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I recently read a news story where a worker at a medical center suffered from a fatal fall.

The worker was changing a fluorescent light ballast with the power on was shocked and fell to his death. In this case the worker was only 6 feet off the floor.

Unfortunately, secondary injuries such as this happen all too often. In fact, the National Institute of Safety and Health lists electrical injuries into four main types; electrocutions, shocks, burns, and falls because of contact with electricity.

These incidents are easily preventable by simply de-energizing the circuit. So why do these accidents continue to occur? One reason is the false sense of security electrical workers have when working around the 120 volts that feed lighting circuits. 120 volts is by far the most prevalent voltage level and in some cases this familiarity can increase risk tolerance and lower risk perceptions. Unfortunately, this risk mixture can be a deadly combination.

I always discuss secondary injuries as part of my electrical safety training classes. In a lot of cases the students do not realize the double jeopardy of working on energized equipment at heights. It’s just not something that has crossed their minds. I quote statistics and show a video of an electrical worker taking an ugly fall after being shocked and thrown from a ladder. I sincerely hope that I have changed a few minds by the end of this section of my class.

How can we fix the problem of secondary injuries from electric shock?

I encourage my clients to include guidance on how to perform common tasks in their electrical safety procedures. This will ensure that the task is performed safely every time. I also mention that the employees need to be trained so that they understand the procedure and their role in following it. Visiting contractors also need to be aware of the procedure and the expectations for adherence. Administrative controls, such as a well written and enforced safety procedure, can truly save lives.

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