According to a new report from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), "Fatal Electrical Injuries of Contract Workers," the construction industry experienced a "substantial share" of contractor deaths involving electrical incidents during the five-year period (2012–2016) the NFPA studied.
The report noted a total of 325 electrical fatalities occurred involving contract workers, which are defined as workers "employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operation at the site." The construction industry in specific experienced 251 of these electrical fatalities—approximately two-thirds of the total fatalities for contract workers.
Of the 325 total contract worker electrical fatalities, exactly 100 (31 percent) were to electricians. The majority of the remaining 225 were to workers involved in other construction-related occupations.
These counts included bother direct and indirect electrical contact. Examples of direct electrical contact that led to fatalities included coming into contact with electrified machinery or equipment, contact with power lines, coming into contact with an electrical arc, contact with electrical fences, etc. Examples of indirect electrical contact included contact with water, pipes, or some other material that was unintentionally conducting electricity, as well as workers carrying ladders that contacted live power lines.
The months with the most frequency for these fatalities were June (12 percent), July (15 percent), August (14 percent) and September (11 percent).
As a way to help reduce this number of fatalities, the NFPA suggests the following:
- Contractors should establish reasonable expectations for when work will get done and not promise unrealistic deliverables in hopes of landing a contract.
- Owners should select contractors based on reliability and safety considerations.
- Contractors should do the same when selecting subcontractors.
- Top management should communicate with supervisors, whose responsibilities should include both keeping production on track and ensuring work is done safely, and that safety must not be compromised when schedules are threatened.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has collected data on fatal work injuries of contract workers in specific as part of its annual Censes of Fatal Occupational Injuries.