46. Fatalities from Contact with Electricity in Construction
Electrocution is one of the leading causes of death in construction (see page 43). From 1992 to 2015, a total of 2,807 construction workers died from electrocution at job sites, accounting for nearly half (47%) of the overall work-related electrocution deaths (5,876) in the United States.1 While both the number and rate have declined since 1992, the number of electrocution deaths in construction rose 24% from 66 in 2012 to 82 in 2015 (chart 46a). The death rate in 2015 was similar to 2012, with 0.8 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs; see Glossary), less than half of the 1992 level.
Between 2011 and 2015, electrocution deaths accounted for 8.3% (364 deaths) of all fatal injuries in construction.1 Of these deaths, more than a third (36%; 131 deaths) were due to direct exposure to electricity greater than 220 volts (chart 46b). Including both direct and indirect exposure, exposure to electricity greater than 220 volts caused more than two-thirds of all electrocution deaths in construction during these five years (70%; 254 deaths).
The sources of electrocution deaths were quite different for electrical and non-electrical workers.2 While electric parts (e.g., power lines, transformers) were responsible for 80% of electrocution deaths among electrical workers, energized equipment, machines, tools, or other sources caused the majority of electrocution deaths among non-electrical workers (chart 46c). Of the 189 deaths caused by electric parts in construction from 2011 to 2015, power-lines, transformers, and converters, as well as electrical building wiring were the two major sources, responsible for 39% and 37% of such deaths, respectively (chart 46d).
Electricians experienced more fatalities due to electrocution than any other construction occupation, with 105 deaths from 2011 to 2015 (chart 46e). However, power-line installers had a much higher death rate from electrocution in construction, with 29.7 deaths per 100,000 FTEs. Although electrocution was more common among electrical workers, many electrocution deaths occurred among non-electricians, such as construction laborers, foremen, roofers, and other construction trades.
Electrocution is one of the leading four causes of death in the construction industry as identified by OSHA.3 To reduce electrocutions, OSHA has developed training materials to help workers recognize major electrocution hazards at construction worksites, and understand their employer’s responsibilities for protecting workers from workplace hazards.4 Enhancement of electrical hazard awareness is critical to reduce construction worker electrocutions. CPWR’s Hazard Alert on the topic is an excellent tool for reviewing electrical hazards for workers in every trade.5 Providing appropriate equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), and conducting worksite hazard surveys are also important.6 Strategic improvements to the design of structures, tools, facilities, equipment, machinery, products, substances, work processes, and the organization of work are essential to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.7
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- Electrocution deaths include “exposure to electricity” (event codes 51xxxx in OIICS 2.01) and “contact with electrical current” (event codes 31xxxx in OIICS 1.01). All numbers on this page were estimated from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This research was conducted with restricted access to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the BLS.
- Electrical workers include electricians, power-line installers, and telecom-line installers, while non-electrical workers include all other occupations.
- OSHA Training Institute. 2011. Construction focus four: Outreach training packet, https://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction/focus_four/constrfocusfour_introduction.pdf (Accessed June 2017).
- OSHA Training Institute. 2011. Construction focus four: Electrocution hazards, https://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction/focus_four/electrocution/electr_ig.pdf (Accessed August 2017).
- CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training. 2016. Hazard alert cards, https://www.cpwr.com/research/research-to-practice-r2p/r2p-library/hazard-alert-cards (Accessed June 2017).
- Construction Safety Council. 2012. Health hazards in construction, https://www.osha.gov/dte/grant_materials/fy09/sh-19495-09/health_hazards_workbook.pdf (Accessed June 2017).
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2012. Prevention through Design, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ptd/default.html (Accessed June 2017).
Note: All charts – Data cover all employment.
Chart 46b – Other includes unspecified cause or voltage.
Chart 46c – Other sources include containers, furniture, and fixtures; parts and materials; and other sources with numbers that do not meet BLS publication criteria.
Chart 46d – Other includes electric parts unspecified and not elsewhere classified.
Source: All charts – Fatality numbers were estimated from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This research was conducted with restricted access to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the BLS. Numbers of FTEs were obtained from the Current Population Survey. Calculations by the CPWR Data Center.