Electrocutions – Construction Hazard Category

Safety is a crucial aspect for every individual and as such, it should be observed and maintained under all cost. Various things expose people to dangers, making them more vulnerable to fatalities especially in the workplaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an essential body with regard to health and safety of individuals at their places of work. OSHA has stipulated various categories of hazards in the construction industry based on the seriousness of the fatalities associated with them. For instance, some of the hazards that contribute more than 50 percent of all construction fatalities include caught-in/ between, electrocutions, struck by object and falls. This piece of paper will give an in depth discussion of electrocutions as one of the categories of construction hazards. Some of the issues to be examined include the common causative factors, its occurrence according to the available data as well as the effective proven corrective measures.

According to Choi (2014, p. 33), electrocution is a common construction hazard. There is no doubt that electricity is a crucial element in modern life, at the workplaces and homes too. Some of the employees that directly work with electricity include power line workers, engineers, electronic technicians and electricians among others. Other employees work with electricity indirectly. It is worth noting that the hazards posed by electricity are often overlooked and hence not accorded the respect it deserves.

Chao and Henshaw (2002, p.2) argue that for a long time, electricity is known to be a serious workplace hazard. This is more so since it exposes workers to electrocution, explosions, burns, electric shock, fires and burns. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, 278 employees died in 1999 from electrocutions at work. This is an alarming statistics since it accounted for approximately five percent of all the on-the-job fatalities that were experienced that year. It is even more tragic since it was possible to avoid or prevent most of the fatalities. Willens (2015) asserts that electrocution is the fifth leading cause of on-the job fatalities in the United States of America. Electric shock poses a danger to employees. Some the conditions suffered as a result of electric shock include severe burns, heart attacks, spinal and neurological damage, bone fractures, bruises or even death.  Electrocution is responsible for death of over 400 individuals at the workplace every year. This shows that there is need for effective strategies that are aimed at managing the electricity issue with an aim of preventing the fatalities.

Electricity usually travels in complete or closed circuits, through a conductor. Electrocution or electricity shock happens when a person’s body, which is an electricity conductor, becomes part of an electric circuit. The body completes the current path. In the event an individual gets a shock,electricity flows between parts of the body or even through the body to the earth or ground.  It is worth noting that most electrical accidents occur as a result of unsafe work practices, unsafe equipment or installation or unsafe environment. Some of the common causative factors associated with electrocution include the following. Defective or faulty wiring in the places of work is the major cause of electrocution and electrical burns. Some of the categories of workers that are at the greatest risk of electrocution include construction workers, electricians and utility workers. Safety standards and regulations should always be followed to the letter to ensure that aspects such as faulty wiring are avoided (Choudhry and Fang, 2008, p.572). All relevant authorities should be consulted to ensure that everything is in order.

Hazards that in one way or the other enhance the chances of electrocutions at the places of work include wet conditions, downed power lines and overloaded circuits. There are also problems of exposed electrical parts, damages and inappropriate installation of electrical lines as well as electrical wiring problems.Lighting and thunderstorms could also contribute to electrical hazards such as electrocution to construction and other workers especially those that work from outside a building. This usually happen on hot and humid days.

The fatalities associated with electrocution can be prevented or avoided if caution is observed. Some of the effective proven corrective measures include the following. Putting in place an effective tag out or lockout system, having grounding prongs for all extension cords, and protecting flexible cables and cords from damage which could be made possible by avoiding sharp corners and projections. There is also a need to ensure that all electrical equipment and tools are maintained in safe condition. They should as well be checked often and in case a defect is identified, taken out of service. There is need for overhead electrical power lines to be identified and well placed. Other protective measures that can go a long way in preventing electrocution and other hazards related to electricity include avoiding multiple plug adapters, properly grounding all electrical tools, and ensuring that scaffolds, ladders and equipment do not under any circumstance come within 10 feet of electrical power lines (Gambatese,  Behm and Hinze, 2005, p. 1033). Workers should be warned about placing an antenna, a ladder or anything else close to a power line since contact with power lines is fatal. Damaged electrical cables or cords should be promptly replaced and bypassing any protective system meant at protecting workers from contact with electrical energy be discouraged.Other general ways of preventing electrocution and other electrical accidents include insulation, grounding, guarding use of electrical protective devices as well as maintaining safe work practices.

There is also a need for employers to be keen when it comes to the implementation of safety programs. Adherence to OSHA regulations is also a positive move that should be observed by all employers. Failure to do this may hold contractors, property owners as well as construction managers liable for negligence.

From the above discussion, it is evident that the construction industry is linked to a number of risks. However, it is assuring to note that most of the fatalities could be avoided or minimized. Electrocution is one of the common construction hazards that workers face on their day to day operations. Its consequences could be fatal and hence the need to put in place measures that are aimed at preventing it irrespective of the costs involved. Some of the causative factors include defective wiring and failure to take proactive measure while at the workplace. Caution when handling any electrical appliance or equipment should always be taken by all individuals to prevent any fatality. Safety and health standards should be observed during the construction of various buildings and facilities. Workers should also be informed of various dangers associated with electrical use and ways of preventing them.

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