Electrical safety, on or off the job, should be at the forefront of your employees’ minds. As an employer, you have the challenge to teach safe electrical behavior for your workplace. Doing so will help employees break unsafe habits and reinforce safe use of electricity. This list of electrical safety reminders is a brief compilation of generally accepted practices. These practices can help you begin thinking about important electrical safety considerations for your employees.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Many employees die each year from electrocution. Many of these deaths could be avoided by using ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). While there are other ways to receive an electrical shock, a ground fault occurs when some of the currents from an electrical circuit escape and flow to the ground. One cause of a ground fault is damaged insulation around the wire, which allows the current to escape. The escaping current can flow through the body and cause electrocution. A GFCI is a fast-acting circuit breaker that senses small imbalances in the circuit caused by current leakage to ground and, in a fraction of a second, shuts off the electricity. A GFCI continually matches the amount of current going to an electrical device against the amount of current returning from the device along the electrical path. Whenever the amount going differs from the amount returning by approximately 5 milliamps, the GFCI interrupts the electric power within as little as 1/40th of a second. GFCIs should be used anytime electrical equipment is operated around moisture. This would include the use of electrical power tools outdoors or in damp locations.
GFCIs should be tested on a regular basis to make sure they are functioning correctly and are protected from damage. Never paint them and never expose them directly to rain. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for resetting, testing and maintenance. Also, observe all other safety procedures for making sure equipment is grounded correctly. GFCIs provide a life-saving measure of protection.
Ways to Avoid Electrical Shock:
- The equipment you use should be in good repair. Do not attempt repairs unless you are qualified and authorized to do so.
- Electricity and moisture are a very dangerous mix. Do not use electrical equipment that is damp, and do not handle electrical equipment with wet hands. Use watertight or sealable connectors to limit exposure to moisture. Don't use an aluminum or metal reinforced ladder to do any electrical work.
- Wear the personal protective equipment (PPE) recommended for the job; this may include rubber-soled shoes, rubber gloves, or non-conductive head protection.
- Never use water on an electrical fire; use dry chemical extinguishers made for electrical fires.
- Be careful to observe all warning signs about electricity.
- Be aware of the location of overhead wires so that you do not contact them with equipment or objects such as a pipe or a ladder.
- When using electrical equipment while working outdoors or in damp areas, wear insulated footwear and make sure you are protected by a GFCI.
- Consider using battery- or alternately-powered equipment when conditions are unsafe for electrical power.
Working On or Near Energized Equipment:
- Treat de-energized electrical equipment and conductors as energized until lockout/tagout, test and ground (where appropriate) procedures are implemented.
- Only work on electrical equipment and conductors that are de-energized unless your employer can demonstrate that de-energizing introduces additional or increased hazards or is unfeasible due to equipment design or operational limitations.
- Lockout/tagout and ground (where appropriate) before working on equipment. Wear protective clothing and equipment, and use insulated tools in areas where there are possible electrical hazards.
- De-energize and visibly guard (where possible) whenever contact with un-insulated overhead power lines is possible.
- Check and double check the safety regulations when a ladder or parts of any vehicle or mechanical equipment structure will be elevated near energized overhead power lines. Call your local electric utility company for assistance. People standing on the ground may be particularly vulnerable to electrical injury.
Cord-powered Equipment and Tools, Cords, and Temporary Wiring:
- Protect flexible cords and cables from physical damage.
- Take care of extension cords so they don't twist or break. Keep them away from high-traffic areas and never use them in place of permanent wiring.
- Keep slack in flexible cords to prevent tension on electrical terminals.
- Check cords for cut, broken, or cracked insulation.
- Make sure the insulating qualities of a splice are equal to or greater than the original cord.
- Extension cords are for temporary use. Install permanent wiring when use is not temporary.
Equipment and Tool Grounding:
- Verify that all three wire tools and equipment are grounded.
- Provide more GFCIs or shorter circuits to prevent tripping caused by the cumulative leakage from several tools or by leakages from extremely long circuits.
- Ensure ground connections are tight.
- Never use cords that have had the third prong broken off to fit into a two-prong outlet.
- Do not mix water, electrical equipment and power cords.
- Use GFCI protection in wet or damp environments.
- Ground exposed parts of fixed equipment that could become energized.
- Double insulation may be used as additional protection on the live parts of a tool, but double insulation does not provide protection against defective cords and plugs or against heavy moisture conditions.
- Verify location of all buried or embedded electrical circuits before digging or cutting.
- Determine the reason that a fuse operated or a circuit breaker tripped before replacing or resetting.
- Know where your over-current devices are (i.e., circuit breakers and fuses) so they can be easily and quickly reached in case of emergency.
- Verify replacement matches fixture requirements when replacing bulbs or lamps.
- Adapt this list of reminders to fit your working environment.
- Establish a written electrical safety program for implementing the above.
Rescuing an Electrical Shock Victim
If you have to rescue someone who is receiving an electric shock, be careful or you might end up being a shock victim yourself. You must not touch the victim until you are sure the power source has been shut off or the victim is no longer connected to the power circuit. Do not touch the energized equipment or tool until you unplug it, throw a breaker, or otherwise disconnect the power source. Always try to de-energize before attempting any rescue. But if you must pull the victim away from an active power source, try to protect yourself.
- Isolate the hazard - make sure no one else encounters the power source. Warn everyone to stay away from the area until it is safe.
- Make sure your hands are dry and you are standing on a dry surface.
- Use a non-conducting device such as an unpainted board, a rubber or plastic pipe, nylon rope, or a piece of clothing. Do not use anything that is damp or that contains metal. Stay as far away from the victim and the power source as possible.
- After you push or pull the victim to safety, begin CPR immediately and continue until medical help arrives.
Electrical safety can be overwhelming at times, but it can be life-saving. Review electrical safety often with your employees. Include not only generally accepted practices, but considerations that are unique to your operations.
WCF Insurance Safety Department
NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.