accounted for about 22 percent of all occupational deaths, but only 19 percent of electrical death. Nearly 68 percent were white, less than 6 percent were black and 24 percent were Latino. Also, 98 percent of the electrical fatalities involved electrocution. Based on the study, 63 percent of the victims were constructing, repairing or cleaning something at the time of death. Also, 34 percent died on industrial premises, 28 percent at a private residence and nearly 12 percent on a street or highway. Almost 96 percent were employed in private industry.
Electrical Shock and Live Wires
Coming into contact with electrical voltages can cause current to flow quickly through an individual’s body resulting in burns, serious injury and even death. In a power cable, electrical current passes between two wires at different voltages. When a person touches the two wires, the current could pass through and electrocute him or her because the human body conducts electricity. If you are working on electrical wiring in a house, for example, it is important that you do not touch an energized black wire as well as the accompanying neutral white wire at the same time. The current from the black wire will travel through you to get to the white wire.
Effects of Electrical Current
Ampere is the unit used to measure current and a milliampere (mA) is defined as 1/1,000 of an ampere. In most cases, an amount equivalent to 1/10 of an ampere of electricity traveling through a person’s body for just two seconds can result in fatal injuries. Currents as low as 10 milliamperes can affect the victim’s ability to control his or her arm movements. Currents above 10 mA can paralyze an individual’s muscles completely, making it impossible for him or her to release the wire or tool causing the shock. Currents greater than 75 mA can cause the victim’s heart to beat very fast. This is a condition called ventricular fibrillation and it is potentially fatal if a defibrillator is not used within minutes of the shock.
Coming into contact with:
- 1 milliampere can result in a small shock or a faint tingle that is barely perceptible.
- 5 milliamperes can result in a small shock that has the potential to cause involuntary reactions.
- Between 6 and 25 milliamperes can result in a painful shock and the loss of muscular control.
- Between 50 and 150 milliamperes can result in respiratory arrest and possibly death.
- Over 1,000 milliamperes will likely cause death. The rhythmic pumping action of the heart will stop and significant nerve damage will occur. Severe burns and cardiac arrest will occur at 10,000 milliamperes.
Factors Affecting Severity of Electrical Shock Injuries
Electricians in New York City are often at risk of suffering electrical shocks. Not all shock-related injuries are serious, but it is possible to sustain life-threatening injuries when making contact with a live wire. The factors affecting the intensity of the shock that a victim receives include:
- The amount of current flowing through the victim.
- Path of the current as it travels through the body. In some cases, the current will pass through or travel near major organs resulting in potentially lethal internal injuries.
- Length of time the body is shocked. In minor cases, victims may be able to release the wire shortly after the shock. In other cases, the victim may be unable to let go or even call for help.
- The voltage of the current. Touching a power line is typically much more serious than touching a less powerful live wire, but all construction-related electrocution accidents can result in serious injuries.
- The presence of moisture. Wet conditions are particularly dangerous when dealing with electricity. This is why steps must be taken to avoid working with electricity near a puddle of water at the site or during rainy conditions.
- The general health of the victim. Older victims and those with preexisting medical conditions are particularly vulnerable.
The most common shock-related injury is a burn. Burns suffered in electrical accidents could cause tissue damage and are the result of heat generated by the flow of electrical current through the body. High temperatures near the body produced by an electric arc or explosion could cause what are known as arc or flash burns. Thermal contact burns occur when skin comes in contact with overheated electric equipment, or when clothing is ignited in an electrical incident. All of these injuries are extremely serious and must be treated right away. Treating electrical burns can be expensive. Severe burns could even require complex medical procedures such as skin graft surgery.
Causes of Electrical Hazards
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the three leading causes of electrical accidents include unsafe equipment or installation, unsafe environment and unsafe work practices. The majority of electrician accidents can be prevented through the proper use of insulation, guarding, electrical protective devices, grounding and safe work practices. It is important to receive safety training before starting the job because it only takes a second or two for potentially life-changing injuries to occur in an electrical accident.
Here are some of the most common causes of electrical accidents, according to OSHA:
Contact with power lines: Overhead and buried power lines at a worksite are especially dangerous because they carry extremely high voltage. Fatal electrocution is the main risk, but burns and falls from elevations are also hazards. Using tools and equipment that can contact power lines increases the risk. Examples of equipment that can contact power lines include aluminum paint rollers, backhoes, concrete pumpers, cranes, etc. Electricians can prevent contact with live power lines by making sure the power is turned off before starting work on electric equipment.
Lack of ground-fault protection: Due to the dynamic and rugged nature of construction work, electrical equipment at a worksite are subject to greater wear and tear, resulting in insulation breaks, short circuits and exposed wires. If there is no ground-fault protection, then a problem or issue with a device’s or cable’s ground can send a current through a worker’s body resulting in electrical burns, explosions, fires or death.
Improper power supply: If the power supply to the electrical equipment at a worksite is not grounded or the path has been broken, the fault current may travel through a victim’s body causing electrical burns or even death.
Improper use of equipment: If an electrical equipment is used in ways for which it was not designed, it could damage the equipment and cause serious injuries to workers.
What to do If You Have Been Injured
Workers who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits including medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. If you have been injured in a New York electrical accident, it is important that you get medical attention right away. Go to the emergency room and get whatever treatment is necessary. Follow the doctor’s orders and get the follow-up treatment you need to maximize your chances for a speedy and complete recovery. Your employer may require you to go to their insurance company-assigned doctor. Make sure that you notify your supervisor about the injury and the manner in which it occurred as soon as possible.
Under New York law, an injured employee who fails to inform his or her employer in writing within 30 days after the date of the accident causing the injury may lose the right to workers’ compensation benefits. Complete a claim for workers’ compensation on Form C-3 and mail it to the nearest office of the Workers’ Compensation Board. In addition, make sure you attend an Independent Medical Examination if you are required to do so and return to work as soon as you are able.
Very often, we see that workers’ compensation alone is not adequate to cover all expenses for injured workers and their families. In some cases, injured workers may also be able to file what is known as a third-party claim against a party other than the employer, for significant money damages. Examples of potential third parties include general contractors, sub-contractors, building owners, manufacturers of defective products, etc.
For example, if an electrician is injured due to a dangerous condition on the property, then the property owner may be held financially responsible. If a defective product caused the victim’s injury, the manufacturer of the defective product can be held accountable. Injured electrical accident victims can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, hospitalization, rehabilitation, permanent injuries, disabilities, loss of livelihood, lost future income, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
In addition to damages stemming from the initial injury, the family of an electrician killed on the job can collect death benefits. If there was negligence involved, a wrongful death claim can also be filed seeking compensation for damages including, but not limited to, lost future income, medical expenses, funeral costs, pain and suffering, etc.
Contacting an Experienced New York Lawyer
Electricians face numerous risks each and every day on the job. Injured electricians and their families suffer significant emotional and financial burdens. If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Our law firm recovered $3,375,576 for a construction worker who was injured on the job – one of the highest construction case settlements in New York in 2010.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please contact us and we will try to help you with your case.
Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:
1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES
Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com
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