Workplace electrical safety with regard to power installer, repairer, and supervisor fatalities

Electrical Fatalities 2003-2018

To better promote electrical safety in the workplace, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) compiled U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries (OSHA 170 form) from 2011 to 2019. ESFI reviews OSHA reports to provide a definitive narrative of what occupations and actions are causing electrical fatalities on the worksite. These summaries cover investigations that have been completed. According to OSHA, delays occur in releasing records to the public because all summaries must, “undergo a process for screening personal information and adding keywords.” This helps to protect the privacy of those involved and improves the accuracy of the summaries.

By studying the occupations with the most electrical injuries and fatalities, ESFI can focus their efforts on creating materials targeted to those industries. This data prompted the creation of a series of recent overhead power line safety materials including: “Overhead Power Line Safety Video – Non-Electrical Workers,” which states that the majority of electrically related accidents happen to workers with little to no electrical safety training; “Residential Construction – Workplace Safety,” urges the importance of staying at least 10 feet away from any overhead power lines; “Overhead Power Line Contact – Workplace Safety,” reminds workers to always look up before completing any work to remain aware of any power lines.

2011 to 2019 electrical fatalities

OSHA reported 84 total cases of electrical fatalities among electrical power installers and repairers, and supervisors of electricians and power transmission installers between 2011 and 2019. Fifty-seven percent of electrical fatalities in these occupations were caused by overhead power lines. In looking at all cases of fatalities, electrical power installers and repairers accounted for 7.5% of all electrically related workplace fatalities during this time.

Electrical power installer and repairer fatalities

Electrical power installers and repairers made up 90% of the 84 cases of fatalities. Sixty-one percent of fatalities were caused when the worker was completing a task regularly assigned, while 39% were caused when completing a task not regularly assigned. The cause of these fatalities included:

  • 90% of the cases were caused by electrical shock
  • 6% of fatalities had no nature of injury listed
  • 4% were caused by burns with 25% of the burns resulting from an arc-flash

In looking at the found human factor of installer and repairer fatalities:

  • 41% of cases were caused by the misjudgment of a hazardous situation
  • 30% of cases were listed as “other”
  • 12% of cases happened from an insufficient or lack of protective work clothing or equipment
  • 4% of cases were caused by a malfunction in the securing or warning operation
  • 3% of cases happened because the worker’s position was inappropriate for the task
  • 3% of cases were caused by a malfunction of the lockout/tagout procedure
  • 3% of cases happened because of inappropriate material handling
  • 3% of cases happened because of an insufficient or lack of engineering controls
  • 1% of cases were caused by safety devices that were removed or inoperable
  • 1% of cases happened because the equipment was inappropriate for the operation

Supervisor fatalities

Ten percent of all fatalities happened among supervisors of electricians and power transmission installers. Electrical shock caused 75% of all the fatalities. Other fatalities occurred from electrical burns or falls caused by an electrical shock. Eighty-seven percent of supervisors were completing a task regularly assigned when the incident occurred, the rest were completing a task not regularly assigned. The tasks included:

  • 25% of cases happened while working on a maintenance or repair project
  • 12.5% of cases happened while working on alteration or rehabilitation
  • 12.5% of cases happened while working on demolition
  • 12.5% of cases happened while working on a new project or addition

The human factors causing supervisor fatalities included:

  • 25% of fatalities were caused by the misjudgment of a hazardous situation
  • 25% of fatalities happened because of an insufficient or lack of protective work clothing or equipment
  • 25% of fatalities were caused by malfunction of the lockout/tagout procedure
  • 12.5% of fatalities happened because the equipment was inappropriate for the operation
  • 12.5% of fatalities were caused by safety devices that were inoperable or removed

Electrical fatalities across all occupations

In addition to collecting injury and fatality statistics for targeted industries, each January ESFI publishes overall occupational electrical injury information in tabular and graphical form on our website. The most recent data covers the 24 years from 1992 to 2018, but mainly focuses on 2003 to 2018 data. ESFI uses the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and Survey of Occupational Injuries (SOII) to distill information specifically about fatal and nonfatal occupational electrical injuries.

ESFI provides this statistical data to help decisionmakers better allocate safety resources for maximum impact and to help reduce electrical injuries and fatalities on the worksite.

In the report released this January, a total of 160 electrical fatalities occurred in 2018, most of which occurred in the construction industry. This was an 18% increase over 2017 and is the highest number of fatalities since 2011. The fatality rate per 100,000 workers was 0.11, compared to 0.13 in 2011. Nine percent of all electrical injuries were fatal. There was a record low number of nonfatal electrical injuries in 2018: 1,560, a 29% decrease over 2017. This was an 8% decrease over 2016, the year with the previous lowest number of nonfatal electrical injuries.

OSHA’s top electrical violations of 2019 included failure to lockout/tagout and failure to wear personal protective equipment. All electrically related fatalities were caused by electric shock, none were caused by burns. Electrical shocks accounted for 1,080 of the nonfatal electrical injuries, while burns accounted for 490.

Most electrocutions and electrical injuries on the worksite can be prevented by following a few simple steps. ESFI’s electrical training and hazard awareness materials are aimed at safety education for both electrical and non-electrical workers.  

We recognize that each work environment presents different electrical hazards. The workplace safety materials we produce provide valuable tips and information for establishing a safer work environment, whether the work takes place on a worksite, in an office, or a manufacturing setting. All of ESFI’s free-to-share materials can be downloaded at esfi.org and distributed directly to your audience to help forward our mission of reducing electrically related deaths, injuries, and property losses at home and in the workplace.


Author Brianne Deerwester is the Communications Coordinator for the Electrical Safety Foundation International. She handles all traditional and social media, promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.


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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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