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6 Areas to Look for Common Electrical Hazards

By Darcy Cook, CSHO, SHS, PTA, Safety Trainers

Did you know that an electrical outlet has enough electricity to kill you? I didn't.

As an employer, you are required to identify hazards, put controls in place to eliminate or decrease the risks to employees and then train them to recognize hazards and to avoid potential contact with electricity. You don't have to be an electrician to be at risk for shock or electrocution.

When was the last time you talked to your employees about the hazards of electricity? When was the last time you inspected your building for electrical hazards?

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) reported that there were 2,210 non-fatal electrical injuries in 2017. This was an increase of 35% as compared to 2016. 

Do you have?

  • Overhead Power Lines

  • Damaged Equipment

  • Undersized Wiring and Overloading of Circuits

  • Exposed Electrical Parts

  • Improper Grounding

  • Damaged Insulation

  1. Overhead Power Lines carry high voltages and are not typically guarded from the electrical hazard. Any contact or arc can result in electrocution.  Does your facilities or maintenance department use ladders or scaffolding outside your building? Are your employees going on a roof? If you answered yes, then your employees may be exposed, and you must train employees to maintain safe distances (see OSHA.gov) and use the proper equipment to perform these tasks.

  2. Damaged Equipment can cause an injury. You need to have a process for inspecting and fixing electrical tools and equipment used in the workplace. Cords on equipment and extension cords that have cuts, cracks and damage may expose workers to live electricity. This also can create an ignition source for a potential fire. Remove and repair all defective cord sets.

  3. Undersized Wiring and Overloading Circuits can cause a fire. Using undersized cords and piggy backing multiple cords and/or power strips, can overload the circuits. Have you ever unplugged a cord and it was hot to the touch? You are overloading the circuit.  This can cause fires, as well as melt protective insulation causing exposure to live electricity.

  4. Exposed Electrical Parts means, if the electricity is live, then it must be guarded. All service disconnects, electrical panels, outlets, and switches must have covers. If you are missing knockouts, blanks, and covers, your employees are exposed and there is a chance of Arc Flash and Arc Blast.

  5. Improper Grounding- You can eliminate the risk of electrocution by properly grounding the equipment. Never remove grounding pins from tools and cords.

  6. Damaged Insulation can cause fires, shocks, and burns. Replace the damaged insulation and turn off all the power before doing so. Never cover the damaged insulation with electrical tape.

OSHA has an expectation, whereby employers will follow the Hierarchy of Controls to include engineering and administrative controls followed by personal protective equipment for protection.

This month have your safety team focus on electrical safety and do a facility inspection. Look for potential electrical hazards. Follow the hierarchy of controls and train your staff in good workplace practices for safe operations.

Additional resources to review:

Darcy Cook is President of Safety Trainers, a division of Cook Professional Resources, Inc. (Worcester, MA). She can be reached at (508) 799-2857 or at darcy@safetytrainers.com or www.safetytrainers.com

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