Construction Accidents

Avoiding Electrical Shock Accidents & What To Do If You Get Shocked

Electrical shock accidents are one of the most prevalent types of injuries in commercial and residential settings each year. Roughly 5% of the patients admitted to burn units in the United States each year are electrical shock accident victims. Furthermore, even non-fatal electrical shocks can cause grave, life-changing injuries.

There are some professions and circumstances where you are more likely to encounter enough dangerous electricity that a shock can lead to life-changing injuries or death. Many electrical injuries result in significant time away from the job, and 41% of injuries require more than two weeks away from work. Because this type of injury results in loss of wages and potentially worse, knowing who to call for legal help when you’ve experienced bodily harm is critical.

What Is Electric Shock?

Electric shock occurs when an electrical current runs through the body of a person. Electricity will follow the least resistant path in the body from the direct current to the ground. The stronger the electric volts, the worse the outcome.

While this is a dangerous event that can often result in life-changing injuries, it also results in fatalities. Statistics show electric shock kills three or more people every week. Exposure to deadly electrical energy happens in the workplace and at home.

Typical Electric Shock Injuries in the Workplace

Some jobs are more prone to come in contact with high voltage electricity. The construction industry is most likely to experience occupational electrocutions. The use of heavy equipment such as dump trucks, cranes, and backhoes exposes construction workers to power lines overhead and buried underground.

According to OSHA,  in 2019 the construction industry accounted for about 20% of all on-the-job fatalities. Of those fatalities, about 7% were due to electrical shocks.

Another job that entails increased exposure to electricity causing high-voltage injuries is power line workers and technicians. Labor trades such as roofing and siding contractors, tree trimming services, and water and sewer installers regularly come in contact with dangerous electrical wires as well.

Some common electric shock injuries that happen in the course of working are:

  • Electrocution: Electrocution happens when a worker comes in contact with a high-voltage wire that causes an electric shock so strong that it causes injury or  death.
  • Falls: Falls happen when a heavy equipment operator experiences a low-voltage shock that causes them to fall from machinery. The loss of balance and disorientation can lead to cardiac arrest, a low-voltage injury, or death.
  • Burns: Burn injuries can happen when a fractured electrical line ignites something flammable nearby. There are three general burn types:
    • There can be superficial burns from contact with the electricity, or they might be so extensive that they cause death.
    • Arcs and flash injuries happen when an electrical arc’s volatile energy release passes through the body. Statistics indicate that these injuries occur over five times every day. If a person does not die from the injuries, there are lasting debilitating effects.
    • A thermal burn happens when the skin comes in contact with electricity so hot that it causes tissue death or charring.

Contact With Power Lines

Your body does not require a long exposure to the electricity from power lines to experience internal tissue damage, severe external burns, and scars that cause deformity. Because the power lines carry energy from 120-750,000 volts, even brief contact can cause great harm.

Improper Grounding

When a power line is not grounded correctly, the metal parts of the electrical pole become energized with electricity. When a worker touches the metal, the electricity will travel through the body, seeking the ground. The path through the body is heated and burns the tissue as it passes through. Once the electricity reaches the ground, it leaves the body through an exit wound.

Damaged Power Cords

When power cords become damaged from heavy use or age, they can cause serious hazards such as electrical shock or fire. If you pull a damaged electrical cord from an outlet by the cord, this can pull the energized metal prongs out, which can cause an energy arc resulting in fire and burns.

The best ways to prevent electric shock include:

  • disposing of damaged extension cords
  • removing and repairing household appliances with damaged cords
  •  replacing electrical appliances with exposed cords

Contact With Electrical Equipment

Coming in contact with faulty appliances is a typical way for people to be injured. Electrical shock can happen from faulty light switches, outdated outlets improperly plugged appliances, and touching electrical appliances with wet hands. Because the human body conducts electricity well, injuries from electrical equipment can cause damage in and outside of the body.

Improperly Installed Equipment

All electrical equipment needs grounding to ensure a person who touches the equipment is not shocked. When electrical equipment has incorrect installation, injury can occur quickly. If someone touches the equipment, the electrical current passing through the body to the ground can cause cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness, and electrocution.

That’s why it is critical for building owners, manufacturing facilities, and maintenance workers to ensure all equipment is installed and inspected for the right connections and safety protocols.

Damaged Electrical Equipment

Exposure to damaged electrical equipment, even at low voltages, can result in injuries that affect the body’s musculoskeletal, neurological, and psychological systems. An electrical flash burn can cause numbness, weakness, chronic pain, and anxiety, among other lasting effects.

Burns From Explosive Gases Ignited by Electrical Equipment

Extensive thermal burns happen when nearby gases are ignited by improperly maintained or installed electrical equipment malfunctions. This ignition generally occurs in three ways:

  • Thermal contact burns occur when gases, dust, and explosive vapors in the air ignite. The operation of dangerous electrical equipment in such circumstances should follow strict safety protocols. However, fires can occur from overheated equipment, circuit breakers, or electrical switches igniting the flammable components in the air.
  • Arc blasts and burns happen when electrical equipment is old or improperly maintained. The equipment overheats due to age or maintenance issues which cause high-voltage arcs to travel through the air. The person near the equipment acts as a grounding force and receives the electrical arc, which can cause extensive burns.
  • General electrical burns happen when a person touches a piece of equipment that has not been grounded or maintained. The burns are often localized on the hands and are some of the most serious.

How To Prevent Electrocution and Avoid Accidents

Preventing electrocution and avoiding accidents requires constant awareness and practice of safety precautions. Safety practices for workplaces include:

  • Staying away from equipment that carries the risk of electrical injury or electrocution when you are not qualified to operate that equipment. Maintaining a safe distance is essential to protect from electric shock.
  • Double-checking that the equipment you are working on has been de-energized or turned off before proceeding.
  • Taking care when handling electrical cords, including removing the cord by the plug head, never stretching the electrical cord farther than it should go, not hanging electrical equipment from cords, and never connecting electrical cords with staples.
  • Install physical barriers to electrical equipment while working and post signs to indicate a substantial electrical hazard or possibly fatal injury.
  • Assuming that electrical parts are live with electrical current sources when working around tools and equipment.
  • Use extreme caution when working around or handling flammable materials.
  • Never work on electrical wires unless you are trained and qualified and following all safety practices for working on electrical wires.
  • Treating all electrical equipment and wires as if they are deadly—you can never be too careful when working with and around electricity.

Precautions in the Home

Precautions in the home are just as critical to staying safe and uninjured around electrical equipment and wires to prevent electrical shock:

  • Do not touch anything electrical when standing in water or your hands are wet. When you know you will be near an electric outlet or appliance, make sure your hands are completely dry.
  • Don’t overload wall outlets with too many plugs or extension cords.
  • Throw out frayed extension or power cords, and don’t use any cords with missing prongs.
  • Always pull a cord out of the wall by the plug and not by yanking.
  • Avoid flying kites near power lines—if the kite encounters the lines, it can transmit the electricity to you on the ground.
  • Never touch a power line on the ground, and do not touch a fallen power pole.
  • Cover outlets that are not working correctly.
  • If an appliance is not working correctly or is tripping the circuit breaker, the time has come to repair it or remove it.
  • Replace missing wall plates to protect from accidentally encountering live electrical wires.
  • Choose the correct light bulb for the lamp requirements to prevent a fire.

It only takes one appliance or frayed cord in your home to cause an electrical accident that can result in a heart attack, electrocution or significant burns.

What To Do if You Suffer an Electrical Shock Injury

When an electrical current pathway flows through your body, you will suffer an electrical shock. The severity of the injury depends on the type of current that passes through the body. Low currents can cause muscle spasms, while high currents can cause death.

Additionally, the amount of time an electrical current lasts impacts the severity of the injury. If the exposure to the electrical current is brief, it might simply cause pain. More prolonged exposure to even low voltage electrical currents can cause death.

Possible symptoms of electrical shock include some of the following: 

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Burns
  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures

If you or someone close to you suffers electrical shock or electrocution, shut off the electricity immediately. When you call for help, be ready to describe any symptoms you are having, and remember not to touch someone who has been shocked as the electricity can flow from their body to yours.

Immediate First Aid & Medical Care

Seeking immediate first aid and medical care is critical to sustaining the least amount of injury. If you can let go of the wire, do so. Call 911 or have someone call for you. Don’t move from where you are unless you must.

Never touch someone who has been shocked when they are still touching the live wire. The electricity can flow through to you. Turn off the electricity if possible. Monitor for seizures, muscle spasms, tingling, weakness, and an elevated heart rate.

Record Evidence for Workers’ Compensation and/or Personal Injury Law Suit

Electric shock injuries can be severe and complex, often requiring months if not years of medical care. This injury can bring neurological damage, paralysis, and even death. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognizes work that places you around electricity as an occupational hazard that is most likely covered by workers’ compensation.  In addition, you may be entitled to make a claim against a responsible third party for injuries through a personal injury lawsuit.

Whether you can file a lawsuit regarding the electrical shock depends on several factors. For example, if you were injured on the job at a construction site, if there was a responsible third party, someone other than your employer, you can file a claim for damages for pain and suffering, time out of work, economic loss, and other losses.

We will work to recover compensation for: 

  • Your medical costs
  • Past and future pain and suffering
  • Lost income and diminished earning power
  • Lost union benefits
  • Any other losses stemming from your accident

Speak With An Experienced Accident Attorney Today

Don’t wait to seek help when an electrical shock injures you or a loved one. The knowledgeable, New York accident attorneys at Oresky & Associates will explain your rights to you in the event of an electrical shock accident case. You pay no fees unless we win your case.

At Oresky & Associates, we will carefully review your case and help you fight for your compensation. We offer a free consultation no matter your legal status.

Contact us at (718)993-9999 for a free case review.  We’re here to help!

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