Why are the dangers of electrocution real for workers in Louisiana?
Thomas Edison, who invented the electric light bulb and founded the first commercial electricity company, certainly recognized the power of electricity. However, it would have been difficult for a man of the 1870s to imagine the America of the 21st century, with its 3,300 power companies serving millions of people and one power grid that connects approximately 2.5 million miles of power lines and over 450,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines.
The expansion of the electrical industry has also made it more dangerous. For example, the transmission of electricity is becoming more and more dangerous. And what is perhaps of most concern is that the naked eye does not easily see these growing dangers.
As the New Orleans Supreme Court stated in its 2006 ruling for Foley v Entergy Louisiana Inc., a case involving a roofer who was electrocuted by 8,000 volts of electricity, “… a high voltage transmission wire is one of the most dangerous things known to man. Not only is the current deadly, but the danger is hidden in a seemingly innocent wire ready at any time to kill or injure anyone who touches or approaches it. ”
Damage to workers and legal responsibilities
While everyone should remain diligent and exercise caution when using electricity, workers in industry should be especially careful to recognize its risks. An increasing number of electrocutions lead to catastrophic injury and death, especially near live electrical wires. While the increase in the number of fatalities is intimidating, the government has regulated measures in place at the state and federal levels to protect these workers.
According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics release, in 2019, the country’s workforce suffered more than 2,000 electrical injuries. One hundred and sixty-eight of them were fatal, an increase of 3.75% from the previous year and the highest number of deaths since 2011.
There are four big Louisiana Electricity Companies: Cleco Power, Dixie Electric Membership Corporation, Entergy and Southwestern Electric Power Company. Each is responsible for maintaining secure systems by meeting all legal requirements determined by the following entities.
The National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) was created over 100 years ago to create standard safety and maintenance guidelines for power companies across the country. These include guidelines for the height of power lines and their position on different structures, such as streets, highways, bridges, railways, and waterways.
The state legislature passed the Louisiana Overhead Power Line Safety Act (LOPLSA) to promote worker and public safety. It applies to anyone working near overhead power lines.
Here are some key elements of LOPLSA:
- No unauthorized person may work, including moving equipment, within ten feet of a high voltage overhead power line.
- If an unauthorized person intends to work within ten feet of a high voltage overhead power line, the person responsible for the necessary work must notify the owner or operator of said power line at least 48 hours before the start of work.
- Work should only be carried out after mutually satisfactory arrangements have been made between the owner or operator of the high voltage utility overhead line and the person deemed responsible for the work.
How workers can be safe
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), created by Congress to ensure the protection of American workers while on the job, stresses that every worker should approach all electrical equipment as if it were receiving electricity, regardless of whether it was turned on. or off. Keep in mind that circuits don’t always turn off when a power line falls in a tree or on the ground.
It is also important to recognize the importance of isolating power lines and the dangers that can arise when they wear out or fail. While power companies must keep power lines either fully insulated (with a coating of a mineral substance like rubber) or insulated (hanging a line high enough to “isolate” it from the public), they will lose their protection over time. People should always be careful to protect themselves.
Here are some more tips from OSHA:
- Do not assume that a wire is harmless telephone, television, or fiber optic cable that does not carry deadly current.
- Treat all electrical as energized until they are tested and proven to be completely off.
- Never approach or drive over a broken power line.
- Keep in mind that electricity from a fallen live wire can travel outward through the ground in a circular shape from the point of contact.
What to do if you are injured by electrocution
If a worker is electrocuted and has difficulty breathing, heart rhythm problems, muscle pain, seizures, or has suffered severe burns, seek emergency help immediately. Those present should stay with the victim until help arrives, only cutting off the electricity if it can be done safely. Administer CPR if necessary, monitor the victim’s breathing, and keep warm if cold.
If you or your loved one has had a electrocution injury, the negligent party must be held liable, whether it is an individual, a business or an electric utility. An electrocution victim often cannot work for an extended period of time or may even need medical attention for the rest of their life. Even if an electric utility company has complied with the NESC, it may still be responsible for aprotest by the jury caused by electrocution. Possible recoverable damages include medical bills, lost wages and future loss of income, permanent disability, scarring or disfigurement, and emotional pain and suffering.
Contact an experienced lawyer in Louisiana for electrocution injuries at Herman, Herman & Katz at (504) 581-4892 or fill out a case review form online for more information on legal options.