KOSHS releases hazard alert on electrocutions
From 2000–2019, 64 workers in Kentucky died by electrocution, which accounts for nearly 3% of all work-related fatalities in the state during that time period.
Electrocution, along with falls, struck bys, and caught in/betweens, make up the construction industry’s “Fatal Four” hazards, which combine to cause almost 60% of all fatalities in the construction industry. From 2017–2019, an average of 13 construction industry workers have been the victim of a fatal occupational injury in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Surveillance (KOSHS) program recently released its latest Hazard Alert, which focuses on electrocutions in the construction industry.
“Hazard Alerts are brief, two-page bulletins that highlight workplace hazards,” said KOSHS program manager Michael Turner. “Within the document, we provide examples of cases where a Kentucky worker has been severely injured or killed by the risk being discussed. We also provide statistics, practical recommendations employers can take to protect their workers from the hazard, and additional resources that those viewing the document can peruse to learn more about the highlighted risk.”
The recent Hazard Alert on electrocution highlights five deaths that occurred in Kentucky’s construction industry, including that of a 16-year-old contractor who was asked to place an aluminum ladder to complete a roofing job. The worker lost control of the ladder, causing it to fall backward and make contact with a power line carrying 7,200 volts. The worker died instantly.
The Hazard Alert includes seven recommendations, taken from best practices created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as well as input from industry experts.
The recommendations include:
• Perform a job hazard analysis prior to beginning work at a new or changing worksite.
• Train employees on and enforce proper lock-out/tag-out practices—safety procedures taken to ensure that dangerous machinery is properly shut off and not able to be started up again prior to the completion of work—to ensure equipment is de-energized.
• Ensure all electrical equipment is properly grounded.
• Personally disconnect a power tool’s plug from the electrical outlet prior to inspecting or repairing the tool.
• Inspect tools and electrical cords before use to ensure that they are in good repair. If damaged, remove from service.
• Utilize ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on construction sites to reduce electrical hazards.
• Know the location of all overhead and underground power lines in order to prevent accidental contact. If unable to keep a safe distance, contact the electrical company to discuss de-energizing the lines.
Turner said safety on the job is paramount and comes before anything else.
“Employers have a moral and legal obligation to protect their employees so that everyone can go home to their families at the end of each day,” he added. “In addition to being the right thing to do, companies that truly invest in safety find that in the long run, it makes more fiscal sense than to risk employee injury. Companies that have a high rate of injury will pay more in direct costs, indirect costs, and higher insurance premiums.”
Turner noted that Liberty Mutual conducted a survey and found that 95% of business executives perceived that safety programs had a positive impact on the company, and 40% of those surveyed perceived that for every $1 paid in direct injury costs there were $3 to $5 of indirect costs saved.
KOSHS, an occupational surveillance program of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, typically releases several Hazard Alerts each year. Terry Bunn, PhD, is the principal investigator of the KOSHS program.
To view the full Hazard Alert on electrocutions, visit https://kiprc.uky.edu/programs/kentucky-occupational-safety-and-health-surveillance-koshs-program.