Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, exposing employ-ees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires and explosions. Every 30 minutes, a worker is severely hurt from electricity requiring off the job recovery. Recovery from electrical shocks and burns is slow and painful. Electrical hazards cause more than 300 deaths in the workplace annually. Electrical accidents rank sixth among all causes of work-related deaths in the United States averaging 13 days away from work and nearly one fatality every day. What makes these statistics more tragic is that most of the fatalities could have been easily avoided with safety awareness.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards cover many electrical hazards in many different industries. In states with OSHA-approved programs the standards and other procedures governing electrical safety may not be identical to the federal requirements; however, they must be at least as effective as the federal standards. Violations such as lockout/tagout and electrical wiring methods consistently appear in OSHA’s top 10 list of violations.
Causes of Electrical Hazards:
Most electrical hazard accidents result from one of the following three factors:
Prevention of Electrical Hazards:
Ways to prevent electrical hazard accidents are through the use of:
Insulation – using glass, mica, rubber or plastic insulators.
Guarding – locating or enclosing electrical equipment.
Grounding – creating a low-resistance path that connects to the earth.
Electrical protective devices – fuses, circuit breakers and ground-fault circuit interrupt-ers (GFCI).
Safe work practices that include:
Job planning – Safety on the job is not some-thing that just happens. Complete a detailed job plan and communicate it to all co-workers. Plan-ning prevents mistakes and injuries from occurring.
Identification – Identify all possible energy sources that could pose on-the-job hazards.
De-energizing – The number one way to prevent electrical injuries and fatalities is to deenergize the equipment being worked on. It may take a little more time and planning, but your life and health are worth it.
Lockout/tagout – These procedures safeguard workers from the unexpected energization, or startup of machinery and equipment. They can also prevent the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
Equipment maintenance – Always keep electrical tools properly maintained.
Exercise caution – When working near energized lines.
Use personal protective equipment (PPE) – As a last line of defense. PPE includes: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety shoes, flame-resistant shirts and pants, safety glasses, face shields, fall protection equipment, etc.
TEST BEFORE YOU TOUCH – Every year workers are injured or killed by circuits they thought were safely turned off. Simply shutting off the power is not enough. Hazardous conditions can still exist.
Most electrically-related fatalities and injuries could have easily been avoided. Responsibility for your safety begins with you. Take steps to protect yourself every day and make safety an integral part of how you do business.