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Physical and Biological Hazards of the Workplace, 3rd Edition by Peter H. Wald, Gregg M. Stave

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Chapter 17ELECTRICAL POWER and ELECTRICAL INJURIES

Jeffrey R. Jones*

Electrical hazards constitute a narrow but ubiquitous class of occupational physical hazards. Since the first report of death by electrocution in 1879, when a stage carpenter was killed after exposure to a 250  V AC generator, electric current has been responsible for a significant number of accidents that result in severe injury or death. Approximately 1 500 cases of electrocution occur annually in the United States, including about 100 lightning-caused deaths.1–3 Approximately 300–400 of these occur at work, and the vast majority could be prevented if currently mandated safeguards were used and proper procedures followed. Although we now know a great deal about how to prevent electrical injuries, electrical fatalities still account for a significant number of fatalities in the workplace. The majority of injuries and deaths occur while workers are performing duties they normally undertake in the course of their job, suggesting inadequate training or an underestimation of the risks inherent to working around electricity.4 Because lightning injuries differ in significant ways from other electrical injuries, they will be discussed in a separate section in the second part of this chapter. While the focus of this chapter is electrical injuries, it should be recognized that the injured workers might also have exposure to chemical hazards from fires and explosions, including ozone and PCBs.

OCCUPATIONAL SETTING ...

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