Electrical Safety Tips
All electrical systems have the potential to cause harm. However, you can take simple precautions when working with or near electricity and electrical equipment to significantly reduce the risk of injury to you, your workers and others around you.
Accidental electrocution continues to be a significant cause of occupational death. But good working habits can prevent electrical shock and accidental electrocution, resulting in a safer workplace.
An electric shock occurs when a person comes into contact with an electrical energy source. Humans are more conductive than the earth (the ground we stand on) which means if there is no other easy path, electricity will try to flow through our bodies.
There are four main types of injuries resulting from contact with electricity: electrocution (fatal), electric shock, burns, and falls. These injuries can happen in various ways:
- Direct contact with exposed energized conductors or circuit parts. When electrical current travels through our bodies, it can interfere with the normal electrical signals between the brain and our muscles (e.g., heart may stop beating properly, breathing may stop, or muscles may spasm).
- When the electricity arcs (jumps, or "arcs") from an exposed energized conductor or circuit part (e.g., overhead power lines) through a gas (such as air) to a person who is grounded (that would provide an alternative route to the ground for the electrical current).
- Thermal burns including burns from heat generated by an electric arc, and flame burns from materials that catch on fire from heating or ignition by electrical currents or an electric arc flash. Contact burns from being shocked can burn internal tissues while leaving only very small injuries on the outside of the skin.
- Thermal burns from the heat radiated from an electric arc flash. Ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) light emitted from the arc flash can also cause damage to the eyes.
- An arc blast can include a potential pressure wave released from an arc flash. This wave can cause physical injuries, collapse your lungs, or create noise that can damage hearing.
- Muscle contractions, or a startle reaction, can cause a person to fall from a ladder, scaffold or aerial bucket. The fall can cause serious injuries.
Many electrical injuries can be avoided if individuals were alert to hazards. Using the following tips will make the workplace safer.
- Taking accountability for noticing, reporting and correcting electrical hazards.
- Always use and maintain wiring tools and equipment properly.
- Use extension cords or equipment that is rated for the level of amperage or wattage that you are using. Always use the correct size fuse. Replacing a fuse with one of a larger size can cause excessive currents in the wiring and possibly start a fire
- Take a few extra minutes to inspect your equipment [cords for wear].
- Always clean and dry your working area to avoid shock and fire hazards.
- Don’t use faulty equipment. Disconnect and lockout the power supply before completing any maintenance work tasks or making adjustments.
- When cleaning equipment, make sure its unplugged and follow the manufacturers cleaning instructions.
- Use insulated tools or handling equipment such as non-conductive ropes and protective shields.
- Do not work close to power lines. Recommended distances vary by jurisdiction and/or utility companies. Check with both your jurisdiction and electrical utility company when working, driving, parking, or storing materials closer than 15 m to overhead power lines.
New technical requirements and systems are frequently changing. Keeping up to date with current of practice and take the necessary precautions to make your workplace a little safer.