New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Manhole Explosions Create a Risk of Injury in NYC

Posted on Apr 27, 2018 in Personal Injury

In New York City, manhole covers can present a hidden risk to passerby and to construction workers. Those who sustain injury as a result of an  incident involving a manhole cover should consult with a New York City injury lawyer to determine if they  have an options available to them for pursing a claim for compensation.

Manhole covers can be dangerous because manholes can explode. In fact, as Metro US wrote recently, two separate manhole explosions occurred in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, raising concerns about serious risks of unexpected explosions.

Why are Manhole Explosions a Risk?

According to Metro US, manhole explosions have been described as a “longstanding occurrence,” and, in fact, the explosions in the upper East Side were not isolated incidents. There were actually at least three other similar incidents over the course of the same day that those explosions occurred, according to Con Edison. And, in total, there were 1,908 incidents involving manholes in 2016 and 3,781 incidents in 2015.

These manholes allow access to electrical cables that run underground under the city of New York to make the underground utility grid accessible to those who must service the grid. Unfortunately, the infrastructure is aging and the manhole covers do not keep water out.

When the weather gets bad during the winter and snow melts that is mixed with de-icing salt, this salty water drips into the manholes. This, in turn, causes frayed low-voltage cables to fail because of the exposure to the salty water.  In frightening incidents, fires occur, smoke comes out of the manholes, and explosions occur that send the manhole covers flying into the air and putting pedestrians in jeopardy of serious injury.

Around 60 percent of incidents involving dangerous exploding manholes happen during the winter months. However, incidents can also occur frequently in the summer as well thanks to the intense heat that can also cause damage to the wires. The heat can fry the aging wires, causing explosions just like salt does in the winter.

These incidents are especially common in New York because the largest underground electrical system in the country is located in the New York City area. There are 98,000 miles of cable underground and there are 264,000 different manholes and service boxes that are located throughout the city.

New York’s electrical grid is also aging, which plays a role in the increased risk of manhole explosions. Low voltage cables typically have a life span of around 40 years. However, within Manhattan, around five percent of the low voltage cables in the city were installed prior to 1930. The electrical system in the city is actually the oldest in the nation, and old and fraying wires make it more likely that manholes will explode.

While Metro US reports that bystander injuries aren’t that common, injuries do occur. If you or a loved one gets hurt because of an incident with an exploding manhole, you should contact a New York City injury attorney to find out what options you have for taking legal action to recover compensation for injury.

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