Causes of electrical deaths and injuries among construction workers

Am J Ind Med. 2003 Apr;43(4):398-406. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10198.


Background: Contact with electrical current is the fourth leading cause of deaths of construction workers. This study evaluates electrical deaths and injuries to construction workers.

Methods: Two sources of data were analyzed in detail: (1) 1,019 electrical deaths identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) for the years 1992-1998; and (2) 61 electrical injuries identified between November 1, 1990 and December 31, 1998 from a George Washington University Emergency Department injury surveillance database.

Results: Contact with "live" electrical wiring, equipment, and light fixtures was the main cause of electrical deaths and injuries among electrical workers, followed by contact with overhead power lines. Among non-electrical workers, contact with overhead power lines was the major cause of death. Other causes included contact with energized metal objects, machinery, power tools, and portable lights. Arc flash or blast caused 31% of electrical injuries among construction workers, but less than 2% of electrical deaths.

Conclusion: Adoption of a lockout/tagout standard for construction, and training for non-electrical workers in basic electrical safety would reduce the risk of electrical deaths and injuries in construction. Further research is needed on ways to prevent electrical deaths and injuries while working "live".

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Construction Materials*
  • Databases as Topic
  • Electric Injuries / etiology*
  • Electric Injuries / mortality
  • Electric Injuries / prevention & control
  • Electric Wiring*
  • Electricity / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Population Surveillance
  • United States / epidemiology