Can most on-the-job electrocutions be prevented?

During one 12-year period, the federal government studied 224 incidents of on-the-job electrocutions wherein 244 workers lost their lives.

In those cases, all but one of the victims were males, and the age of the victims ranged from 17-70, with an average age of 34.

The years of potential life lost prior to age 65 was high — there was a total of 7,903 years lost, for a mean range of 33 years for each victim. In 64 percent of the cases, the victims died before their 35th birthday.

Industries with the most electrocutions were:

  • Construction, with 121
  • Manufacturing, 40
  • Transportation, Public Utilities and Communications all had 30
  • Public Administration,19

Utility line workers typically referred to as linemen receive the most training in electrical hazards and safety, yet still had the most electrocutions. In 55 percent of the incidents, the linemen failed to use the designated personal protective equipment, e.g., blankets, sleeves, gloves, mats, etc.

Laborers, who typically receive the least safety training had the second highest number of fatalities.

Most fatalities happened during favorable weather conditions for outside activity. Some common factors included:

  • Lack of enforcement of employer policies regarding workers’ use of safety gear
  • Lack of supervision when safety policies already in place were violated.

Although supervisors were on site for 53 percent of these incidents, 42 victims were supervisors themselves. More than 40 percent of victims had worked at the job for under one year when they were killed. Almost 100 percent of the fatalities involved alternating current, with a single fatality involving direct current. Two separate fatalities involved AC arcs.

Most were easily prevented. In 35 on-the-job electrocutions, conductive equipment like scaffolding or aluminum ladders made contact with energized power lines. As the heavy weight of the equipment often required multiple workers for moving and positioning it, multiple fatalities occurred.

All workers must take their own safety seriously, but companies owe a duty to workers to establish a safety conscious culture in the workplace. Those injured due to negligence or other errors have legal recourse to seek compensation for their injuries.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Worker Deaths by Electrocution,” accessed Nov. 11, 2015