The Occupational Safety and Health Administration lists construction as one of the most hazardous industries in Pennsylvania and across the country. While scaffold falls, trench collapses and incidents related to heavy equipment are known construction site risks, the hazards that electricity pose might not receive enough attention. If you work in this industry, even if you are not an electrician, you will face life-threatening electricity-related hazards.
Safety authorities say the primary area of concern is high wattage power tools that pose significant electrical fire risks. The hazards increase when portable generators are used to produce temporary electricity for building projects as well as during testing of new electrical installations.
Your employer is responsible for your safety and health on the worksite, and a part of that responsibility is to provide the necessary safety training and adequate supervision. If you are a new employee, make sure you know how to remain safe when you handle high-voltage equipment.
Temporary electrical services
Temporary electricity forms part of any construction project, and until the installation of the building's permanent electrical system, special precautions are crucial. Overloading of temporary systems poses the most significant hazard. However, additional dangers could arise during rainy or stormy weather.
Basic safety measures
As a part of your right to safe work environments, your employer must do the following:
- Provide supervisors to ensure work areas are free of debris and randomly placed objects.
- Guard rails must be present on all elevated work areas.
- Install lockout/tagout devices on all live, energized circuits, and supervisors should monitor workers to ensure effective use.
- Provide personal protective equipment, including gloves and eyewear.
Hot flying particles and sparks are par for the course during welding activities. The following precautions can prevent fires:
- Fires can start significant distances away from welding operations. Hot metal sparks can fly and land unnoticed by anyone.
- Sparks landing in areas where combustible materials, liquids and containers are stored can ignite in the blink of an eye.
- Placing shields around welding areas can prevent flying sparks.
- Hot sparks can land on electrical cords of power tools. Keep safety in mind when placing the cables.
OSHA prescribes the use of different types of on-site fire extinguishers. They range from A through E, but the type to have available for extinguishing electrical fires is type C. They must be easily accessible where welding machines, fuse boxes and electric motors are present on construction sites.
Burn injuries can be life-threatening
If you are involved in a construction-related electrical fire accident, burn injuries can have severe consequences. You will likely face extensive medical care at a burn center, and if skin grafts are necessary, you might have an extended period of temporary disability. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania workers' compensation system provides benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages, and an experienced attorney can navigate the benefits claims process on your behalf.