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Preventing electrocutions on New York City scaffolds

There is always construction going on in New York City that involves scaffolding being erected and moved. However, there is a very real danger of workers being electrocuted if the scaffolds make contact with overhead power lines.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has conducted recent investigations that suggest many workers, contractors and employers are unaware of the safety hazards associated with scaffolds being used around uninsulated power lines above them.

According to figures from NIOSH's National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities database, almost 6,500 traumatic work-related trauma deaths occur annually across the country, with 7 percent of those estimated to be fatal electrocutions.

There are ways to prevent these senseless accidents, and they all focus on education and safety. Employers need to review and revise their safety programs and make sure that issues involving scaffolds and power lines are addressed. If they lack a safety program, they should immediately implement a comprehensive program involving education and training about the dangers of power lines coming into contact with scaffolds.

Employers should inform the utility company that scaffolds will be erected or moved to other areas where overhead power lines jeopardize the required clearance so the company can de-energize the lines or cover them for safety.

Supervisors and laborers must do their part to avoid construction accidents as well. Daily work site inspections to identify safety hazards should be done before beginning work each day. Workers must also be proactive about reporting any safety concerns or observable hazards to their crew chief or supervisor. Workers should all receive training in CPR to be able to take lifesaving measures for any electrocuted coworkers until first responders arrive.

If, despite taking all these precautions, an electrical accident occurs and a worker is injured or killed, he or his survivors are entitled to compensation for the injuries and loss.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "Preventing Electrocutions During Work with Scaffolds Near Overhead Power Lines" Aug. 28, 2014

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