Every time you flip on a light switch, brew your coffee, or conduct a hundred other routine tasks, an amazing thing happens: an invisible force instantly springs into action. Electricity turns night into day, powers your tools, and generally makes life more enjoyable. Unfortunately, that same invisible force poses serious electrocution hazards, which can even prove deadly under the wrong circumstances.
Now, as one family deals with the death of a loved one, OSHA deems their employer responsible, with unchecked electrocution hazards playing a significant role in the result.
When you work with electricity, electrocution hazards are inevitable. How you handle them, however, can mean the difference between life and death
Although the construction sector makes up only about 8% of the U.S. labor force, it accounts for 44% of worksite-related fatalities. Electricity-related hazards cause more than 300 deaths, and approximately 4,000 injuries yearly among workers in the United States.
In fact, electrocution is the sixth-leading cause of worksite-related deaths in the United States.
Now, federal investigators have determined that a Kansas City-based engineering services company failed to protect an employee electrocuted while servicing an HVAC system on August 24, 2022. OSHA investigators discovered the company failed to adhere the laws intended to prevent this exact tragedy.
Let’s take a look at what went wrong, and how you can avoid a similar jobsite accident.
Related Article: Fined By OSHA? Here’s What You Need To Do Next.
During their investigation, OSHA determined that the company failed to de-energize and prevent equipment from unintentionally starting during repairs or maintenance. The company also failed to conduct hazard assessments to identify personal protective equipment (PPE) needs of field employees at worksites. Additionally, the company even allowed a damaged extension cord to be used on location.
Investigators also reported that neither arc flash protective equipment nor lockout and tag-out equipment were onsite at the time of the accident, exposing the worker to electrocution hazards, and ultimately, an avoidable death.
As a result of their findings, OSHA cited the company for three serious and two repeat violations, and proposed a fine of nearly $200,000 in penalties.
Related Article: The Six Types of OSHA Violations
There’s no doubt that the passing of any employee is a difficult experience. When it’s due to a lack of improperly-followed (or altogether ignored) safety procedures, it’s even worse.
But, when it’s due to a violated safety standard that already caused an incident, it’s simply inexcusable.
Sadly, that’s exactly what happened in this case.
In July 2021, a similar accident happened in which a worker was electrocuted in the company’s Wichita facility. In that instance, the company settled the case and paid the penalties of $37,000.
And yet, despite the previous incident, it happened again.
The company now has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Related Article: 5 Ways to Avoid Rising OSHA Fines
Protecting Your Workers from Electrocution Hazards
Electrocution hazards present themselves in many worksites. Though dangerous, injuries or deaths resulting from them are oftentimes preventable. By following some basic steps, you can keep your employees safe no matter the potential hazards onsite.
- Train workers on electrical safety.
- Train employees to look for electricity-related hazards and report them immediately.
- Workers should wear PPE rated for appropriate voltage, after conducting a proper hazard assessment.
- Properly insulate all cables and/or protect with conduits.
- Workers should avoid working near electric lines whenever possible.
In addition to the recent significant increase in penalties for OSHA citations, employers are now less likely to have their citations grouped together. That means offednders may now receive more numerous – and more costly – citations.
Electrocution hazards represent significant threats to both safety and life. While an aspect of danger always exists surrounding its use, proper safety steps and adherence to the laws can minimize risks to you and your team.
Train your team, conduct regular safety audits, and remain in compliance with all applicable regulations.
You might just end up saving a life.
*** About Worksite Medical
In most cases, OSHA requires medical surveillance testing, and at no cost to employees. Worksite Medical makes that program easier with mobile medical testing.
We conduct on-site respirator fit tests, as well as audiometric exams, pulmonary function tests and heavy metal lab work, right on your job site. We also keep accurate, easy-to-access medical records for your convenience.
You’ll keep your employees at work, and stay ahead of OSHA inspections.