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New York Construction Site Electrocution Attorney

Electrocution is one of the main causes of construction worker death. Even if a worker survives an electric shock, he or she can suffer wide-ranging injuries. Electrocutions can occur when employers fail to maintain a safe site, or when workers do not receive adequate training in how to handle live wires. Obtaining legal advice after a construction worker electric shock or electrocution can help you, as a victim or victim’s family, receive compensation for your damages in New York City.

Electrocution Statistics

In 2017, 87 workers died in New York City. Falls were the most common cause of worker death in NYC, while transportation accidents were the most common event. Exposure to harmful environments, such as those with electrical risks, took 16 lives in New York City in 2017. The same year, electrocutions made up 7.3% of all construction worker fatalities across the U.S. Seventy-one workers in the U.S. lost their lives from electrocution injuries in 2017.

Building construction accounted for 55% of deaths in the private construction sector in NYC in 2017. Lack of control of hazardous energy is one of the main causes of worker electrocution. It is the employer’s legal duty to determine the potential dangers of a source of energy, including electrical boxes, transformers, and other live components. Failure to adequately prepare workers to encounter these hazards is negligence.

Common Electrocution Injuries in Construction

The four main types of electrical injuries are flash, flame, lightning, and true. Flash injuries stem from an electrical arc flash. They typically only cause superficial burn injuries on the skin. Flame injuries can ignite the victim’s clothing and cause thermal burns. Lightning injuries involve high-voltage energy that can pass through the entire body. There might not be an exit site for lighting injuries. True electrical injuries mean the victim becomes part of the electrical circuit. Usually, entrance and exit sites are visible in these injuries.

  • Electrocution refers to a death from electric current. Electric shock refers to bodily injury from electric current.  An electric current can run through the body and cause serious damages if a body part contacts live electricity. Volts of electricity in the body can kill someone instantly. If the victim survives, however, he or she can suffer many different types of injuries from the event.
  • Electrical burns. Electrical burns are the most common types of nonfatal injuries from electrocution. An electrical burn can damage or destroy the skin where the electrical current passed through. These burns can damage tissues and organs, causing symptoms such as pain, redness, or swelling in the area. Severe full-thickness electrical burns may damage deeper tissues, all the way down to the bone.
  • Explosions and thermal burns. Many electrical events lead to sparks, fires, and explosions as fire reaches delicate electrical components. Explosions or fires can cause serious thermal burns, trauma to the eyes or ears, and head and brain injuries. Explosions could also cause loss of limb.
  • Cardiac arrest. Most electrocutions that are fatal impact the heart. A severe electric shock can cause the heart to stop beating, or go into cardiac arrest. Other people may suffer from abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) or other cardiac issues. Other organs, such as the kidneys or lungs, could also stop working normally after electrocution.
  • Fall injuries. Many fatal electrocutions come not from the electric shock itself, but from the worker falling off a ladder, roof, scaffold, or crane after suffering the shock. Falls can break the worker’s neck or spinal cord, resulting in fatal or permanently disabling injuries. Falls can also cause broken bones and traumatic brain injuries.

The type and degree of an electrical injury will depend on the type of electrical current, strength of the voltage, part of the body affected, body resistance, and length of time exposed. The higher the voltage of the current, the greater the injury. Since construction sites often deal with voltages that are much higher than what one might find in a typical household, construction workers are at greater risk of deadly electrocution injuries.

What Causes Electrocution Injuries in Construction?

Negligence is the most common reason electrocutions occur at construction sites and often leads to conditions that are unreasonably dangerous for workers. Miscommunication between the site manager and the project supervisor, for example, could lead to workers mistakenly thinking that someone has cut the power to a live wire. Touching the wire would then cause electrocution or electric shock injuries to the unsuspecting worker.

  • Contact with live electrical wires or power lines
  • Live wires that are ungrounded
  • Electrical equipment malfunction
  • Short circuits
  • Failure to control the flow of electricity
  • Break in insulation that energizes metal components
  • Lack of rubber insulating gloves and other gear
  • Inadequate tools

Identifying the cause of an electrical injury is one of the first steps in a personal injury claim. Filing a lawsuit for construction worker electrocution takes determining the appropriate defendants. The defendants will be the entities responsible for ensuring that the construction site is free from electrical hazards where workers are performing their job duties.  Recognizing who or what caused the accident can lead to identifying the defendant(s) for a lawsuit.

Preventing Electrocutions in Construction

Almost all electrical injuries are preventable. They are accidents that generally will not occur in a safe workplace. Electrical injuries are the responsibility of the owner, general contractor and sub-contractors to prevent. Construction site managers must ensure the reasonable safety of a workspace before allowing workers to enter. This may include checking the premises for electrical hazards, preparing electrical components for work, and providing insulating protective gear to help protect against electric shock. OSHA has guidelines in place to help employers control electrical hazards.

  • Insulation is often the only thing separating a construction worker from contact with a dangerous electrical current. Insulating materials stop the flow of electrical current, containing the current so it does not leave the component. Insulators can include rubber, plastic, glass, or mica to coat conductors. Employers must use the correct insulators for the voltage, and protect insulation from environmental factors such as oil.
  • Guarding involves enclosing potentially dangerous electrical equipment so workers and passersby do not accidentally touch live components. Guarding can involve fences, gates, rooms, vaults, balconies, galleries, elevated platforms, or permanent screens. Guarding also takes posting warning signs at entrances to electrical rooms or guarded locations.
  • Grounding creates a low-resistance path that connects the electrical component to the earth. This prevents electrical currents from building up and causing a serious accident. Grounding does not protect against shock 100%, but it can significantly reduce the risk. An equipment ground protects the operator.
  • Circuit protection devices automatically cut off the flow of electricity after an overload or short circuit. A circuit breaker is an example of a protective electrical device. Ground-fault circuit interrupters and arc-fault devices can also protect employees from injury.
  • Safe work practices can go a long way toward preventing serious electrical accidents and injuries. Safety at a construction site means ensuring the safety of equipment and installations, de-energizing equipment prior to repairs, maintaining electric tools, using protective gear, and using caution when working near live wires.

If you or a loved one have suffered an electrical injury or death on a construction site, there may basis to file a personal injury lawsuit. The New York City personal injury lawyers at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo PC can help with these claims.