Are people being electrocuted by common consumer goods?

Electrocutions killed 60 people per year from 2004-2013; 90% of electrocuted victims were men; most common product category was ‘large’ household appliances

Sixty people per year electrocuted by consumer goods and household appliances

As an electrocution lawyer, I write about the cases I have litigated over the last three decades. But readers of this blog might be mistaken in thinking that electrocutions only happen to construction workers, electrical workers and people who have unsuspecting, albeit fatal, encounters with downed power lines.

Tragically, they also happen in the home. Dozens of Americans are killed every year after being electrocuted by large household appliances and consumer goods.

An eye-opening study from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission makes this compelling point, providing important statistics for everyone – especially parents – to consider.

Specifically, in its May 2017 “Electrocutions Associated with Consumer Products: 2004 – 2013” report, which estimated the “number of unintentional, non-work related electrocutions associated with the use of consumer products,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported the following:

There was an estimated average of 60 “electrocution fatalities associated with consumer products per year over” the 10-year period from 2004 through 2013.

  • Men comprised 90% of electrocution victims from 2004-2013.
  • The “most common product categor[y] associated with electrocutions” over the “10 years covered” by the report was “Large Appliance.”
  • In 7 of the 10 years covered by the report, victims in the 40-59 age group suffered the highest number of electrocution as compared to the other three age groups, 1-19, 20-39 and “60 and over.”

As we go about our everyday lives, hopefully this serves as a reminder that we need to be particularly vigilant against the risk of hidden electrocution and electrical shock injuries.

Why are men more likely to be electrocuted from consumer goods and household appliances than women?

The CPSC report found:

  • “Male victims comprise the large majority of electrocutions, accounting for” approximately 90% (547 of 607) “of all consumer product-related electrocutions” for the years 2004-2013.
  • “There are far fewer electrocutions to female consumers than might be expected, given the proportion of the U.S. population that is female. The 10-year average U.S. population of females for the years 2004 2013 is slightly higher than the average population of males (154.889 million and 150.237 million, respectively), yet the estimated number of electrocutions to males is [significantly] greater than to females [547 to 60].”

What consumer goods and household appliances are associated with high numbers of people being electrocuted?

According to the CPSC, “[o]ver the 10 years covered in this report, the four most common product categories associated with electrocutions were”:

  • “Large Appliance” (67 deaths, or 15% of reported consumer product-related electrocutions);
  • “Small Appliance” (61, 14%);
  • “Power Tool” (39, 9%); and,
  • “Lighting Equipment” (33, 7%).

The report also made the following observations about the “most common scenario[s] for electrocutions” involving certain products:

  • “The most common scenario for electrocutions involving large and small appliances was the consumer being electrocuted while attempting to repair the appliance.”
  • “The most common scenario for electrocutions involving ladders was the ladder coming into contact with electrical wires.”

What age group of people have been electrocuted the most by consumer good and household appliances?

Significantly, the CPSC statistics showed that victims in the 40-59 age group suffered approximately 41% of the total electrocutions from 2004 to 2013.

By contrast, victims in the 1-19, 20-39 and “60 and over” age groups suffered electrocutions in the following approximate percentages, respectively: 13%, 28% and 18%.

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