Preventing Electrocution Tragedies on Construction Sites
By Neil Kalra
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77 percent of the 325 contract worker electrocutions from 2012-2016 happened to those who work in the construction industry.
This is why OSHA places electrocutions in its “Fatal Four Hazards” for construction every year. In one fatal construction accident in July 2018, a 40 year old worker was electrocuted by a live wire inside a residential building in the Village near Washington Square.
According to New York Labor Code § 23-1.13, all employers have specific obligations and precautions they must take to keep workers safe when working with potential electrical hazards. These provisions ensure safety on and near any construction, excavation, or demolition area. xx
Certain Employer Obligations under Labor Code § 23-1.13
Some of the electric safety provisions that New York Labor Code includes include the following:
Before work begins at the construction site, the employer’s duty is to determine the voltage levels.
The employer must properly investigate and warn of electrical voltages (power circuits, line locations, and other possible hazards) that may pose a danger.
Employers must prohibit all workers from working in areas where electric power circuits exist; without providing them with proper safety equipment.
Employers must guard any open switches or circuit interrupting devices if the circuits must be de-energized.
Employers must notify the electric utility company within five (5) working days prior to beginning any project if its location is within 10 feet of any live overhead power lines.
If any portable electric power generators are on the construction site, the frames and pole of its electrical output must be grounded.
If during investigation, the employer finds wiring with cracked or deteriorating insulation, it must be removed immediately.
Worker Electrical Safety during Daily Construction Work
Some of the common dangers all workers should be alert for (and notify their employer if they see any of them) include the following:
Work on new and existing energized (hot) electrical circuits should not begin until all power is shut off and electrical grounds are attached.
An effective Lockout/Tag out system must be in place.
Frayed, damaged or worn electrical cords or cables must be promptly replaced.
All extension cords must have grounding prongs.
Flexible cords and cables must be protected from damage. Sharp corners and projections should be avoided.
Use extension cord sets with portable electric tools that are the three-wire type and designed for hard or extra-hard service. Approved cords with the following letters on their casings include: S, ST, SO, STO.
All electrical tools and equipment must be in safe condition, checked regularly for defects, and removed if a defect is found.
Bypassing any protective system or device designed to protect employees from contact with electrical energy is prohibited.
Overhead electrical power lines must be located and identified.
Make sure that ladders, scaffolds, equipment or materials never come within 10 feet of electrical power lines.
All electrical tools must be properly grounded unless they are double insulated.
Multiple plug adapters are prohibited.
All workers should be accountable for noticing, reporting and correcting electrical hazards.
Take a few extra minutes to inspect your equipment, and keep your working area clean and dry to avoid shock and fire hazards.
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