Characteristics of an Electrical Fatality

Electricity is vital to every building, whether residential, industrial, or commercial. It is what helps run our businesses and our society as a whole. The importance of electricity cannot be under estimated, in the same way that its potential danger cannot be taken for granted.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2008 and 2017 there was an average of 158 electrically related workplace fatalities a year.  Based on data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 64% of all electrical fatalities occurred in non-electrical occupations. Construction occupations accounted for 40% of the fatalities while electrical workers accounted for 36%. 

OSHA Reported Electrical Fatalities. Occupations with 10 or More Electrical Fatalities 2011 – 2017



Construction laborers                                


Laborers, except Constructions


Electrical Power Installers and Repairers


Tree Trimming Occupations


Electricians’ Apprentices




Electrical and Electronic Engineers


Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigerating Mechanics


Machinery Maintenance Occupations


Painters, Constructions, and Maintenance


Farm Workers


Welders and Cutters


Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steam Fitter Apprentices


Telcomm: Line Installers and Repairers


Truck Drivers, heavy


Occupation not reported



The majority of electrically related fatalities for electricians were caused by electric shock, while working on an electrical apparatus. Additionally, most electricians were working on their regularly assigned task and failure to follow proper lockout/tagout procedures and misjudgment of a hazardous situation were common causes of fatalities.

To help reduce the number of workplace electrical fatalities, the Electrical Safety Foundation International has released a number of free awareness videos with a focus on the importance of qualified electrical workers, “Know When to Say When - Know When to Stop Work,” and how to avoid contact with overhead power lines.

The Importance of Qualified Electrical Workers

ESFI encourages that all electrical work be completed by qualified electrical workers. Trained electrical workers know and understand the requirements of the National Electrical Code and are experienced at compliance with NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

These men and women follow strict safety principles that include daily inspections and evaluating the electrical equipment; planning out every job and conducting job hazard analysis; and identifying the electrical hazards and reducing the associated risks.

A typical safety program that qualified electrical workers go through includes the importance of personal protective equipment, safe work practices, special precautionary techniques, and risk assessment.

It is important that qualified electrical workers notify other trades on the jobsite about the dangers of electricity. By keeping all electrical workers under the responsibility of qualified workers, we can help reduce the number of electrically related fatalities in fields that are affected but not electrically trained.

Know When to Say When

Many electrically related fatalities occur when a hazardous situation is misjudged. No matter how simple a task may seem, it is always important to stop and reassess a situation if there is ever a doubt about a job’s task or a procedure’s requirements.  A qualified electrical worker should always ask themselves:

  1. Have I been properly trained to safely complete this job task?
  2. Have I worked on this task before, and do I have the right training and experience?
  3. Do I have the proper tools for this job?
  4. Is the hierarchy of risk controls being followed to ensure that preventive and protective risk controls are being implemented?
  5. Has a proper risk assessment been performed?
  6. Are all conductors and circuit parts in an electrically safe working condition?
  7. Are these parts properly guarded to reduce the likelihood of electrical contact or arcing faults?
  8. Are all applicable procedures and job planning procedures completed?
  9. And am I confident about completing this job without risk or putting others at risk?

The goal is for all workers to go home safely at the end of a shift.  Electricians must know the limits of their own qualifications.  It’s ok to speak up and pass a job task to a more qualified worker if you’re unsure about having the required expertise to complete it safely.

All awareness videos and related infographics are available at the Electrical Safety Foundation’s workplace safety webpage for free:

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is the premier non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.

Since 1994, ESFI has led the way in promoting electrical safety across North America. Over the years, ESFI has become highly regarded by industry, media and consumer safety partners alike by constantly reinvigorating the way electrical safety is addressed. ESFI creates unique awareness and educational resources designed to meet the diverse needs of a variety of at-risk groups.