Electrocution is the sixth leading cause of work-related deaths in the United States.
Electrical hazards account for more than 4,000 work-related injuries and 300 deaths in the United States each year, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- An electrical shock occurs any time current enters the body, which can happen at any point since skin is porous.
- The resulting injuries can range from minor to serious and potentially fatal.
Causes of Electrocution Accidents
Contact with overhead power lines is a common source of electrocution. But electrical shock can also occur from exposure to frayed or damaged wires. Defective power tools and other machinery may also lead to electrocution. Also, faulty installations or improper repairs sometimes put employees in danger of being electrocuted. In other instances, an employer may fail to post appropriate warnings in certain areas where water may spill and present electrical hazards.
Types of Injuries Experienced
Electrocution often results in burns at the point where skin came in contact with electricity. It’s third-degree burns that go through the first few layers of skin (epidermis and dermis) and reach deeper layers of tissue that are the most serious ones. Electrical injuries can be superficial in nature and only affect the surface of the skin. True electrical injuries have a clear entry and exit site.
A moderate or severe shock may cause muscles to contract enough to cause respiratory issues. Electrical fall injuries where an individual directly falls onto a source of current can result in long-term discomfort and peripheral nerve damage. High voltage electricity exposure may also result in:
- Heart damage
- Persistent headaches
- Cellular damage
- Emotional and behavioral changes
- Memory loss
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
While electrocution accidents can happen in many different situations, it’s the construction industry that’s often affected. Employees working in industries that use heavy equipment such as cranes, drilling rigs, dump trucks, bucket trucks, and backhoes are also usually involved in situations where they may be put in contact with a source of electrical current. For instance, a tree trimmer may accidentally be exposed to sagging or damaged electrical wires. Individuals who install residential and commercial electrical equipment may also be at risk of electrocution.
Treatment and Care
With electrical injuries, initial treatments typically involve the ABCs of first aid (airway, breathing, and circulation) and immobilization of the spine in case of hidden injuries that may not be immediately detectable. Severe electrocution injuries often require the replacement of damaged tissue with skin grafts or other forms of reconstruction. Some accident victims may need surgery to prevent amputation, correct muscle damage, or repair damage that was done to the heart or other vital organs from exposure to high volumes of electrical current. If damage is severe, some survivors may require long-term care and rehabilitation.
If an electrocution accident, regardless of the extent of the injuries, is the result of negligence on the part of an employer, a manufacturer, or another party, a workers’ compensation attorney may be able to seek compensation for damages, an inability to work, long-term disability and care, and related pain and suffering.