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Workplace Electrical Accidents Can Cause Severe & Fatal Injuries

a NYC electrician prepares to cut wires

Electrocution poses a major risk to NYC workers.

In a national survey, employees were nearly unanimous in their opinion on electrical safety at work - “more can be done” by employers to reduce the risk of severe injuries and fatalities.

Conducted by Fluke Corporation, the survey polled over 900 workers on electrical safety at work. Of the respondents, 95 percent said there is room for improvement in working with electricity. And 55 percent of those workers said they have ideas on how this can be accomplished.

For the most part, proper personal protective equipment (PPE), regular safety training, and planning can go a long way in preventing electrical accidents at work.

Still, electrical accidents are a leading cause of workplace injuries in New York, especially on construction sites. Electrical injuries can result in extensive medical bills and missed time from work, creating a loss of income.

Injured workers have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits, but the process can be complicated, and if you’re not careful, you could lose out on the benefits you’re entitled to under the law. If you suffered electrical injuries while on the job in New York City, you should call an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to review your legal rights and options.

Who is most at risk for an electrical accident at work?

Many employees work with electricity and electrical equipment as part of their job. Dangerous electrical hazards include fatal electrocution, electric shock, burns, and falls caused by contact with electricity.

Workers at the greatest risk for a fatal electrical accident are those who work in construction, extraction, installation, maintenance, trucking, transportation, or repair jobs. Electrical accidents occur most frequently at private residences and industrial or construction sites, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Other common locations for electrical accidents are streets, highways, public buildings, and farms.

Meanwhile, nonfatal electrical accidents constitute a significant threat to the industries mentioned above and those who work in service, production, education, libraries, sales, transportation, healthcare, and office administration.

How do electricity accidents happen at work?

Workplace electrocutions happen in many different ways. Often, the employee was repairing, building, or cleaning something; was using power tools or machinery; or was handling conductive materials.

Unfortunately, a recent example of how a New York City worker can be fatally electrocuted happened in 2021. That year, a new employee still in training at a waste management facility in Staten Island was fatally electrocuted under a discharge belt while cleaning the area, according to an OSHA investigation.

Other tragic examples of at-work electrical accidents were featured in an NFPA May report on electrical worker safety. The report says that in 2020, these electrical accidents took the lives of U.S. workers:

  • A worker at a residential remodeling company was fatally electrocuted when he contacted an energized electrical junction box in a customer’s attic.
  • While trimming tree branches with a metallic pole saw, a worker came into contact with a primary power line.
  • An employee was standing in 12 inches of water and working on the concrete floor of a seawall when he turned on a corded electric drill and was electrocuted to death.
  • A worker was on the rooftop of a school, using a vacuum to clean an HVAC unit when his forehead made contact with the unit’s energized heating coil and was fatally electrocuted.

Types of electrical injuries

More than half of electrical injuries at work are the result of direct exposure to electricity. That means the worker made direct contact with a power source like a live wire or when an electrical arc struck them.

Other at-work electrical accidents are due to indirect exposure, meaning the electricity traveled through some conductive material to get to the worker. Often, this material is water or an uninsulated ladder touching a power line.

When a worker is electrocuted, the injuries can be severe and life-threatening depending on the current type (A.C. or D.C.), voltage, length of exposure, and body resistance. Common nonfatal electrical work injuries include:

  • Soft tissue damage and muscle weakness, stiffness, or pain.
  • Joint trauma in the elbow, wrist, and fingers.
  • Central nervous system damage (CNS).
  • Heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
  • Internal organ damage.
  • Deep burns.
  • Muscle tetany (spasms and cramps).

Get answers to your legal questions.

If you were electrocuted while on the job in New York, you deserve workers’ compensation benefits. Moreover, if your work accident involved a negligent third party (e.g., subcontractor), you may also be eligible to file a third-party lawsuit. The key is to talk to an attorney as soon as possible so you can clearly understand all your legal options.

At Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, our dedicated legal team is ready to help. We know how to build strong cases and identify all potential sources of compensation. If you’re eligible for a workers’ comp claim and a third-party claim, we can handle them both and keep them moving concurrently.

Learn more about how we can help you by contacting us today for a free case consultation.

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