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Electric Shock at Work Claims

When you head out to work, you have the right to expect to be kept safe while you’re doing your job. Every work environment has different risks but the reality is, no workplace can function in the 21st century without electricity.

Electricity is a necessity – the vital juice fuelling the vast majority of services and equipment in the business environment. Without electricity, few businesses could function. However, where there is electricity there is the risk of injury.

Higher voltages and working outdoors with electrical equipment increases the risk. Even at a low voltage, you can sustain electrical injuries for which you should be able to claim compensation.

Electric shocks can be caused by voltages as low as 50v if the voltage is applied between two parts of the body. Usually, shocks happen where a bare extremity, such as a finger or arm, accidentally touches an electric current which then causes an electrical current to pass through the body, blocking the signals between the brain and the muscles.

Electric shock injuries

Although there is a wide range of injuries that can be caused by an electric shock at work, typical electricity-related injuries include:

Electric shocks can interrupt or even stop the heart beating, prevent breathing and cause muscles to go into spasm. In some cases, the electric shock can in fact cause ‘secondary’ injuries. For example, the shock can cause the individual to fall from a height and sustain further injuries, such as broken bones and concussion.

If the shock is caused by a high voltage, injuries can be serious and life-changing. It can cause deep tissue burns, significant nerve damage, paralysis and even brain damage. Tragically, electric shocks can cause death by electrocution.

Whatever the injuries you or your loved one has sustained, employers must be held to account if the electric shock or electrocution was avoidable.

DID YOU KNOW: A voltage as low as 50 volts can cause injuries if applied between two parts of the human body.

I was electrocuted at work, can I claim?

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries from an electrocution while at work, an expert injury lawyer can help you make a no win no fee injury claim. It is highly likely that if you were electrocuted by an electrical current or machinery at work, your employer was negligent. Electrocution incidents are serious and can cause significant, life-changing injuries – sometimes death. Such incidents are very unlikely to take place unless the employer failed in its duties in some way to keep you and other workers safe.

If you have been injured following a workplace electrocution, get in touch with an expert legal adviser straightaway by calling free on 0800 234 6438 or by submitting our online claim form.

Compensation can never undo the harm done to you but it can make a real difference to your financial situation and help you on the road to recovery.

Your solicitor will need to demonstrate that your employer owed you a duty of care and that they breached that duty, causing your injuries. In the case of such a serious incident as electrocution at work, it is normally a straightforward process of collecting the evidence to prove negligence – and securing an admission of liability on the part of the employer.

To find out about making a claim, get in touch with an adviser on 0800 234 6438, or use the call back form on this page and they’ll get back to you.

DID YOU KNOW: In the year 2019-2020, there were 231 serious workplace electrical injuries and 4 fatal injuries reported to the Health and Safety Executive. There were also more than 15,000 other safety-related electrical incident reported in that period.

What if the electric shock injury was my fault?

It is common for an injured person to think, or even assume, that they were to blame for what happened. However, in many cases that is an incorrect assumption – so even if you believe that the incident was your fault, you should still talk things over with a specialist adviser so that you know where you stand.

And when you do make a claim against your employer, they may come back and argue you were partly to blame for your injuries (or may even deny responsibility completely). However, it is then the employer’s responsibility to prove you were to blame.

There are cases where the employee can be treated partially to blame, for example, you may have been reckless by touching a live wire – even though the employer should have ensured live wires had been made safe before you arrived on shift. In such a scenario, if you are found partly to blame (this is known as ‘contributory negligence’) your employer would probably not have to pay you the full amount of compensation. In that case, the full amount of compensation would be reduced by a proportionate amount to reflect your responsibility for the incident.

So if you think you were partly to blame for your injuries, it is important to raise this with your solicitor as early as you can. It should not stop you making a claim but it could reduce the amount of compensation you receive.

What are the common causes of electric shock accidents?

There are a number of different ways in which a worker can suffer an electric shock at work. The most common electrical health hazards in the workplace arise out of a failure to ensure safe systems at work and include:

Accidents may be caused by incorrect use of equipment because of poor training, lack of user handbooks, failure to supervise or through carelessness. These scenarios can lead to people inadvertently coming into contact with electrical energy sources causing potential injury.

If the surrounding environment is unsafe, water or other liquids or sparks from other equipment of wiring can come into contact with electrical currents causing electric shock injuries.

Even lower voltage batteries can get hot quickly and are likely to explode if they are shorted out, causing burns. Sadly, higher voltages can cause severe electrocution and serious injuries, and sometimes even death.

One of the wider risks of working with electrical equipment and currents is explosions – even a spark generated from a low voltage can result in an explosion causing serious burns to individuals working within the vicinity.

Electric shock injury claims in the workplace – who can be affected?

Anyone working with or near electrical equipment and/or electrical wiring and cables may be at risk of electric shock or burn injuries. In addition, those working (or visiting premises) in the wider vicinity of an explosive environment, such as vehicle paint spraying or workplaces that deal with fine dusts, such as flour, and chemical factories are also at risk. Even if you’re not working directly with or near electrical equipment, cables and wires you could be at risk of electrical injuries or from injuries resulting from explosions or extreme heat.

Unlike many other types of injuries, more people could be injured after the first victim has been hurt by an electric shock. This is because if someone goes to help the first victim who has sustained an electric shock, they could become a second victim.

Naturally, workmates will go to the aid of someone who has been hurt without hesitating to consider the risk they may be about to put themselves in, which means they also risk injuries to themselves.

Are electrical burn injuries covered?

Electrical burns and thermal burns are serious injuries and need immediate medical treatment. They usually result from a breach of health and safety duties at work and could have been avoided, which means the victim should be able to make an injury claim.

Electrical burns are caused when an electrical current passes through the body, heating the tissue as the current passes along. Because of the nature of electrical currents on the human body, deep tissue burns can result – particularly in the case of higher voltages.

Thermal burns are caused by contact with a hot surface, though they can also result from electrical explosions in factories. Electricity-related burns can also result from touching live objects or exposed wires; and from electrical equipment that has been allowed to become extremely hot through overload or poor maintenance. It is possible to sustain burns from the surfaces of some electrical equipment that is operated and being used normally.

So any worker who has sustained electrical burn injuries should make enquiries as soon as they are able to about making an injury compensation claim.

What are my employer’s legal responsibilities for electrical equipment?

All employers have a legal duty to ensure the workplace is safe and that any risks identified in ongoing risk assessments are swiftly dealt with. Employers’ general responsibilities in relation to worker safety are set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other laws. These require that they ensure that, so far as they reasonably can, they protect their employees’ health, safety and welfare.

For example, employers must ensure electrically powered equipment is properly maintained on a regular basis to ensure it remains safe to use and to minimise any risk of electric shock injuries.

In addition to these general health and safety rules, there are specific rules relating to electricity at work including:

Many faults in electrical equipment, for example in laptops and monitors and irons, can be identified by means of a simple visual inspection of the equipment – something that employers can easily do when checking the work equipment to be used at home. (However, such inspections should only be undertaken by competent people.)

If employers fail to take adequate steps to protect workers from the risks and breached any of these health and safety and related regulations, the chances of injury escalate. Such a failure on the part of an employer can cause potentially serious injury for which workers can make injury compensation.

I had an electric shock at home because of company equipment, can I still claim?

During the Covid-19 era, homeworking for millions of people became necessary. If you were injured while using electrical work equipment at home, you may be able to claim compensation. The Health & Safety Executive has made clear that employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers as they have for other workers.

Although general health and safety legislation does not apply to domestic premises, employers still have duties towards employees who work from home. For example, they must consider whether the work is suitable to be done from home; and also carry out a risk assessment of the work they expect workers to undertake in their own home.

Many people who have had to revert to working from home during the pandemic have been overloading sockets, charging electrical equipment on beds, soft furnishings and other flammable surfaces, using extension cords in dangerous places and are unaware of the associated risks. Those risks include electric shocks, burns, fire, trips and damage to property.

The purposes of risk assessments is, in part, to check any equipment you will be required to use; whether it is suitable and safe to use in the place you intend to use it; and to make any necessary changes if any risks have been identified. If your employer failed to do this, the risk of injury increases.

For example, a visual inspection of electrical equipment such as screens and laptops, will usually reveal existing faults. Even simple checks such as ensuring the plug is not damaged and is correctly wired; the fuse correctly rated; and no tell-tale signs of burns or heat damage on the outer case of the equipment can identify risk areas. These can then be rectified and, importantly, the risk of injury minimised.

However, employees are also excepted to take reasonable care to protect their own safety while working from home. If you have sustained electrical injuries while working from home, you will need to explain what your employer has done so far to make your working environment and equipment as safe as possible. If appropriate, you might be given the tools you need to look after and maintain the equipment needed to carry out the work – but this should never be a replacement for the employer’s own duties.

The fact is, taking company equipment home so that you can continue doing the work you are contracted to do should be safe and risk free. If there is a failure on the employer’s part, and an electrical or other injury results, you can make a claim.

How do I start a claim for an electric shock at work?

Get in touch with an expert legal adviser as soon as possible so that they can guide you through beginning your claim. You can contact one using the claim form on this page or call for free on 0800 234 6438. They will be able to put you in touch with an injury solicitor who will work on a no win no fee basis, meaning there is no financial risk for you in making a claim.

If possible, gather as much evidence as you can – as soon as you’re able to. If your injuries are serious, get someone else to do this for you; and if you’re claiming for a loved one, try to get the information together on their behalf so that a claim can begin.

The details and information which will allow your personal injury lawyer to build a strong case include:

You should also retain any receipts and invoices relating to expenses arising directly from your injury. These could include medical bills or wages or bonuses lost through time taken off work.

Your solicitor will also need to arrange for an assessment with a medical expert for the purposes of a medical report on your injuries and your prognosis. This will be necessary to support your claim. You don’t need to worry about the cost of this as it will be covered by your no win no fee agreement.

If your solicitor thinks your injury will adversely affect you financially, such as a reduction in your earning ability or the cost of ongoing care, your compensation claim will account for this.

To make a successful claim for compensation after an electrical injuries at work, your solicitor will need to prove on balance that your employer was negligent and/or breached their duties under the health and safety regulations.

This means proving your employer breached the duty of care towards you; your electric shock injuries were reasonably foreseeable; and the injuries were the direct result of the employer negligence.

Usually, in these types of accident it will not be difficult to prove your employer was negligent.

DID YOU KNOW: A claim can still be pursued even if the business in question is no longer trading.

Could I lose my job for claiming against my employer for an electric shock at work?

You have every right to make an injury claim for electric shock or burns sustained at work. That said, it is common to be fearful of the potential repercussions at work if you make a claim.

This is understandable because most people really don’t want to make life difficult for the employer; and having exposed problems relating to health and safety in your workplace – knowing you have or intend returning to work there – can be a huge worry.

Thankfully, when it comes to making an injury claim against your employer, there are laws in place to protect you from being unfairly dismissed or treated differently, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996. Quite simply, it’s illegal for you to be fired or disciplined for making a claim against your employer.

This means that in the unlikely event you do lose your job, or were harassed for making your claim, you’ll be able to take legal action against your employer. The law is there to protect you so you should not be at risk of losing your job.

It’s also worth noted that the injury claim itself will not be against the employer personally, but its insurance company, so your employer will simply pass on the claim to the insurer to deal with. Assuming you win your claim, the insurance company will make the pay out – it will not come out of the employer’s pocket.

This can be hugely reassuring for injured workers worried about making a compensation claim against their employer after an accident at work.

If you are in a position where you feel your life is being made difficult at work because you have made an injury claim, or you’re considering making a claim, you should consider taking action because you could have an unfair dismissal claim in addition to your injury claim.

The law is there to protect you, both from injuries at work and from unfair dismissal.

Real life stories of electric shocks at work

  1. In June 2021 a Scottish window cleaner was electrocuted while testing new cleaning equipment with a colleague. The equipment had been extended but conducted the power from an overhead power cable to both men causing electrocution. Daniel McFarlane, 36, died soon after the incident and his colleague was seriously injured.
  2. South Wales Police were fined £95,000 by the Health and Safety Executive after an employee suffered damaged heart muscles due to coming into contact with an exposed live 3-core electrical cable left in a ceiling void.
  3. Nexus, the metro operator in Tyne and Wear, was fined £1.5m in spring 2021 following the 2014 death by electrocution of a railway linesman. Nexus admitted breaching health and safety legislation
  4. A worker suffered serious electric burns after an accident at work. He was changing tappings on a transformer serving tanks which melt glass at a Leeds factory. The transformer had not been isolated. The company was fined £30,000
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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