Electrocution
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Electrocution is one of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) “Fatal Four” causes of death at construction sites, along with falls, being struck-by objects and being caught in/between accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries each year, with the construction industry accounting for approximately 44% of those job-related fatalities.

If you or someone you know sustained injuries by being electrocuted while on a construction jobsite, an experienced construction accident attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for recovering damages from employers, landowners, equipment manufacturers and others who may be responsible. If someone you know died from being electrocuted on a construction site, their relatives may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible.

This article provides answers to frequently asked questions about electrocution injuries on construction sites as well as information about electrocution injury lawsuits.

What are the most common causes of electrocution on construction sites?

OSHA has identified the most common causes of electrocution on construction sites as:

  • Improper grounding
  • Exposed electrical parts
  • Inadequate wiring
  • Damaged insulation
  • Overloaded circuits
  • Damaged tools and equipment
  • Wet conditions
  • Overhead power lines

How can electrocution hazards be prevented on construction sites?

Being aware of potential electrocution hazards and wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment, including a hard hat rated for electrical exposure and insulated gloves, is critical to preventing electrocution accidents on construction sites and elsewhere.

OSHA has identified the following additional ways construction companies and workers can help prevent electrocutions at a worksite:

  • Before starting any work, locate and identify utilities.
  • Keep equipment from contacting overhead power lines.
  • Learn the safe distance requirements for overhead power lines and maintain that safe distance.
  • Use only grounded or double-insulated portable electric tools.
  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • When working with ladders, scaffolding and other platforms, be aware of electrical hazards.

What injuries can result from electrical currents?

The most common injuries from electrocutions are shock, burns and falls.

How much voltage is dangerous for humans?

The severity of electrocution injuries depends on the voltage and how long the current takes to pass through your body, as well as other factors like your build, age and overall health. The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health notes, “Ordinary, household 120 volts AC electricity is dangerous and it can kill.”

At 50 to 150 milliamps (.05 to .15 volts) a person will feel extreme pain, experience severe muscle reactions and go into respiratory arrest. They may die. At 1.0 to 4.3 amps (1.0 to 4.3 volts), their heart will stop, and they will die.

Who is responsible for electrical safety on a jobsite?

In Washington State, the general contractor is ultimately responsible for electrical safety on a jobsite, but others may be held liable in the event of an accident, including the property owner, subcontractors and equipment manufacturers. An experienced construction accident attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for recovering damages from those who may be responsible.

What OSHA regulations protect employees from electrocution?

OSHA’s Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, Subpart K, outlines electrical safety standards specific to the construction industry. It is available online here.

Who can I sue if I am electrocuted on a construction site?

Employers are subject to safety regulations developed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In Washington State, employers must also abide by the regulations contained in the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), which are “a more specific and detailed set of rules that detail and amplify the OSHA laws.” Additionally, employers are subject to the safety and health rules developed and enforced by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), part of the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), regarding unsafe worksite conditions.

Under Washington State law, if you are a worker who is electrocuted at a construction site, you must go through the state’s workers’ compensation system if you want to attempt recovery of lost wages and medical costs from your employer. You may not sue your employer directly. However, you do have the right to file a third-party claim against others—individuals and other companies—who could also be responsible for your injuries. An experienced construction attorney can help determine who else might bear responsibility for the injuries you experienced.

Private citizens who are not workers on the construction site who are injured by electrocution at a construction site should speak with a construction attorney regarding their ability to bring a premises liability claim against the landowner and others involved in the project.

What kind of damages can I recover in an electrocution lawsuit?

Potential damages recovered from an electrocution lawsuit include:

  • Medical bills
  • Physical therapy bills
  • Loss of income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent disability
  • Wrongful death

How long do I have to file a construction site electrocution lawsuit in Washington State?

In Washington State, you have one year from the date of your electrocution accident to file a workers’ compensation claim for your injuries. You have three years from the date of your accident to file a third-party claim against other individuals and companies involved with the construction project.

How do I determine if I should file a construction site electrocution lawsuit?

An experienced construction attorney can help you determine whether you should file a construction site electrocution lawsuit.

How can PCVA help if you have been injured by electrocution on a jobsite?

PCVA’s experienced attorneys can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation and damages from your employer, landowners, equipment manufacturers and others who may be responsible for your construction injury. If you would like to speak with a PCVA lawyer, complete our intake form or call us at (253) 948-3199 or (206) 536-2850.

How much do you charge?

Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means that if your case reaches a favorable settlement or verdict, we collect a portion of the amount.