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Electrocution hazards in the workplace

October 4, 2015

Electrocution and injury from electric energy is a risk for many Kentucky workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists electrocution as one of the “Fatal Four” occupational hazards. Medscape states that there are 1000 deaths from electrical contact each year in the united States.


OSHA delineates electricity-related injuries into five categories. They include burns, electrocution, shock, arc flash/blast, and fire. Burns account for the most common injuries. They are defined as damage resulting form heat that is generated by a flow of electricity through the body. Electrical burns can be superficial, as in a first degree burn, or can seriously damage both the epidermis and the dermis, as in second and third degree burns.


Electrocution is fatal, and results from an unsupportable flow of electric energy through the body. Electrocution may occur when a worker lacks the proper protective equipment to guard against injury, or when that equipment, such as insulating footwear or gloves, is deficient or compromised. To prevent a fatal workplace accident, Electrical Contractor magazine recommends regularly inspecting gloves, sleeves and cover-ups for holes and degradation.


Shock occurs when a body and an electrical circuit interact. Electricity enters a person at one point in the body, and exits at another. An arc flash is a release of energy into the air, due to a breakdown between conductors. Arc blasts produce thermal radiation, intense light, and pressure waves that result in a blast. Temperatures in an arc flash can reach 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


The final hazard, fire, is most often attributed to outdated wiring and bad outlets. Other risk factors include frayed cords, bent plugs, and faulty switches. Workplace vigilance is required to prevent injuries from contact with electricity.