Electrical work fatalities improve; Construction still most dangerous
Construction work continues to be the most dangerous trade for fatal electrical accidents.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the construction industry experienced 52 percent of total electrical fatalities from 2003-2010 and far outpaces all others.
- Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations - 21 percent
- Grounds Maintenance Workers, 7 percent
- Transportation and Moving Materials Occupations - 6 percent
- Other Management Occupations, 4 percent
- Agricultural Workers, 2 percent
According to the National Fire Protection Association, BLS data show that as few as one to four electrical fatalities annually were attributed to electrical burns for 2003-2010. Some electrical safety experts consider this to be an undercount. About 39 percent of nonfatal electrical injuries are electrical burns. In the construction industry, about 57 percent of electrical injuries are burns.
The utility industry is the only other in which nonfatal burn injuries outnumber electrical shock injuries (76 percent). The Utility industry has the highest rate of nonfatal electric burn injury at 1.6 cases per 10,000 workers in 2010, followed by the construction industry at 0.4 cases. The overall electrical burn rate for private industry remained at 0.1 cases per 10,000 workers for 2003-2010.
The Construction industry, however, had the highest rate of nonfatal electric shock injuries at 0.6 cases per 10,000 workers whereas the utility industry improved from 0.7 cases in 2009 to 0.4 cases in 2010. The overall electric shock rate for private industry remained at 0.2 cases per 10,000 workers for 2003-2010.
Since 1992 both fatal and nonfatal electrical injuries have shown significant and sustained declines. The recent slowdown in economic activity has probably contributed to the even sharper declines in electrical accidents over the last few years.
"Contact with Overhead Power Lines" remains a significant problem accounting for nearly one-half of all occupational electrical fatalities. The fatal data for 1992-2010 show that although the number of electrical fatalities has decreased, the overall mix of fatal accidents remains largely unchanged. The same can be said for nonfatal electrical accidents. The construction and utility industries remains problem areas in terms of both fatal and nonfatal electrical accidents. Although the construction industry sustains a much larger number of electrical injuries than the utility industry, the utility industry exhibits a higher rate of both fatal and nonfatal electrical injury.
The advancement of NFPA 70E as an important electrical safety standard is surely a component of the reduction of occupational electrical accidents. Real improvement in electrical safety can be sustained through the increased use of the techniques and methods found in 70 E and through training targeted at people in high risk occupations and industries. Electrical safety is an area where perseverance pays off.