According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), electrical current injury is a widespread workspace hazard. Workers face many electrical shock dangers. The four main types of on-the-job electrical injuries are:
- Electrocution (which is fatal)
- Electric shock
- Falls that result from electrical injuries
Electrical Shocks in Construction and Related Industries
Construction sites are a veritable landmine of electrical hazards, including:
- Electrical currents running through their power tools and equipment
- Electrical lines that provide the power for the lights, tools, and equipment on the site
- Nearby and overhead power lines (extremely dangerous for crane operators, workers using portable metal ladders near power lines, and workers on rooftops and scaffolding)
- Workers installing electrical lines in the building or construction project.
Since it is not possible to remove electricity from the workplace in construction and related industries, employers must focus on safety to prevent injury and death.
How Electrocution Happens
The vast majority of people who come into contact with electricity survive the experience, even though many do suffer some injuries. Why do some people live and others do not survive?
Death occurs from an electrical shock when the amount of electrical energy causes a lethal level of overstimulation of the nervous system or damage to internal organs. Cardiac arrest is a common component of electrocution.
Whether a particular electrical contact will be fatal depends on these five factors:
- How strong the electrical current is,
- The path the current takes through the body,
- How long the electrical contact lasted,
- The damage the body took from the electrical contact, and
- The emergency medical treatment the person received.
You can experience an electrical shock by either a direct contact with an electrical current or from an electrical arc hitting you. An electrical arc happens when electrons flow through the air or through a gas. Construction sites have many locations where electrical shock from direct contact or arcing can occur.
The heat of an electrical arc can create a flash burn on the human body. You can sustain flame burns if the electricity ignites your clothing or other nearby combustible materials. Flash burns and flame burns are thermal burns that seldom involve electricity flowing through the body. The damage is usually limited to the skin and layers of tissue below the skin, as opposed to the internal organs.
You can suffer internal and external burns from electrical shocks. Internal burns happen when the electricity flows through parts of your body, burning a swath of your tissues and organs all along its path. The current can cause nerve damage and blood clots throughout your body along the path of the internal burns.
Falls from Electrical Injuries
When a jolt of electricity hits the body, your nervous system responds rapidly with muscle contraction or a startle reaction. If you are working at a high elevation on a construction site, such as in a crane, on a ladder or scaffolding, or in an aerial bucket, the reflex response could cause you to fall or move into the path of dangerous equipment. Either result could be fatal.
Your Legal Options After Suffering an Electrical Shock Injury at Work
You might be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits if you sustain an on-the-job electrical shock injury. At S. Burke Law, we will explain your legal options and how to collect your worker’s compensation benefits.
If a third party’s negligence caused your injuries, you might be able to file a claim for damages from that individual or company.
When a Third Party Can Be Liable for Your Electrical Shock Injury
If a third party (not your employer) caused your electrical shock injury at work, you might have a right to compensation from that entity. Let’s say that the manufacturer of a crane with aerial bucket used cheap wiring that did not meet safety requirements
The manufacturer knew that the wiring would eventually fail, but it calculated that it would be cheaper to pay injury claims than to use the high-quality wiring mandated by safety guidelines. You were in the aerial bucket on the job when the wiring failed, disabling the steering. The bucket careened into live electrical lines, and you suffered severe electrical shock injuries.
The law would hold the manufacturer responsible after applying this four-prong liability assessment:
- The manufacturer had a duty to produce equipment that was safe when used as intended.
- The manufacturer violated that duty when it used inferior, unsafe wiring in assembling its cranes with aerial buckets. Violation of a legal duty of care is negligence.
- The manufacturer’s negligence caused the accident.
- You suffered physical injuries in the accident.
Therefore, the manufacturer owes you compensation for the injuries you suffered as a result of its negligence.
Damages You Can Recover from the Liable Party
In a negligence action, you can typically recover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and long-term impairment. Depending on the facts of your case, you might be eligible for other damages as well.
Getting Legal Help for Electrical Shock Injuries
The team at S. Burke Law will answer your questions and tell you if you might have a claim for compensation. Call us today at 404-842-7838, and we will set up your free consultation.