Occupational electrical injuries in the United States, 1992–1998, and recommendations for safety research
James C. Cawley *, Gerald T. Homce
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236, USA Received 16 October 2002; accepted 7February 2003
Abstract Problem: CFOI and SOII data show that 2,287 U.S. workers died and 32,807 workers sustained days away from work due to electrical shock or electrical burn injuries between 1992 and 1998. Method: The narrative, work activity, job title, source of injury, location, and industry for each fatal electrical accident were examined. A primary causal factor was identified for eachfatality. Results: Electrical fatalities were categorized into five major groups. Overall, 44% of electrical fatalities occurred in the construction industry. Contact with overhead power lines caused 41% of all electrical fatalities. Discussion: Electrical shock caused 99% of fatal and 62% of nonfatal electrical accidents. Comprising about 7% of the U.S. workforce, construction workers sustain 44%of electrical fatalities. Power line contact by mobile equipment occurs in many industries and should be the subject of focused research. Other problem areas are identified and opportunities for research are proposed. Impact on Industry: Improvements in electrical safety in one industry often have application in other industries. D 2003 National Safety Council and Elsevier Science Ltd. All rightsreserved.
Keywords: Electrical; Injury; Fatality; Electrocution; Shock; Electrical burn
1. Introduction On-the-job accidents in the United States are a serious occupational problem. No one expects to be injured, much less killed on the job. Yet each calendar day on average in the United States, more than 15,000 workers sustain on-thejob injuries or illnesses and 17 are killed. Electricalincidents cause an average of 13 days away from work injuries1 and nearly one fatality every day. 1.1. Data sources The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiles the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) from death certificates and other information for U.S. workers killed on the job.2 The 1992 –1998 CFOI database
contains information on 43,921 occupational fatalitiesfrom all injury-related causes.3 Such information includes incident narratives, the source of injury, victim’s occupation, location of the incident, work activity at the time of death, and other details. By analyzing such objective information, a reasonable understanding of most incidents can be achieved. Analogous to CFOI, BLS’s Survey of Occupational Illnesses and Injuries (SOII) provides anestimate of the more than five million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses that occur in the United States each year. A statistical estimate based on a stratified sample,4 the SOII does not contain narrative or work activity information on individual nonfatal incidents. Recent upgrades to the BLS’s online search capability for both CFOI and SOII allow improved limited public access toselected U.S. occupational injury and illness information.5 The SOII information presented in this paper
During the preparation of this paper, only preliminary data were available for 1998. The final figure for fatal work injuries for 1992 – 1998 is 43,950. The final figure for fatal electrical incidents for the period is 2268 using event codes to identify the cases. The authors do not consider thisdifference large enough to bias this analysis. 4 A more complete description of SOII methodology can be found at http://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/homch9_a1.htm. 5 CFOI and SOII online information can be found at http:// www.bls.gov/iif/.
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-412-386-6654; fax: +1-412-386-6876. E-mail address: Jcawley@cdc.gov (J.C. Cawley). 1 The case and demographic data published by...