Electrical lineman, installers, and repairers work on electrical power grids and distribution centers that transmit power to commercial and residential properties. The workers typically work at extreme heights under adverse weather conditions while handling high-voltage powerlines. Their efforts make their job one of the most dangerous occupations nationwide. Their lives are often in jeopardy during inclement weather where wind, hail, snow, ice and other conditions damage power lines and cause major outages.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), electric line workers are exposed to high-voltage current while performing their duties in some of the most hazardous workplaces on earth. The performance of their daily responsibilities exposes them to the dangers of electrocution and electrical burns.
The hazards associated with their job do not just focus on the lineman working up on poles but to installers and repairman erecting and moving conductive or metal scaffolds in and around live powerlines. Statistics from the National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities database reveal that thousands of “traumatic work-related deaths occur each year in the United States." This sobering statistic reveals that an estimated 7% of all “fatalities are electrocutions."
Without electrical power line workers, the world would be a very dark place without lit hospitals, homes, businesses sidewalks, and roadways. Electrical power-line employees are typically the first responders to downed power line occurring during national and local crises, adverse weather conditions or natural disasters. These workers routinely clear the way before medical first responders can move through the community to handle those in peril from fires, dangerous situations, storms are other situations that require rescuing.
If you or a family member was injured while working at Com Ed, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Safety is an Employer’s Duty
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, employers working in the construction and energy industries are legally obligated to maintain a safe work environment for every employee, visitor, and others. Their efforts are to include:
- “Instruct each worker to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions."
- Lock scaffold sections and tier panels “together vertically with pins and other equivalent means where uplift (separation of panels) may occur."
- Advise employees “exposed to electrical hazards [how to] protect against electrical shock by de-energizing the circuit or by guarding it effectively with insulation or other means."
- Provide every employee “prompt medical attention in case of serious injury."
Common Electrical Injury Types
Employees working with or around electrical powerlines face four main kinds of electrical injury, most which can lead to accidental death. These include:
- Fatal Electrocution – This severe injury is often fatal when the victim is injured with an intense electrical shock. When the current passes through the body, it can cause severe burns at the point of entry and stop the heart from beating, leading to instant death.
- Burns – Nearly 1000 individuals lose their lives every year in the United States through electrical burns, including many electrical pole-line linemen, repairman, and installers. Numerous types of electrical energy can cause significant burns including:
- Low-Voltage Burns – 500 volts or less of an electrical power source can cause severe burns in some cases due to the extent of contact time.
- High-Voltage Burns – Any burn at this stage tends to be severe when a high-voltage power source creates significant exterior injuries and some subdermal tissue damage.
- Arc Electrical Burns – An arc can form when electricity is moving from a high resistant place to a low resistant place. The change in resistance produces an arc of electricity that can strike an innocent bystander. Many electrical arc accidents with severe injuries are the result of a pressure wave blast.
- Electrical Shock – According to the National Safety Council, approximately 300 individuals lose their lives every year in America from electrical shocks and residential voltage standards of 120 volts and 240 volts. The shock sensation can be mild and uncomfortable or intense and cause severe burns and heart fibrillation. These types of injuries tend to cause severe burns, difficulty in breathing, confusion, seizures, muscle aches, pains and contractures, cardiac arrest, heart arrhythmia, and loss of consciousness.
- Electrical Energy-Related Accidental Falls – The intensity of an electrical shock can produce two specific body reactions including becoming part of the circuit for the individuals unable to let go. The other reaction involves a mild to intense blast that can cause the victim to lose floating and fall.
Common Electrical Lineman Health Risks
There are significant workplace dangers that power lineman, installers, and repairers face every day even when adhering to basic safety protocol. Each employee must know their proximity to electrical sources and the level of voltage the lines and equipment are transmitting. In addition to the potential electrocution risks and other electricity-problems, Com Ed Workers are often exposed to asbestos that produces unwanted health effects along with ionizing radiation, non-ionizing radiation, and working in an electromagnetic field. These problems involve:
- Radiation Exposure – Linemen are exposed to high-frequency radiation and low-frequency radiation caused by the electromagnetic spectrum. These exposures usually result in working around fields of energy that produce non-ionizing radiation that can cause significant body damage without destroying the victim’s DNA. Alternatively, ionizing radiation produced by gamma rays, x-rays, and other high energy radiation sources can damage DNA cells and result in cancer.
- Asbestos Exposure – Many components in the electrical industry are constructed with dangerous materials including asbestos. Typically, electrical lineman, repairman, and installers deal with white (Chrysotile) asbestos, commonly referred to as a serpentine material. While this type of material is usually not associated with asbestos cancers or mesothelioma, it does cause significant lung tissue irritation. Over time, the exposure to the asbestos can accumulate scar tissue on the interior of the lungs that is often diagnosed as asbestosis.
- Magnetic Field Dangers – Electrical or magnetic sources are classified by how electricity produces radiation. Electric fields of tiny charge parts of atoms produce an electric field. Alternatively, magnetic fields are the result of charged particles in motion.
Asbestos is extremely heat and fire resistant. Electrical wiring component manufacturers use brown asbestos (amosite) because of its resistance to chemical corrosion. Additionally, crocidolite (blue) asbestos has a high resistance to electrical current.
Unfortunately, by the time the damage caused by asbestos has been identified, it’s been many years since the initial exposure, which can take ten years or longer. Identifying the condition and its later stages can be problematic because asbestos-related injuries decrease survival rates and diminish the quality of life.
Exposure to ELFs (electromagnetic fields)
Lab studies and other research has shown that there are significant correlations between exposure to electromagnetic fields energy and the development of cancer. In some studies, animals exposed to various high-level ELFs develop serious health problems including tumors. However, scientists have yet to draw a direct line between the development of cancer cells and exposure of human cells to ELF radiation.
Any generated, transmitted, distributed energy used by the consumer exposes individuals in proximity to electromagnetic field radiation. These materials and equipment include household wiring, overhead power lines, and devices that utilize electricity to work, like hand tools, home appliances, television sets, radios, and others. Even individuals using electronic heat or electronic blankets during the frigid winter months expose their bodies to ELF radiation.
What to Do
While there is no concise correlation yet that exposure to electromagnetic field radiation can be harmful to the body, there are specifics that every individual should know to avoid the potential for injury. This includes staying away from any source generating electricity that can dramatically lower the potential of harm in the future.
However, if an electrical lineman must work on power lines, transformers and other equipment, is there any viable way to keep some distance away from potentially harmful electronic magnetic fields? Not really. This is why taking the initiative to maintain your health and seeking out financial compensation for your injuries is imperative. At any time, one simple exposure to harmful to ELFs has the potential of electrocution while working requires a constant vigilant of maintaining a safe work environment.
Com Ed Workers’ Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment statistics of the previous year, 1360 Com Ed Workers were performing their duties in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that electrical line workers in northeastern Illinois earned $30.61 per hour, or $63,670 annually, on average. These earning wages are slightly lower than the national averages. See Chart
Recent Job-Related Fatalities
For electrical linemen, repairers, and installers, the potential dangers involved in their day-to-day operations could claim their lives or lead to serious injuries.
- Case 1: August 11, 2017 – Troy, Illinois: at 2:00 PM, Two employees “were working outside of a single-family residence with a Marathon Electric Vacuum Pump…" One employee “was working with a 16-3 extension cord [that] was plugged into a three-pronged receptacle located in an enclosed patio area of the house that was damp." The same employee “received a shock from the vacuum pump and was electrocuted." The second worker “received an electrical shock while touching [the first employee] who was lying on the ground in an unresponsive state."
- Case 2: July 17, 2017 – Streator Illinois: At 1:15 PM, an employee “was tasked with performing sampling of four top lift-up hatches on top of a railcar. After taking several small hand-sized samples with a coffee can attached to an approximate 5 feet long broomstick, the employee rested the sampler on the walking platform." It was at this time the employee was electrocuted. “Several co-workers discovered the employee on the ground with severe burn points and head trauma. Emergency [medical] services were contacted and, upon arrival, [the worker] was determined dead. A more thorough evaluation by the coroner revealed that the employee had died upon contact with the powerline."
- Case 3: February 3, 2011 – Radisson Wisconsin: A lineman working for North Central Power Company died due to electrocution “while working to repair or 7200-volt power line" near Winter, Wisconsin. Details provided by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reveal that the “Company has been issued citations for willful and serious safety violations."
The document revealed that “North Central Power jeopardized the health and safety of its workers by failing to take proper safety precautions, such as requiring the use of personal protective gear [PPE] and de-energizing power lines." An OSHA Director stated that “employers are responsible for knowing what hazards exists in their workplaces and ensuring that workers are not exposed to risks that could result in injury or death."
The company was cited for four willful violations including a failure “to ensure employees were protected from energized parts by wearing insulated gloves and sleeves, de-energized powerlines, test lines, and equipment, and installed protective grounds on lines and equipment. A willful violation exists when an employer has demonstrated either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the law or plain indifference to employee safety and health."
We Can Assist You in Filing Your Compensation Claim
If you were injured in a job-related accident, never gamble with your family’s future and financial security. Our team of legal experts can ensure that you receive all available benefits through Worker’s Compensation and possibly through other third parties that might also be responsible for your damages. Working on your behalf, our attorneys can issue a complaint, file your compensation claim, gather evidence, build your case, and negotiate an out of court settlement or take your lawsuit to trial.
Our lawyers help injured Com Ed Workers recover financial compensation under the IL Worker’s Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. Call the Occupational Injury Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) now for a Free Case Review.
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