February 28, 2022
Employers have a duty to protect their workers from hazards like electrocutions. If a worker gets electrocuted on the job due to their employer’s failure to protect them, they have a right to recover for their injuries. If you’re an employer, consider these steps to keep your workers safe. If you’ve been injured, your employer may be liable if they failed to take these or other safety measures.
Ways Employers Can Protect Workers from Electrocutions
There are a number of ways employers can protect workers from electrocutions. Exactly what they need to do may vary based on the type of work involved as well as each worker’s role. For example, an office worker might reasonably expect to never come across an electrocution hazard, while an electrician at a construction site might have additional risk and responsibility due to the nature of their work. Here are some safety steps that OSHA recommends.
- Avoid overhead power lines. All work should avoid the risk of contact with overhead power lines, keeping in mind the height of the lines, the size of equipment and ladders to be used, and the chance for accidental contact with the power lines if work doesn’t go exactly as planned. In case of construction, the employer may need to coordinate with the utility company to de-energize lines so that work can be completed safely.
- Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). These are the same types of plugs you would find in your bathroom or kitchen. They turn off the electricity if they detect a fault that could cause an electric shock. A GFCI can be a permanent power outlet, a temporary or portable device such as an extension cord, or a GFCI device within the circuit breaker box.
- Inspect tools and cords. Ensure that all tools and electrical cords have their insulation intact. Exposed wiring or metal can create a shock risk both from that tool or cord and anything else it may come into contact with during work. Workers should also follow care guidelines like not pulling equipment by its cord to avoid damaging the cord and creating future risks.
- Lock and tag power sources. If electricity needs to be off to do work, each source of electricity should be locked and tagged. This prevents someone else from turning on the electricity before the work is completed.
- Ensure proper guarding. Guarding is preventing workers and equipment from coming into contact with electrical equipment. On a construction site, this might include temporary barriers or insulation. In a permanent business location, there should also be physical barriers in place rather than relying on workers to avoid contact on their own.
- Provide appropriate training. Anyone doing electrical work should be trained on the proper procedures to do it safely. Any other workers should be trained to report potential electrical hazards and to keep others away from the area until someone with proper training can inspect it. Even construction or maintenance workers with expertise in other areas should avoid electrical work if they aren’t properly trained in it.
- Enforce safety protocols. Safety protocols aren’t just something in a book or to keep the government happy. They should be followed in daily operations. Ensure that all levels of supervisors and managers are making sure their workers follow the correct protocols. Use training or discipline as needed to reinforce safety protocols.
What Is an Employer Required to Do to Protect Workers from Electrocutions?
An employer is required to take reasonable steps to protect workers from electrocutions. This means the steps that a prudent employer would take to prevent the type of accident that occurred. Again, what’s reasonable or prudent can vary, based on the type of work. A cashier in a retail store should have virtually no electrocution risk since that area is open to the general public. On a construction site, the drywall installer might reasonably expect that the electrician has already safely secured the wiring. Someone doing roof work might have some responsibility for avoiding overhead power lines, but the employer also must provide the necessary tools and training to reduce the risks.
There are a number of sources for what an employer is required to do to protect workers from electrocutions:
- OSHA guidelines
- Federal laws
- Texas laws
- Industry standards
- Prior lawsuits where courts have ruled on specific safety steps or electrocution risks
- Safety practices and equipment provided by similar employers doing similar work
- Known dangers, such as construction site dangers, that an employer is reasonably expected to address.
If an employer violates a specific law or OSHA guideline, this will generally mean they are liable for the accident. However, an employer can be liable even without a specific violation. The idea of reasonable protections covers a wide range of areas, including equipment, procedures, training, hiring, inspections, and supervision. Even if an accident happened due to an employee’s violation of the employer’s guidelines, the employer may still potentially be liable. The facts in every case are different, so you should contact an experienced accident lawyer to get an independent evaluation of your case.
Contact an Experienced Work Injury Lawyer
If you’ve been injured by electrocution or are worried about hazards at your job site, contact a work injury lawyer to discuss the situation. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries or to have changes made to your workplace to prevent others from getting hurt. Call Waldman Legal now at (713) 688-4878 for a free and confidential consultation.