According to the most recent annual statistics compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrical power line installers and repairmen have a death rate that is more than five times the average death rate across all occupations. The “fatal work injury rate” is 19.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in this civilian occupation category.
In fact, it is often considered one of the “fatal four” – the four professions with the most fatalities. Many of the accidents involving power line workers involve burn and electrocution injuries.
Updated Safety Requirements
OSHA continues to look for ways to reduce both fatal and nonfatal injuries too often suffered by various types of electrical workers. For example, OSHA finalized terms of a new rule designed to reduce the likelihood of certain accidents involving electrical workers. It updates requirements pertaining to:
- Arc-flash protection
- Fall protection
- Minimum approach distances
- Electrical protective equipment
The rule also requires host employers and contract employers to exchange information pertaining to worker safety.
Here are three examples of the kinds of workplace injuries that OSHA seeks to address with this rule:
Electric arc melts rubber gloves – Workers were upgrading a receiving substation battery room. Before proceeding with the upgrade, new batteries were connected in series. Despite the fact that two workers requested protective equipment and insulated tools, none were provided. Nonetheless, the employer went ahead with the work. An electrical fault occurred when a worker dropped a cable too close to an exposed positive terminal. An electric arc melted the worker’s left glove into his middle and ring fingers. Multiple surgeries ensued to treat the man’s second and third-degree burns. OSHA determined the employer had not properly trained the workers to work safely with wet cell batteries. Click here for the incident report.
Power line worker falls – A worker was connecting conductors on a new utility pole approximately 30 feet above the ground. After completing the work, he attempted to descend the pole. However, the gaff on his pole climber gave way, and he fell onto a horizontal metal support for the new utility pole. Fourteen days of hospitalization followed for treatment of broken ribs, internal injuries, broken legs and a fractured pelvis. Click here for the incident report
Semi strikes aerial lift boom – Two power line workers arrived to replace a blown fuse situated on a utility pole. Since they believed the repair would take 15 minutes or less, they were not required to set up work zone signage according to company policies. The workers did use caution strobes on their two trucks. However, after the repair was finished, one worker moved the boom of the aerial lift he was on away from the pole. As he did so, a passing semi tractor-trailer struck the boom. The worker was ejected from the lift, and he did not survive. Click here for the incident report.
Rights and Responsibilities
As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration states, “Workers have a right to a safe workplace.” Federal law requires each employer to provide its workers with a healthful and safe workplace. Under specific OSHA regulations, electrical workers have various rights and responsibilities as well.
Although injuries to electrical workers are addressed by the state’s workers compensation laws, there are instances in which third-party negligence leads to litigation seeking compensation under the state’s personal injury laws as well. Those familiar with these various laws may be able to assist workers and survivors to receive the full compensation that is merited under the law.
If you or a family member is a victim of a workplace injury, it is possible for you to meet with an attorney focused on relevant areas of workers compensation and personal injury law. Our firm provides this consultation at no cost to you. To learn more, please contact us.