Despite fluctuations from year to year, the number of fatal electrical injuries experienced by contract workers has followed an upward direction, according to a report by released by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) and written by Richard Campbell using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Fatal Electrical Injuries of Contract Workers shows that a total of 325 contract workers died as a result of electrical injury in the U.S. in the five years from 2012 to 2016, reaching peak annual totals of 73 deaths in 2014 and 76 deaths in 2015 and then falling to 63 deaths in 2016.

Exposure to electricity accounted for 8% of all contract workers deaths at work over this five-year period, ranking behind falls, slips, or trips (34%), contact with objects or equipment (24%), and transportation incidents (21%).

From the report:

“The attention to contract worker deaths has coincided with a rise in the employment of contract workers and various temporary work arrangements more generally, in turn, prompting questions about health and safety programs and practices for this workforce.”

Campbell notes that while electrical hazards are present in a variety of work environments, “their danger may not always be recognized by employees, particularly those working in unfamiliar work settings or who lack electrical safety training. Information about how these deaths occur is useful for prevention activities and for clarifying who these workers are and where additional electrical safety training and education efforts are needed.”

Characteristics of the victims:

  • All but one were male.
  • Nearly nine in 10 of the victims (87%) were wage and salary workers, while the remaining 13% were self-employed.
  • Most victims (78%) were born in the U.S. (78%). Another 12% of victims were born in Mexico. Most victims (64%) were between the ages of 20 and 44, while another 22% of the victims were aged 45 to 54 years. Ten percent of victims were 55 to 64 years of age.

Characteristics of the incidents:

  • 60% of injuries resulted from direct exposure to electricity and 39% from indirect exposure to electricity, with unspecified exposure in 1% of injuries.
  • Sixteen percent of injuries were to direct exposure to 220 volts or less and 42% of injuries to direct exposure to greater than 220 volts.
  • Two percent of fatal injuries were due to indirect exposure to 220 volts or less and 37% to indirect exposure of greater than 220 volts.
  • Some 43% of contractor fatalities due to exposure to electricity occurred at an industrial place or premise, with 28% of these at a construction site, 5% at a factory or plant, and 2% at a warehouse. Another 15% of these deaths occurred at a private residence, 10% of which were residential construction locations. Streets or highways and public buildings were each the location of 14% of the deaths.

Click here to read the report.