Without electricity, many things are impossible. Can you imagine accomplishing the things you do at the office or in your home without electricity?
Some people work with electricity directly, placing themselves at risk from its many dangers. Electricity needs to be handled with care because it is uncontrollable and can electrocute people, cause fires and explosions. In 1999 alone, 5 percent of the total work fatalities for that year were caused by electrocutions based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The sad fact is these tragic incidents could have been prevented with electrical safety measures.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published standards for electrical safety across various industries. The standards were created after the National Fire Protection Association Standards NFPA 70 or National Electric Code, and NFPA 70E, which represents Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. (Know more about our NFPA 70e Electrical Standards training by visiting this link.)
OSHA’s electrical safety standards for the general industry can be found in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Part 1910.302 through 1910.308 and titled Design Safety Standards for Electrical Systems. Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices standards meanwhile are covered in 1910.331 to 1910.335. The one for the construction industry is published in the 29 CFR 1926, Subpart K.
All things aside, how can workers safeguard themselves from the obvious and destructive hazards of electricity? Here are some tips on how you could work safely in the presence of energized equipment and live parts:
- Check the working condition of electrical equipment before use. Remember to inspect equipment, plugs and outlets for any damages. Use equipment for their intended use.
- Keep yourself dry and remove metals from your body when working around electricity. According to one electrical safety guide published by the ULM Department of Environmental Health and Safety, water and air moisture can turn you, wood, and devices into electrical conductors. So do not touch electrical equipment, especially when it’s energized, with wet hands. When working in damp places, wear insulators and rubber boots.
- Work only on equipment that you are trained to operate. Workers who have received adequate training on working with electrical circuits and equipment know how to recognize and test live parts. If you are not qualified to perform such tasks, make sure to keep away from energized machineries and power lines.
- Observe safety procedures to prevent fires. Should you be working in an environment with highly flammable liquids, materials, gasses or combustible dust, make sure to check whether you’re using the right equipment in that environment. Also, check the equipment temperature to make sure that they do not set things on fire. Maintain machineries and do not overload outlets and circuits.
- Observe electrical access protocols. Make sure to follow lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures in your workplace. Do not remove the LOTO lock from equipment unless you are qualified to do so. Follow warning signs and do not enter restricted areas unless you’re authorized to.
You may check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s student manual on Electrical Safety for more electrical safety tips.