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Electrical hazards and safety precautions at the workplace

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 160 U.S. workers were fatally wounded from an electric-related accident in 2014. These accidents in Minnesota and around the country are most commonly caused from high-voltage shocks and shocks that are followed by burns.

Electricity is one of the leading causes for fires and heat-related burns occurring in businesses and residences. While short-lived low-voltage shocks that leave no signs of burns generally do not pose any serious medical dangers, shocks as low as a tenth of an amp traveling through a person's body for just two seconds can be fatal. In addition, people who experience a current lower than 10 milliamperes can lose the ability to control their muscles, which could result in a severe injury such as respiratory paralysis from continued exposure to the electrical current.

With these things in mind, companies should immediately replace defective electrical tools and equipment. They should also provide their employees with certified, non-conductive tools and multipurpose ABC or Class C fire extinguishers when putting out small electrical fires.

Since electrocution accounts for nearly 10 percent of fatalities among construction workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers in the construction industry must alert their employees of these dangers through education, training, planning and prevention. For example, employees working around energized power lines must be warned about the dangers of electrocution, shocks and burns from an electric arc. This can occur without the employee even touching the power line. Employers must also provide their employees with ladders that are in good condition and that have non-conductive side rails.

Families of employees who suffered a fatal workplace injury may want to meet with an attorney to discuss their options. In some cases, they could be eligible to file a claim for death benefits under the employer's workers' compensation insurance policy.

Source: OH&S Online, "Understand the Dangers of Electrical Shock", Fred Elliott, Dec. 1, 2015

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