In Jacksonville recently, a worker died after being shocked and falling while working above a false ceiling. He was working on a new building being constructed at the Naval Air Station. He fell approximately 12 feet.
Because this incident is still under investigation, not many other details are provided here. More accurate details will come out when the investigation is complete. But the accident does serve as a somber reminder that safety procedures are taught for good reasons.
Electrical workers (all workers, for that matter) should ensure they are using ladders properly and tied off when necessary while doing work at heights. OSHA requires a variety of fall protection techniques in the construction industry, like three-point contact while climbing. An unfortunate common practice I’ve seen and warn against in every class I now teach is doing work above ceilings or on a lift or ladder and not securing the worker against a fall hazard.
Several dangerous scenarios can play out when a shock hazard is present. In the event of someone getting a shock, the worker will likely fall from the height he or she is working at if not properly tied off. Sometimes the worker gets hung up, meaning he or she can’t let go of the electrical source. During a shock, victims are often unable to yell or call out for help due to the electrical current locking up the diaphragm. Some shock survivors testify that they are able to think well enough to try and knock the ladder out from under them with their feet in order to force their hand off of the electrical source. If successful, this action will end the shock, but the worker then usually deals with other injuries sustained by the fall. Some accounts report of broken necks during the fall from a survivable shock. Too often, the shock-fall scenario results in a fatality.
Electrical safety programs that are carefully developed and studiously implemented may very well keep you or someone you know from experiencing just such an incident. Employers are expected to furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious physical harm to all employees. e-Hazard has several specialists that are available to assist you in updating or creating an electrical safety program that meets and exceeds OSHA requirements to avoid situations like the shock-fall incident discussed here.
Ultimately, the worker is responsible for his or her safety. Don’t let complacency, impatience or ignorance cloud your judgment.
NOTE: Fall protection is the most-cited OSHA violation for the 6th year running according to preliminary data. The preliminary data shows incidents OSHA cited in fiscal year 2016, OSHA publishes their “Top 10” for that year. This information was presented at the 2016 National Safety Council Congress in Anaheim.