The Danger of Working with Electricity

Despite the inherent danger of working on power lines, many workers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards they are exposed to, which unfortunately makes them that much more likely to be electrocuted.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) accidental contact of overhead electrical power lines by mobile equipment is a leading cause of occupational fatalities in the United States, accounting for 20% of on-the-job electrocutions. Most overhead lines carry voltages between 120 and 750,000 volts of electricity, making them very dangerous to workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that a majority of electrocutions are caused by metal items carried or used by workers coming into contact with live electrical lines.

Because of this, it is critical that all safety measures be followed in providing safe working environments for workers. The death of a veteran Georgia Power employee underscores the importance of safety when working with power lines. In the course of working a power outage near the Tift-Berrien County line, lineman Steve Sellers was electrocuted and killed. Sellers had nearly two decades of experience repairing electrical lines.

As a matter of law, an employer has a responsibility to create a safe working environment. If an employer fails to take steps to ensure safe workplace conditions it could be held liable for a worker's injuries. This liability goes beyond the scope of workers' compensation and could include future lost wages, pain and suffering, rehabilitation costs, and punitive damages as well.

In the meantime, a number of steps can be taken to protect power line workers. Worksites should be carefully considered and clearly marked to avoid proximity to live power lines. Workers should also avoid using metal ladders under energized power lines. Further, workers should keep conducive objects at least 10 feet away from unguarded lines. The higher the line voltage, the more space is necessary to ensure worker safety. Electrical power line proximity warning devices (PWDs) can warn personnel if equipment comes to close to an energized power line.

The preceding is not intended to be legal advice, but if you have questions about your legal rights after a workplace accident, an experienced attorney can advise you.