Electricity is an essential part of our daily lives. Electricity lights up our homes, cooks our food, powers our computers, television sets, and more. Electricity and electrical products play fundamental roles in how we do business each day and are also a major risk we must pay close attention to.
Electricity exposes employees to electrical shock, burns, fires, and explosions. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation, 166 employees were killed by contact with electric current in 2019. Other employees have been killed or injured in fires and explosions caused by electricity.
What’s the cause?
Electrical accidents are often caused by a combination of three possible factors:
- Work involving unsafe equipment and installations
- Workplaces made unsafe by the environment
- Unsafe work practices
The first two factors are sometimes considered together and simply referred to as unsafe conditions. It should also be noted that inadequate maintenance can cause equipment or installations that were originally considered safe to deteriorate, resulting in an unsafe condition.
Some unsafe electric equipment and installations can be identified by the presence of faulty insulation, improper grounding, loose connections, defective parts, ground faults in equipment, unguarded live parts, and underrated equipment. The environment can also be a contributory factor and may include: environments containing flammable vapors, liquids, or gases; areas containing corrosive atmospheres; and wet and damp locations. Finally, unsafe acts include the failure to de-energize electric equipment when it is being repaired or inspected or the use of tools or equipment too close to energized parts. (Control of Hazardous Energy – Lockout/Tagout).
All employees who face a risk of electric shock, burns or other related injuries, not reduced to a safe level by the installation safety requirements of Subpart S, must be trained in safety-related work practices required by OSHA. In addition to being trained in and familiar with safety related work practices, unqualified employees must be trained in the inherent hazards of electricity, such as high voltages, electric current, arcing, grounding, and lack of guarding.
Injury Prevention is Possible
The good news is that most on-the-job electrical injuries can be prevented by following a few basic steps:
- Be proactive about identifying and de-energizing the equipment being worked on; label them clearly
- Always keep your equipment away from energy sources
- Inspect hand tools for defects
- Use non-conductive ladders to keep from being shocked at high elevations
- Follow extension cord safety techniques:
- Never nail or staple cords into place – only use electrical tape for this purpose
- Don’t use frayed or broken cords
- Don’t plug in anything with a missing prong
- Don’t overload sockets – be sure to use a power board with a safety switch.
- Always wear proper protective clothing and use insulated tools
If workplaces take these steps to properly train and protect employees, the amount of electrical injuries would be greatly decreased. These preventative measures may take a little more time and planning, but your employees’ lives and health are worth it.
If you need assistance with Electrical Safety training or have specific questions, reach out to your Marsh McLennan Agency representative.