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Electrocution a serious risk for construction workers

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The construction industry is a major source of employment in Tennessee, with an average of 114,000 workers annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While it plays an essential role in the state economy, it also raises the number of workplace injuries and fatalities because it is one of the most dangerous professions in the country. In fact, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, one in every five workplace fatalities is a construction worker.

A personal injury lawyer in Tennessee knows that accidents involving electricity are one of the top four causes of construction injuries. To lower the risk and increase jobsite safety, OSHA creates standards and requirements, as well as supplies information and educational tools to employers, contractors and workers. Many of these policies concern the use of electrical equipment.

Power line and equipment hazards

OSHA's safety tools list states that contact with power lines is one of the primary sources of electrical injuries. It is the high voltage of overhead and buried lines that makes them so hazardous, and the risk of fatal electrocution is extremely high. A worker does not need to have physical contact with a power line to be injured. Construction equipment such as ladders, scaffolds and backhoes are excellent conductors. Misused or damaged electrical equipment such as modified cords or tools, exposed wires and fabricated extension cords can also cause serious electrical injury.

Electrocution and burn injuries are often caused by shocks, fires and explosions. Injuries and fatalities can be prevented with posted signage indicating the presence of all power lines. This information is available from the local utility companies. Workers should assume that overhead lines are energized and stay at least 10 feet from them at all times.

Inappropriate or missing ground

Equipment must have a grounding conductor to prevent them from becoming energized if there is a problem with the wiring insulation. When that conductor is not properly installed, the user becomes the conductor, instead, causing the current to enter the body. A construction accident lawyer in Tennessee often sees victims with differing levels of injury from this type of shock. There are a number of factors that determine how severe of a shock the worker receives when this occurs, including the following:

  • Amount and voltage of current
  • State of the worker's health
  • Level of environmental moisture
  • Path the current travels through the body
  • Heart cycle phase at the moment of shock

No one should ever remove ground prongs from plugs, and contractors and workers should routinely inspect systems and equipment to ensure that there is no break in the path to ground. Nonelectrical equipment with metal parts should also be grounded, and tools should be double insulated and marked.

Severe shocks can cause permanent disabilities, including brain damage. Anyone on the jobsite who sustains an injury due to the negligence of another may be eligible to receive compensation to cover the expenses of medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. A construction accident lawyer in Tennessee may be able to provide legal assistance in pursuing justice.

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