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Electrocution and electric shock in the workplace

Most of the electric shocks suffered by Pennsylvania residents from time to time are low voltage and do not require medical attention, but electricity can be extremely dangerous. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, one-tenth of an ampere of current running through the body can be deadly after just two seconds, and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that accidents involving electricity killed 156 American workers in 2014.

Construction sites are among the nation's most hazardous workplaces, and accidents involving electricity are not uncommon. According to OSHA, 700 construction workers were killed while on the job in 2011, and about 10 percent of them lost their lives in electrical accidents. Many of these accidents involved ladders striking overhead power cables, and safety advocates say that better equipment and more stringent training and supervision would likely save lives. Workers could reduce their risks by checking that they have sufficient clearance when working near power lines and using ladders with side rails that do not conduct electricity.

Even mild shocks can be deadly. A worker exposed to less than 10 milliamperes may find it impossible to control their arm and hand muscles, and this can be a serious problem if the shock is being caused by a faulty handheld tool or piece of equipment. This is why safety inspectors generally pay very close attention to portable power tools during the facility checks that follow a workplace injury.

Some Pennsylvania workers injured in electrical accidents are badly burned, and they may face months of painful recovery and physical therapy before they can return to work. The benefits provided by the state's workers' compensation program are designed to help injured workers during this difficult time, but their claims may sometimes be contested by employers concerned about soaring insurance rates. Attorneys with experience in these cases may provide assistance to injured workers in the event that a claim is being disputed or denied.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford has been a member of the local Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce (previously known as North Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce) for more than 25 years.

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