This month, a man at a school construction site in Quincy, Massachusetts accidentally touched a power line and suffered electrical burns (login required to read article). As a result of the shock, he fell to the floor and also suffered a head injury.
Electrical injuries like electrocution and electrical shock pose a hazard for construction workers every day. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that electrical accidents are an important cause of construction accident fatalities. Other workers who may come into contact with a power line are cable installers, electricians, and welders.
Although these types of injuries are more common for construction workers, anybody on the job can be exposed to the risk. Those who work in jobs where electricity might come into contact with something damp or where electrical cords are deformed or frayed are at risk. In addition to high voltage power lines, a worker can be hurt by extension or power cords that are faulty, defective power tools, or other inadequate protections. The rise in technology use on the job may also be a cause of the increased numbers of electrical injuries in recent years.
Sometimes electrical burns do not show on the skin. If a very mild shock is sustained, the injured person may only suffer a passing unpleasant feeling. However, the damage of electrical burns can be extensive if the electrical current was strong. Some of the factors that affect how severe the injury will be are the intensity of energy, the resistance encountered, the duration of contact with the source, the type of current and the path it takes through the body.
The path the electrical current takes through the body can have a significant effect on the outcome of the injury. Tissues with more fluid conduct electricity more smoothly. Nerve tissue and mucous membranes, for example, have very little resistance to electricity. Moreover, electrical current that goes through the head or thorax is more likely to kill someone or result in a serious issues like direct brain injury, seizure, or respiratory arrest. There are about 1,000 electrical burn deaths per year in the United States.
If you witness somebody else get an electric shock at the workplace, you should be cautious in case the person is still in touch with the source. Turn off the source of electricity if you can. If you can’t, push the source away from the injured person with wood, cardboard, or another nonconducting material. You may also need to perform CPR or cover the burned areas with a sterile bandage.
Contact burns occur internally but there are also about ten arc flashes onsite per day in the United States. “Arc flashes” occur when a current leaps between two points. They can happen when there are tears or gaps in insulation. They can ignite clothing and cause an explosion. The National Fire Protection Association has asked work managers to determine flash protection boundaries within which protective equipment should be worn.
If you get an electrical burn on the job and have to go to the hospital or take time off of work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney can help you figure out your next steps. Contact the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates for a free consultation at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.