According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home,” (excerpted from of a Workers Memorial Day speech April 26, 2012 by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.) Among the workers of whom Solis is referring are those in the high-risk construction and utility fields. These high-risk jobs come with an expensive price tag when a worker is injured on the job. Along with an immediate risk that comes daily, the physical demands alone account for long-term conditions imposed by difficult and uncomfortable situations like climbing telephone poles, balancing on weighted seats, navigating scaffolding, or reaching into blind areas that need attention. OSHA refers to these incidents that could result from the above conditions as “the Fatal Four” and include: falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and being pinned between two objects.
Electricians, for example, take lives into their own hands with every job they encounter, and the likelihood of injury points heavily toward these workers for a variety of reasons. Risks for electrical workers occur when there is unpreventable contact with overhead or dropped power lines, exposed wires, equipment striking power lines, and inability to determine the voltage and pathway of the current until it’s too late, to name a few. As a result, electrocution injuries can be difficult to predict and challenging to prevent. Often a worker doesn’t know what lies ahead until the problem is explored.
OSHA has implemented standards of compliance for electricians, and there are local and industry guidelines in place for all workers. But, while safe working conditions and guidelines are written and implied, they are also often overlooked. An employee in a high-risk job should take the following steps for an added level of safety:
- Ensure that safe working conditions are continually enforced by the employer.
- Demand that adequate or required protective equipment is worn (goggles, eye war, gloves, wear protection) on the job at all times.
- Become familiar with code standards in the particular industry.
- Maintain continuing education for licensing and accreditation.
- Take part in the required training, even if the subject is familiar.
- Ask the power company to unpower the lines when a long-term construction project has to take place in that area.
- Clear the construction site of any old equipment not relevant to the job.
Utility and construction workers take their lives in their hands every day, and every day electrocution causes death among these dads, moms, sons and cousins. Taking the extra step to become educated and protected through a company that promotes and encourages safe practices could make all the difference between dinner with the family at the end of the day and being the statistic mentioned above by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.