More than 10 million people work in the construction sector. Many of those individuals are working in specialized construction activities that include demolition, renovation, site preparation, electrical installation, roofing, plumbing, scaffolding, and much more. According to various estimates, construction is the biggest employer in the world.
However, it is also true that construction is the most hazardous industry that possesses several risks and dangers to workers. According to several studies, it has been revealed that every year there are 150,000 accidents and injuries that happen at construction sites. On the other hand, electrocution in the construction industry is considered the major cause of incidents.
In fact, electrocution incidents continue to pose a considerable threat to workers. Here are some quick numbers.
- In 2020, 126 workers died due to exposure to electricity.
- As per the workplace injuries electrocution statistics, almost 82 of construction workers were fatally electrocuted in 2015.
- According to a report by the National Fire Protection (NFPA), construction workers were involved in 77% of the 325 electrocutions that took place from 2012-2016. (NFPA 2018).
- 61% of all US workplace electrocutions occurred in the construction sector. And about 82 to 134 total deaths happened in 2015.
The Prevalence of Electrocution Incidents
Electrocution incidents within the construction industry continue to pose a considerable threat to workers. Although it’s important to acknowledge that electrocutions can occur in other sectors as well, electrical work is inherently risky. However, in the construction sector, the complexity and dynamics of worksites can amplify these risks.
- Electrocutions have consistently been among the top causes of fatal workplace injuries in the United States. In 2019, for instance, 166 workers across all industries lost their lives due to electrocution incidents.
- The majority of victims (82%) were wage and salary workers, although the proportion of self-employed victims (18%) increased significantly from 2019 when self-employed individuals made up 15% of electrical injury fatalities.
- According to statistics gathered by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 126 workers lost their lives in 2020 as a result of electrical exposure. The CFOI has been collecting data for over 30 years, and this is a 24% decline from the 166 injuries that were recorded in 2019 and the lowest annual incidents of fatal electrical work injuries.
5 Major Factors That Contributing To Electrocution Incidents
Electrocution incidents in the construction industry arise from various factors. Understanding these factors is crucial for identifying preventive measures effectively. OSHA has set specific electrical safety standards based on this reason. Here are some common contributors to electrocution incidents:
Inadequate Training and Knowledge
Many construction workers may not have the necessary training or experience to identify and manage electrical hazards. Insufficient knowledge about electrical systems and safety procedures increases the risk of accidents. However, it is one of the primary factors that contribute to electrocution industry incidents. Usually, individuals are not well-versed in electrical safety, but they are more likely to be involved in risky behaviors such as working on live electrical equipment without considering the appropriate safety and protective gear.
Over time, complacency can creep in, especially for people who frequently work around electrical equipment. People may become used to taking shortcuts or ignoring safety precautions as a result, which can cause carelessness. However, construction sites often have multiple electrical systems, including power lines, generators, and temporary electrical installations. Navigating these complex environments requires meticulous planning and awareness.
Poor Maintenance of Equipment
Electrical equipment that is not properly maintained is more likely to malfunction, leading to electrocution incidents. Loose connections, worn insulation, and damaged cords are common issues in equipment that have not been adequately maintained. Undoubtedly, defective equipment poses a significant risk that leads to severe injury and fatality. That is why it is essential for employees and employers to consider manufacturing defects or substandard products to prevent short circuits, fires, and other electrocution incidents.
Inadequate grounding or improper use of grounding tools is another factor that can lead to electrical shocks. Workers may fail to establish a safe electrical path which is why increasing the risk of electrocution has been noticed. However, ground fault protection is essential in preventing electrocution incidents, as it detects current imbalances and quickly shuts off power. The absence of ground fault protection in an electrical system can significantly increase the risk of accidents.
Extreme Weather Conditions
Extreme weather conditions, such as thunderstorms or heavy rain, can lead to power outages and exposed electrical wires. Falling trees, lightning strikes, or flooded areas can make the environment hazardous. As you know, wet or damp environments are particularly dangerous when it comes to electrical safety. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity, and individuals working in such conditions are at a heightened risk of electrocution.
Electrocution hazards in the construction industry pose a significant risk to workers and the success of construction projects. While there have been notable strides in improving safety through education, training, and the implementation of safety measures, the issue remains a critical concern.
Preventing electrocution incidents requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including workers, employers, and safety regulators. If you want to promote a culture of safety then it is vital to provide comprehensive safety training and adhere to safety protocols. Safety training courses like OSHA 10-hour construction and OSHA 30-hour construction can guide workers on how to remain safe from such hazards.