What are the most common dangers involved in working as an electrician, and what are the leading causes for injuries and even fatalities in the electrical trade? This article will answer these questions by including statistics from available studies. Although the risk of getting exposed to an electrical current resulting in shocks is a common risk, it is not the most common danger for electricians.
The most common work-related dangers of being an electrician are related to transportation and injuries resulting from falling, slipping, and tripping. Injuries from the exposure of an electrical current are not the most common danger, as it is placed as the 6th most common cause of injury and fatality for electricians.
How dangerous is this job, really? And what circumstances are leading to the most injuries and fatalities in the trade? By looking at data and studies from official sources, this article explains the leading causes for a variety of injuries and untimely deaths for electricians. The various forms of risks leading to injury will also be further explained at the end of this article. But first, what are the typical forms of dangers resulting in fatalities – the obviously most serious form of consequence for electricians? This next section explores that subject.
How Dangerous Is the Work of an Electrician?
First of all, this article is not intended to leave anyone with a feeling of anxiety or doubt about becoming an electrician. If an electrician follows the safety procedures of the trade, one should feel safe and comfortable going to work on any given day.
By working as an electrician, you will have to be structured, focused, and knowledgeable in order to stay safe. The one danger, that comes to mind when talking about being an electrician, will obviously be related to electrical shock and electrocution.
According to a study done by The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), only about four percent of all fatalities happen due to exposure to an electrical current. Electrical fatalities were experienced by one out of a million workers. Although this fatality is obviously one too many, the fear of electrocution is a far less common risk than is being advertised and feared.
Being electrocuted is the 6th most common reason for fatality in the electrical trade. The dangers of working as an electrician involve many other risks. These are included in the following table showing the number of fatalities in work accidents:
|Cause of fatality||Number of fatalities in 2020|
|Falls, Slips, and Trips||805|
|Getting Struck by an Object or Equipment||468|
|Exposure to Harmful Substances||546|
|Getting Crushed or Caught by an Object||142|
|Exposure to Electrical Current||126|
|Getting Struck by Collapsing Materiel||93|
|Fire and Explosions||40|
The data from this study is showing fatalities in all electrical-related industries such as construction, repairing, service, and the electrical work tasks related to the mining industry. The construction industry has shown the highest rate of fatal electrical injuries.
From 2019 to 2020 the entire electrical industry saw a notable drop in fatalities due to exposure to electrical current. Specifically, there was a 26 percent decrease in these numbers. The most common event that leads to fatalities was in transportation, which involves driving in cars, trucks and operating other transportation vehicles. 1592 fatalities were reported due to this reason alone.
Fatalities by Electrocution
The same study also concludes that there are some industries, that experience more fatalities than others. From highest to lowest rated, the following table shows the most dangerous industries for an electrician measured in fatalities.
|Industry||Fatal Accidents 2003- 2020|
|Natural resources and mining||154|
Reasons Why Electricians Get Electrocuted
By looking at fatalities due to electrocution, we can dive deeper into the reasons why electricians have lost their lives in accidents. All of them obviously involve some type of electricity or exposure to an electrical current, but some types of activities will be more likely to induce a fatal accident. The most common reasons for workers getting electrocuted are the following:
- Contact with overhead power lines
- Contact with wiring, transformers, or other electrical components
- Contact with electric current of machines, tools, appliances or light fixtures
Now that you have been scared straight, we will now take a step even further and provide some common dangers an electrician should look out for in their day-to-day work activities.
Common Dangers in the Electrical Trade
In this next section, the most common dangers, an electrician can be exposed to, will be further explained. The list is structured by first describing the most common source of injury to the least common event leading up to an accident.
Falls, Slips, and Trips
Every day seven workers will hurt themselves by being involved in these types of accidents. The accidents in this category involve all types of falls, slips, and trips. Many of them are due to slippery surfaces, improper footwear, and just plain old bad luck. Snow and ice account for electricians getting hurt on often hard and unforgiving surfaces like concrete and roads. In the total span of the previously mentioned study and period of 2003-2020, a total of 13.960 workers had to call in sick due to slipping or falling on ice, sleet, or snow.
Also Read: How to stay safe as an electrician
Getting Hit, Crushed or Caught by an Object
Getting stuck or crushed will immediately confront you with horrible images in your mind. This is, by all means, an accident we as electricians want to avoid at all costs. This will most of the time happen by not being attentive to one’s environment and overestimating one’s ability for multitasking.
This category is a combination of injuries resulting from a worker getting either hit, crushed, or caught by equipment and machinery. In 2020 these accidents claimed the lives of 703 workers. These types of dangers increasingly pose a higher risk, when working in a complex environment such as a construction site. Objects can include heavy machinery and equipment such as cranes, vehicles, heavy drills, and other materials falling from heights.
Also Read: Is being an electrician stressful?
Exposure to Harmful Substances
Electricians can get exposed to harmful and hazardous substances. These substances include asbestos, which is being used for isolated buildings and machines. When removing this particular kind of isolation material, particles can regularly be inhaled by the worker, which can lead to health risks.
In Philadelphia, a jury even found a group of contractors liable for the asbestos-related death of an electrician. Also, rockwool, another type of isolation material, has been categorized as a probable human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency. When handling isolation materials construction workers, therefore, need to be extra careful if handling these materials. For example by using dust masks and proper security measurements.
Exposure to an Electrical Current
As previously described the exposure to an electrical current does not claim as many victims, as may be thought of by most people. Nevertheless, it does pose a solid risk for every electrician working with voltage. Exposure to electricity can cause severe damage and even death. Voltages as low as 50V, when exposed to two different parts of the body can result in fatalities. This can happen because the current can cause a blockage of the electrical signals from the muscles to the brain. Also, static electricity can result in severe electric shock and even minor explosions. The different forms of injuries for an electrician can include:
- Electric Shock
- Electrical Burns
- Loss of muscle control due to exposure (and thus falling from heights)
- Thermal burns (electrical equipment getting too hot)
The type of exposure that unfortunately claims the most fatalities and injuries each year is accidental contact with a live overhead power line. This kind of accident typically involves the electrician being on cranes, ladders, vehicles, and lifts. When getting too close to a power line, it can result in serious damage. Electricians can for example also make the fatal mistake of touching a hot wire, which they thought was a telephone wire. Although security wear like rubber gloves is helpful, a damp, humid, or dirty environment can make electricity even bypass plastic or rubber – resulting in an obvious risk for the electrician.
Explosives and Fire
A not very common reason for getting injured is due to explosives, as they are primarily used in the mining industry, and therefore not directly related to the work of an electrician. However, when looking at statistics, this type of accident claims both fatal and non-fatal victims. The explosions can also take place in a construction site related to the development of new roads and excavation of grounds.
Thoughts of the Dangers of Working as an Electrician
By using studies from official resources we can conclude that, by working as an electrician, you can get exposed to various forms of dangers. These dangers pose different levels of risk, considering in which types of environments the work takes place. In injuries as a consequence of exposure to an electrical current, there are different reasons as to why fatalities and accidents happen. The most common cause is related to exposure to overhead power lines.
The most common work-related dangers are involved in transportation and in slipping or falling. Various other dangers are a concern such as exposure to harmful substances and the complex environment of a construction site which can result in workers getting caught or crushed by equipment.
As the introduction of this article also stated, this should not be taken as a warning to not pursue the path of an electrician if this is a dream career of yours. It should on the contrary be a helpful guide in understanding what types of dangers to look out for and avoid in the electrical trade.
Also Read: What does an electrician actually do?
As my former teacher in electrical school once said: We shouldn’t fear it, but instead respect the power of electricity.