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Contractor deaths from electrical incidents prevalent in construction industry: NFPA

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Quincy, MA — The construction industry experienced a “substantial share” of contractor deaths involving electrical incidents during a recent five-year period, according to a report from the National Fire Protection Association.

NFPA senior research analyst Richard Campbell examined Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data for contract worker deaths from 2012 to 2016. “Contracted worker” was defined as “employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site” where the fatality occurred.

Data showed that 325 electrical fatalities involved contract workers during the studied time period. In 2016, 63 cases occurred, ending a three-year rise that peaked at 76 in 2015.

Construction was listed as the employer industry in 251 cases. Constructing, repairing and cleaning was the listed work activity in 238 deaths, or 73 percent.

Campbell notes in the report that time and budgetary pressures in the industry may cause workers to try to complete jobs faster or work longer hours – “both of which can compromise safety.”

To help reduce the number of electrical deaths and improve safety, NFPA recommends that:

  • Contractors establish reasonable expectations for when work will get done and not promise unrealistic deliverables in hopes of landing a contract.
  • Owners select contractors based on reliability and safety considerations. Contractors should do the same when selecting subcontractors.
  • Top management communicate to supervisors, whose responsibilities include both keeping production on track and ensuring work is done safely, that safety must not be compromised when schedules are threatened.

Exposure to electricity was the fifth-leading cause of work-related death for contract workers during the five-year period. Slips, trips and falls were the leading causes of death (1,350 fatalities), followed by contact with objects and equipment (951) and transportation incidents (813).

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