- June 2, 2020
I’m Ron Wittmeyer, and today we’ll talk about the third leading cause of construction worker fatalities in the US. That is electrocution.
Picture this. There are two construction workers moving an aluminum ladder on a job site. But what they don’t know is that there are some power lines behind some closeby trees. So the ladder comes in contact with the power lines, and one worker dies while the other worker is severely burned. This could and should have been prevented.
The three most common types of electrical hazards
The three most common types of electrical hazards on job sites in construction are contact with overhead power lines, contact with energized sources of electricity like damaged or bare wires, and improper use of extension cords.
How accidents can be prevented
As on all construction job sites, there must be a thorough job hazard assessment performed before work begins. And in the case of the two construction workers using the aluminum ladder, a thorough safety hazard assessment would have identified those power lines. As a result, the workers would have known to keep a safe distance from those power lines.
Another way to prevent accidents
Another preventive measure would be that workers using ladders around any electrical source must use a non-conductive type of a ladder, for example a fiberglass ladder. Some people don’t realize that aluminum ladders conduct electricity.
In addition, people sometimes think that the rubber coatings around power lines prevent electrocution. They don’t. Those are primarily weather protection and they do not prevent electricity from traveling through those coatings.
Follow proper lock-out procedures
Another preventive measure is to always inspect power tools and extension cords. And yet another preventive measure is to follow proper lock-out and tag-out procedures for disabled equipment.
This means that if a piece of equipment that’s connected to an energy source is disabled, not only the primary source of electricity to that piece of equipment needs to be properly disabled or disconnected, but any backup source of electricity like a generator needs to be completely disabled or disconnected as well.
It needs to be locked out by somebody who has the proper training and must be tagged out so everybody knows that the piece of equipment is disabled. It should clearly warn people to stay away from it. They should not use it until somebody with the proper training confirms that the piece of equipment has been repaired and is back and operational. And that person needs to have the authority to remove that tag out.
Electrical current is deadly
We know that electrical current is extremely deadly. And when construction workers come in contact with electricity at construction sites, nine out of ten times, those incidents result in a fatality, not just an injury.
Most construction sites have electrocution hazards. Be sure to keep yourself safe and get some OSHA or other quality safety training on how to recognize and protect yourself against electrocution risks on the construction job site. If you’d like to discuss any of this further, feel free to shoot me an email.